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Here’s how LA’s transit network changed over the last decade

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New rail and rapid bus projects—including the Expo Line

The Expo Line, which travels from Downtown LA to Santa Monica, quickly became one of Metro’s most ridden lines.
Photo by Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

It’s been a wild decade for anyone getting around Los Angeles.

A $1 billion widening project on the 405 opened—and produced disappointing results. Ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft shook up the travel habits of many Angelenos, while navigation apps led drivers on increasingly circuitous routes. And, of course, electric scooters began popping up on sidewalks, roadways, and in the Pacific Ocean.

But one of the most significant developments of the last decade is the expansion of the region’s rail network, which local leaders have billed as the eventual fix to LA’s notorious traffic congestion.

In 2008, LA County voters approved a sales tax initiative funding construction of new transit lines; in 2016, they doubled down on that commitment, approving a second and more far-reaching measure.

It will still be many years before Los Angeles has a truly comprehensive web of trains and rapid buses, but the maps below show the progress that’s been made in that direction in the last 10 years.

A web of colorful lines spread out across a white background
A 2009 Metro system map
Via Metro
A web of colorful lines and dots denoting stations
A 2019 Metro system map
Via Metro

The most significant change is the arrival of the E (formerly Expo) Line, which opened between Downtown and Culver City in 2012 and was extended to Santa Monica in 2016. The light rail route quickly became one of the most ridden lines in Metro’s system, and carried more than 60,000 daily riders before temporary station closures began this summer.

Ten years ago, the Gold Line’s northern terminus was the Sierra Madre Villa Station, in Pasadena. Now the rail route extends all the way to Azusa, with a farther addition to Pomona getting underway.

The San Fernando Valley’s Orange Line and the South Bay’s Silver Line—bus rapid transit systems that travel along a dedicated roadway, so they don’t share lanes with cars—have also been extended in the last decade. The Orange Line now reaches Chatsworth, while the Silver Line extends to San Pedro.

These developments have opened up new travel options for those trying to get around without a car. But so far, that hasn’t translated to more ridership. Metro trains and buses carried more than 300,000 additional passengers on a typical weekday in 2009 than in the first half of 2019.

Looking at Metro’s more comprehensive bus and rail map, it’s clear to see why a handful of rail and rapid bus projects haven’t been enough to drive up ridership.

A dense web of multicolored lines on a beige background
A 2009 Metro bus and rail map
Via Metro
A dense web of multicolored lines on a beige background
A 2019 Metro bus and rail map
Via Metro

Los Angeles County’s transit network is overwhelmingly dominated by bus routes, and buses still carry the vast majority of overall riders. Though Metro has succeeded in boosting rail ridership since the Expo Line opened, bus riders are leaving the system in droves.

To address this issue, the agency is now working on a major reconfiguration of its bus network. Called NextGen, the project will include adjustments to routes and schedules to capture riders poorly served by the existing system.

With LA’s transit network set to expand much further in the decade ahead, it will be doubly important that Metro attract the ridership needed to make it work longterm.