Since October, crews of workers in the San Gabriel Valley have been preparing for the start of major construction on a nine-mile extension of Metro’s Gold Line that will bring the light rail route to the eastern edges of Los Angeles County.
For more than 15 years, the line has been among the most dynamic in Metro’s rail network. It opened between Downtown LA and Pasadena in 2003 and has already been extended twice since then. As soon as 2022, when Metro wraps up its huge Regional Connector project, it will be divided up and affixed to two other train lines
Whether you’re hoping to ride today or looking forward to a future trip to the Pomona Fairplex, here are some important things to know about this rapidly changing rail route.
Where does it go?
Right now, the Gold Line travels along a hook-shaped route between the city of Azusa and East Los Angeles. It makes stops at 27 different stations along the way, serving the cities of Duarte, Monrovia, Arcadia, Pasadena, and South Pasadena—as well as the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Highland Park, Cypress Park, Lincoln Heights, Chinatown, Downtown, the Arts District, and Boyle Heights.
What places can you get to from there?
The Gold Line has stations within walking distance of Mariachi Plaza, the Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles State Historic Park, the Heritage Square Museum, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, and Pasadena’s Old Town and Playhouse districts.
How much does it cost?
A ride on the Gold Line costs $1.75, the same as all Metro trains and buses. Fares are paid using a TAP card, which can be purchased at any station.
How often does it come?
The train is scheduled to run roughly between 4 a.m. and 2 a.m., arriving every eight minutes during peak hours on weekdays and at intervals between 12 and 20 minutes during off-peak hours and on weekends.
How many people ride?
The Gold Line carried an average of 50,523 weekday riders in 2018, making it Metro’s third most-ridden light rail line.
Why do all the stations look different?
Like all Metro rail stations, every stop along the Gold Line is adorned with unique art displays and theming. Cut steel panels inspired by Anasazi, Maya, and Aztec art can be found at the Indiana Station. The Chinatown station features a Pagoda-like canopy that provides shade and shelter from wet weather. Colorful glass panels and mosaic tiles at the APU/Citrus College Station celebrate Azusa’s horticultural history.
Where will the line go after it’s extended?
Under the terms of an $806 million construction contract awarded this summer, four new stations are set to be added in the cities of Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, and Pomona. They’re scheduled to open in 2025.
If local officials can close a $381 million financing gap, two additional stations will be added even further to the east, in Claremont and the San Bernardino County city of Montclair. Those could open by 2028, bringing the length of the extension to 12.3 miles, or about 40 percent of the route’s current length.
A separate project will extend the southern leg of the route further east, though the agency is still analyzing potential routes for the project that could take it from East LA to either Whittier or to South El Monte.
Under the latter proposal, the train would travel along the Pomona Freeway, passing through Montebello along the way. The other proposed route, to Whittier, would run along Washington Boulevard and would also go through Montebello—as well as Commerce and Pico Rivera.
But before any of this happens, the Gold Line is scheduled to be split in two.
Why is Metro dividing up the Gold Line?
It’s all part of the agency’s Regional Connector project, which is now under construction and expected to wrap up by 2022. The project will add three new subway stations in Downtown LA, connected by a 1.9-mile tunnel linking Metro’s busy 7th Street/Metro Center Station to Union Station.
That will create a connection between the Gold Line and the A (formerly Blue) and E (formerly Expo) lines. Rather than creating a complicated new transfer point at Union Station, Metro will fuse portions of the Gold Line to these routes.
The southern leg of the line, between Union Station and East LA, will become part of the E Line, which now travels between Santa Monica and Downtown. The rest, from Union Station to Azusa—and eventually Pomona or Montclair—will be attached to the A Line, which runs from Long Beach to Downtown.
The Gold Line, at this point, will technically cease to exist—though its stations and track will live on in the elongated A and E lines.
How will this affect regular riders?
Once the Regional Connector opens, those who use the Gold Line to travel to and from Boyle Heights and East LA will have to transfer trains when traveling between Chinatown, Highland Park, or the San Gabriel Valley. Right now, that’s a one-seat ride.
On the other hand, a trip from these communities to Exposition Park or the Westside could become significantly easier. Journeys that currently require multiple transfers to other train and bus lines will be possible to make in a single train trip.
The many San Gabriel Valley commuters who already use the Gold Line to get to and from Downtown LA will be able to disembark at three new stations, in Little Tokyo, the Historic Core, and Bunker Hill (as well as the 7th Street/Metro Center stop in the Financial District). Though it’s not hard to get to any of these places from Union Station, the project should make these trips speedier and more convenient.
Will this make trains more crowded?
Metro expects the Regional Connector project to attract 17,000 new daily riders, meaning that space could get tight in trains—particularly around where the lines meet in Downtown LA. Crowding could be addressed by upping service, but it’s not clear yet how Metro will tweak schedules once the project opens.
One thing’s for sure: the agency will have to run a lot of train cars along the gargantuan new A Line. Stretching from LA County’s southern tip to its eastern limit, it will be nearly 60 miles long once the extension to Pomona wraps up.