Los Angeles Plans for New Downtown Connector

L.A. Downtown LinkNew track would connect Blue and Expo light rail lines to Gold line in Little Tokyo

Today, customers traveling on the Blue light rail line must transfer to the Red or Purple heavy rail lines to get to Union Station and the Gold line, which heads northeast to Pasadena. This connection at the 7th Street/Metro Center station is a large inconvenience to passengers and probably serves as an impediment to transit usage for thousands of potential customers. With the completion of the new Gold line Eastside Extension later this year and the Expo line in 2010, this problem will affect more passengers. As a result, Los Angeles Metro is studying a connection – the Regional Connector Transit Corridor – that will bring light rail directly from Metro Center to the Gold Line.

Potential corridors for the route (shown in the map above) would take trains 2 miles up Flower Street and then east on 2nd Street to the future Little Tokyo/Arts District station on the Gold Line. Depending on the route chosen, the line could cost between $700 million and $1.3 billion. In a previous round of community discussions about the project, community members overwhelmingly preferred a more expensive underground option, though a cheaper ground-running route is still under consideration. Three new stations would be built in downtown Los Angeles as part of the plan. The project is expected to open in 2017 as long as federal New Starts funding is secured.

The proposed routing of the line seems reasonable, as it leaves open the southeast portion of downtown to another future transit extension, something that is possible if Blue and Expo line ridership increases enough to merit separating the two lines into their own corridors. Choosing not to connect the lines at Union Station makes a lot of sense – it won’t duplicate the existing connection at Metro Center, and it will distribute transfers between three stations – Metro Center, Union Station, and Little Tokyo – rather than just two, which was the proposal in the original plan.

What hasn’t been decided is whether the connection would include the possibility for through-running trains between the Regional Connector and the Gold line – this would allow greater interoperability and the potential for trains running from, for instance, East L.A. to Long Beach, an option that would further improve commuting in the region. Such a connection, however, would likely cost far more than a simple transfer, so it seems unlikely.

Image above: Regional Connector Transit Corridor, from Metro

11 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • orulz

    If the mostly above ground option is supposed to cost $700 million and the mostly below ground option is supposed to be $910 million, then were does the $1.3 billion come from? Is it the revised cost for the mostly underground option, or is it some new option not mentioned before?

  • Yes – I think the $1.3 billion is the revised cost. Anyway, I think these costs are pretty early estimates anyway.

  • Daniel Krause

    I thought one of the main goals to creating the regional connector was to get light rail riders to Union Station to connect with the regional and intercity rail systems without having to make two transfers.

    Without through service to Union Station, all riders on the Expo and Long Beach lines will still have to transfer twice to get on existing commuter rail and Amtrak service and more importantly to future high speed rail trains.

    I do see the benefit to the existing light rail sytem connectivity, but the connector needs to be designed in a way that allows Expo and Long Beach trains to run through to Union Station as well. This solves the to transfer issue and also allows for the interoperability between all the light rail lines as well.

  • man LA are rapidly expanding their train lines.

    why can’t San Jose do same thing!?

  • JP Perry

    I didn’t realize that the Expo line is to terminate at the 7th St. Metro Center. If this Downtown Connector plan goes through, does that mean that the Blue and/or Expo lines will continue through to Union Station?

  • Wad

    @bossyman15:

    Because people ride the trains in L.A.

  • jon

    i dont live in LA but I think they need to go all underground for the downtown connector even if it costs more and takes longer.

    keep it fast and grade seperated. in portland the MAX system has really slow downtown trackage despite the fact that the lines run through downtown in the middle of the route, especially on the busy 30+ mile Blue line.

  • @5

    There are two phases to the Expo Project. Phase II goes all the way to Santa Monica and is under design now.

  • JP Perry

    @8

    The question is regarding the Eastern terminus of the line. Basically, if you ride the Expo from Culver City to Downtown, will there be a way to get to Union Station w/out a transfer?

  • Wad

    @JP Perry

    We don’t know yet. It hasn’t been modeled which legs of the Gold Line would be paired with the Blue and Expo lines.

    One of those lines would not serve Union Station, as it would continue to East L.A.

  • Robert Kent

    The Downtown Connector is a good start, but they need to grade separate the entire light rail system. Either subway or El, I don’t care. It would greatly reduce the time it takes to travel the system if the trains don’t have to stop for red lights every few blocks.

    At the very least, bury the Long Beach portion of the Blue Line.

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