Metro Rail (Los Angeles County)

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Los Angeles County Metro Rail
LocaleLos Angeles County, California
Transit typeRapid transit
(heavy rail and light rail)
Number of lines

6 lines total[1]

Number of stations80[1] (23 under construction)
Daily ridership353,616 (July 2014; ave. weekday boardings)[1]
WebsiteL.A. Metro
Began operation1990[1]
Operator(s)Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA)
System length87.7 mi (141.1 km)[1]
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
System map

System Map as of Spring 2012.

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Los Angeles County Metro Rail
LocaleLos Angeles County, California
Transit typeRapid transit
(heavy rail and light rail)
Number of lines

6 lines total[1]

Number of stations80[1] (23 under construction)
Daily ridership353,616 (July 2014; ave. weekday boardings)[1]
WebsiteL.A. Metro
Began operation1990[1]
Operator(s)Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA)
System length87.7 mi (141.1 km)[1]
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
System map

System Map as of Spring 2012.

Metro Rail is an urban rail system serving Los Angeles County, California. It consists of six lines, including two rapid transit subway lines (the Red and Purple Lines) and four light rail lines (the Blue, Green, Gold and Expo lines) serving 80 stations. It connects with the Metro Liner bus rapid transit system (the Orange Line and Silver Line) and also with the Metrolink commuter rail systems. The system, which has an average daily weekday ridership of 362,904 as of June 2012,[2] is owned and operated by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and started service in 1990. It has been extended significantly since that time and several further extensions are either in the works or being considered.

It is the indirect descendant of the Pacific Electric Red Car and Los Angeles Railway Yellow Car lines, which operated between the late 19th century and the 1960s.[3]

Current system[edit]

A Gold Line train in Pasadena, the line's current northeast terminus.
Metro Gold Line at Atlantic Station.
Westbound Metro Green Line train to Redondo Beach Station arrives at Long Beach Boulevard Station.
Metro Red Line train entering Union Station.
Metro Blue Line train stationed at Downtown Long Beach (formerly known as Transit Mall) Station.
Metro Expo Line train departing to Downtown LA.


In Los Angeles Metro terminology, a line is a named service, defined by a route and set of stations served by trains on that route. (The word does not refer to a physical rail corridor, as it does in New York City Subway nomenclature.) Metro Rail lines are currently named after colors (with the exception of the Expo Line), and these colors are used to distinguish the lines on Metro's maps. However, Metro also uses colors for its Metro Liner services (which are actually bus services operating in transitways). Some future Metro Rail lines (in particular, the Crenshaw/LAX Line) have no colors assigned to them yet.

Six Metro Rail lines currently operate in Los Angeles County:[1]

Line nameOpening[1]Length[1]Stations[1]TerminiType
Blue Line Blue Line199022 mi (35 km)22Downtown Long Beach (south)
7th Street/Metro Center (north)
Light rail
Expo Line Expo Line20128.6 mi (13.8 km)12Culver City (west)
7th Street/Metro Center (east)
Light rail
Gold Line Gold Line200319.7 mi (31.7 km)21Atlantic (south)
Sierra Madre Villa (north)
Light rail
Green Line Green Line199520 mi (32 km)14Redondo Beach (west)
Norwalk (east)
Light rail
Purple Line Purple Line20066.4 mi (10.3 km)8Wilshire/Western (west)
Union Station (east)
Heavy rail
Red Line Red Line199316.4 mi (26.4 km)14North Hollywood (west)
Union Station (east)
Heavy rail

The Red and Purple Lines follow a fully underground route (subway), and the Green Line follows a fully elevated route. The Blue, Expo and Gold Line routes run in a mix of environments, including at-grade street running, at-grade ROW, elevated, and underground.[1]

The two heavy-rail lines (Red and Purple) share right-of-way between Union Station and Wilshire/Vermont, while the two light-rail lines (Blue and Expo) share right-of-way between 7th St/Metro Center and Pico, since they use compatible technologies. Future system expansions are expected to utilize shared light-rail rights-of-way.


The unmanned stations include at least two ticket machines, wayfinding displays, and bench seating. Surface stations are designed with shade canopies. Many suburban stations also have free or reserved parking available and some have bike storage available. Metro Rail stations are not staffed and locking fare gates are being phased in. The majority of stations are either at ground level or elevated, but a significant number of them are located underground. Each station has a unique design with an interior design reflecting local culture and/or the function of transit in society. Both subway stations and tunnels are designed to resist earthquakes of up to magnitude 7.5.

