With Los Angeles’s transit network in the midst of an enormous and ambitious expansion, it’s easy to get confused about where all those new train and bus lines are going to go, and what kind of impact they’ll have on how easy (or difficult) it is to get around the city.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of seven projects likely to make an immediate difference in how people move through Los Angeles. These new transit lines could reshape the communities they pass through and the larger urban geography of the entire region.
For decades, a rail connection to LAX has been a huge missing ingredient in Los Angeles’s public transit network. Sure, there are plenty of other ways to get to LAX, but reliable train service to and from the nation’s second-busiest airport could significantly impact the travel habits of visitors and residents alike.
Like the Green Line before it, the Crenshaw/LAX Line won’t actually take passengers all the way to their terminals, but will allow them to transfer to a fancy new people mover, rather than an overcrowded shuttle bus.
But that’s not the only impact the line will have. Traveling through historic communities like Leimert Park, it will provide new transit opportunities to residents of the western part of South LA. Like other Metro lines, it could also spur new development in these areas, leading to new business opportunities for some, but rising rents and potential displacement for others.
Whatever changes the line will bring, we’ll start to see them soon. Metro expects it to open by 2019.
Three new subway stations in Downtown LA is already a pretty big deal, but this project will bring a lot more than that. Expected to wrap up in 2021, the Regional Connector will connect Union Station to the 7th Street/Metro subway stop, allowing riders on the Gold, Blue, and Expo lines to get where they’re going without making multiple transfers.
Metro expects the completed project to shave about 20 minutes off of trips between East LA and Santa Monica or Azusa and Long Beach. That time adds up, making many long commutes easier and more viable for both current transit users and those looking for an alternative to driving.
In some ways, this project will have very little impact on the communities it serves. Already very densely populated and widely used by commuters, the Wilshire corridor isn’t likely to be significantly transformed by a few subway stops; but those extra stops will ease travel for thousands of people who use Wilshire Boulevard (and nearby streets) to get around daily.
It will also provide easy access to some of LA’s most prominent cultural establishments (LACMA, the La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum, and UCLA just to name a few). Ultimately, the Purple Line extension is a big deal not for how it will change the area around its route, but because there should probably be a subway there already.
A lot of details related to this project still need to be ironed out: Will it be a light rail? A subway? A monorail? Whatever option Metro goes with, the project could be transformative, connecting the western San Fernando Valley to the Westside and offering a much-needed alternative to traffic on the dreaded 405.
It could take a while to get here though; right now, the project is slated for a 2033 completion date. That timeline could be accelerated though; Metro has received at least one proposal for a public-private partnership with an unnamed firm that could shave years off construction of the project.
One of the most heavily trafficked streets in Los Angeles, Vermont Avenue is in need of better transit options, and a new rapid bus service would go a long way toward improving north-south commutes through the heart of the city. But a subway would do even more.
That wasn’t an option until March, when Metro’s board of directors initiated a study on the possibility of extending the Red Line south along Vermont all the way to 120th Street.
A subway along Vermont would provide new connections to the Expo and Green Lines, filling in key gaps in the city’s rail network. And, like the Purple Line, it would bring reliable service to an area where demand for public transit is already high.
This line would travel north-south through the San Fernando Valley, connecting the Van Nuys Orange Line stop to the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink station 9 miles away.
According to Metro’s draft environmental impact report for the project, it could be a light rail route, a bus line, or even a tram system. Some Valley homeowners have even asked for a subway, but that option would be significantly more expensive.
Adding a new connection to the already popular Orange Line will go a long way toward brining new transit opportunities to the auto-oriented Valley, and could beckon in new development along the transit corridor. As with the Crenshaw/LAX Line, that development may come with negative consequences, but would certainly transform the area’s suburban image.
It’s hard to believe, but California’s ambitious and much-delayed high speed rail project keeps inching forward, and its first phase—a link between Los Angeles and San Francisco—is currently set to arrive in 2029.
Having an efficient connection between the two cities (the trip is expected to take under three hours) would be convenient for travelers and would also allow for some intriguing commuting options. Will Bay Area workers seek out comparatively affordable housing in Southern California? Will the train spur new development at the outer fringes of both urban areas?
Only time will tell, but the massive new rail line is sure to have a big impact on the LA area—if it ever gets here.