Hours of operation[edit]

All Metro Rail lines run regularly between 5am and midnight, seven days a week. Limited service on particular segments is provided after midnight and before 5am. On Friday and Saturday evenings, service operates until approximately 2am. There is no rail service between 2am and 3:30am. Service operates every 5–10 minutes during the peak period, every 10–15 minutes during middays and during the day on weekends, and every 20 minutes during the evening until the close of service. Exact times vary from route to route.

Fares and fare collection[edit]

The standard Metro base fare applies for all trips.

Fare collection is based on a proof of payment system. At least two fare machines are located outside each station. Fare inspectors and deputy sheriffs police the system and cite individuals without fares. Passengers are required to purchase a TAP card to enter stations equipped with fare gates. Passengers using a TAP card can transfer between Metro routes for free within 2 hours from the first tap.

The following table shows Metro fares, effective September 15, 2014 (in US dollars):

Fare TypeRegularSenior (62+)/
Student K-12
Base Fare$1.75$0.35 (off-peak)
$0.75 (peak)
Tokens (bag of 10)$17.50
1-Day Pass$7$2.50
7-Day Pass$25
30-Day Pass$100$20$43$24
Metro-to-Muni Transfer$0.50$0.25

Transit Access Pass (TAP) and fare gates[edit]

Metro has implemented a system of electronic fare collection using a stored value smartcard called the Transit Access Pass (or TAP Card). This card was intended to simplify fare collection and reduce costs.[4] In 2012, paper monthly passes were phased out, and replaced with the TAP Card. As of September 2013, first-time Metro riders must deposit an additional $2 on top of their first fare payment in order to obtain a re-loadable TAP Card.

In addition, Metro began installing fare gates in 2008, at all heavy rail stations, select light rail stations, and all future stations. It was estimated that LA Metro lost $5.5 million a year because of poor fare enforcement. The station gates are intended to reduce these losses and free riding. In addition, the fare gates improve security at all the stations, providing more accurate ridership statistics and allow the ability to eventually have zone fares.

Implementation of both programs (the TAP Card and the fare gate program) has turned out to be expensive ($154 million in total, so far) and problematic.[5]


As of September 2013, the combined Metro Red and Purple lines averaged a weekday ridership of 164,214,[1] making it the ninth busiest heavy rail rapid transit system in the United States. Taking overall track length into consideration, Metro Rail's heavy rail lines transport 9,348 passengers per route mile, making this the ninth busiest system per length. This is still far lower ridership than transit systems of New York City, Boston, and the Washington Metro.

Metro's light rail system is the second busiest LRT system in the United States and largest in California by ridership, with 202,500 average weekday boardings during Q1 2012.[1] Additionally, the Blue Line is the second largest light rail line by ridership in the United States with an average weekday ridership of 92,840, after the Boston Green Line's daily ridership of 235,300, though the Boston Green Line has four outbound termini, so that its 25 miles (40 km) of track service a larger lateral area than the Blue Line's 22 miles (35 km), but a shorter length.[6]



Over five decades Southern California had an extensive privately owned rail transit network with over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of track - operated by Pacific Electric (Red Cars) and Los Angeles Railway (Yellow Cars). However, from 1927 revenue shortfall caused Pacific Electric to begin replacing lightly used rail lines with buses.

In World War II, the system briefly returned to profitability due to gas rationing and troop movement, but after the war Pacific Electric once again maintained an operating deficit and the rail system was slowly dismantled in what became known as the Great American streetcar scandal. In 1958 the remnants of the privately owned rail and bus systems were consolidated into a government agency known as the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority or MTA.

The final removal of the system continued, and by 1963 the remaining rail lines were completely removed and replaced with bus service. In the decades that followed, with growing traffic congestion, public support for the return of rail transit increased.


Beginning in the 1970s, a variety of factors, including environmental concerns, an increasing population and the price of gasoline led to calls for mass transit other than buses. In 1976, the State of California formed the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission to coordinate the SCRTD's efforts with those of various municipal transit systems in the area and to take over planning of countywide transportation systems. The SCRTD continued planning of the Metrorail Subway (the Red Line), while the LACTC developed plans for the light rail system. After decades, the wheels of government began to move forward, and construction began on the Los Angeles County Metro Rail system in 1985. In 1988, the two agencies formed a third entity under which all rail construction would be consolidated. In 1993, the SCRTD and the LACTC were finally merged into the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA, now known as Metro).

The LACMTA began construction of the initial lines throughout the 1980s using revenues from a voter-approved increase in sales tax.


The Blue line finally opened on July 14, 1990, some 27 years after the final streetcar line closed. Since that date, the system has been developed to its current size. The following table shows the timeline of this expansion:

Segment descriptionDate openedLine(s)Endpoints# of new
Blue Line Initial SegmentJuly 14, 1990BluePico to Anaheim Street1719.1
Blue Line Long Beach LoopSeptember 1, 1990BlueAnaheim Street to Pacific42.2
Blue Line To Financial DistrictFebruary 15, 1991BluePico to 7th St/Metro Center10.7
Red Line MOS-1January 30, 1993Red, Purple1Union Station to Westlake/MacArthur Park424.4
Green LineAugust 12, 1995GreenRedondo Beach to Norwalk13220.0
Red Line MOS-2 WestJuly 13, 1996Red, Purple1Westlake/MacArthur Park to Wilshire/Western32.0
Red Line MOS-2 NorthJune 12, 1999RedWilshire/Vermont to Hollywood/Vine54.7
Red Line MOS-3June 24, 2000RedHollywood/Vine to North Hollywood36.3
Gold Line To PasadenaJuly 26, 2003GoldUnion Station to Sierra Madre Villa12213.7
Gold Line Eastside ExtensionNovember 15, 2009GoldUnion Station to Atlantic86.0
Expo Line Initial SegmentApril 28, 2012ExpoFlower/Washington to La Cienega/Jefferson387.7
Expo Line Culver City ExtensionJune 20, 2012ExpoLa Cienega/Jefferson to Culver City241.0
  1. 1 Segment opened as part of the Red Line corridor. The Purple Line was not defined as a distinct line until 2006.
  1. 2 Segment also included significant expansion of an existing station: this was not counted as a new station.
  1. 3 In terms of added trackage; Expo Line has thru service to 7th St/ Metro Center.
  1. 4 Expansion included new infill station.


Metro has worked over the past several years to plan and prioritize project funding and implementation. Metro's 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) was developed to provide a long-term vision of transportation system development for the next 30 years.[7] Measure R, a countywide incrememental sales tax increase passed by voters in 2008, provides funding for many of the highest priority projects in the LRTP.[8] Measure J, a proposed extension of the Measure R sales tax for an additional 30 years that would have allowed for acceleration of the construction timeline for many of the LRTP projects appeared on the November, 6th 2012 ballot in Los Angeles County.[9] However, Measure J did not succeed, garnering 66.11% of the vote, just short of the 2/3 majority needed to pass. The result has prompted some to reconsider the utility of a 2/3 vote threshold for passage of transit taxes.[10][11]

Current and priority projects[edit]

The following rail projects have been given high priority by Metro. They all appear in the LRTP constrained plan,[7] and all have funding earmarked from Measure R.[8][12]

Project NameDescriptionEarliest
Measure R Funds[13]
(August 2014)[14]
Expo Line Phase 2


Extends the Metro Expo Line light rail corridor westward from Culver City to Santa Monica.2010-12Early 2016[16]Under Construction
Gold Line Foothill Extension Phase 2a


Extends the Metro Gold Line light rail corridor from its current terminus in East Pasadena to the eastern edge of Azusa across from Citrus College in Glendora.2010-122016[18]Under Construction
Crenshaw/LAX Line


Creates a new light-rail route to be used by the Crenshaw/LAX Line, starting at a new station near the current Crenshaw/Expo station (Metro Expo Line) and connecting to the Metro Green Line corridor near the current Aviation/LAX station.2010-122019Under Construction
Regional Connector


Creates a new light rail subway route through Downtown Los Angeles, linking the Metro Blue Line, Gold Line and Expo Line.2014-162020[20]Under Construction[21]
Purple Line Extension Section 1


Extends the Metro Purple Line west along Wilshire Blvd to La Cienega Blvd (with plans to later extend the line to Westwood).2013-152023Pre-Construction
East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor


Light rail, streetcar, or BRT line, connecting the east San Fernando Valley to the Metro Orange Line, largely along Van Nuys Blvd and San Fernando Road.2013-152018(?)Draft EIR in progress
Gold Line Eastside
Phase 2 Corridor


Extends the Metro Gold Line from its current Eastside terminus eastward.20252035Draft EIR in progress
Green Line Extension to South Bay


Extends the Metro Green Line from its current terminus in Redondo Beach toward the South Bay.20262035Draft EIR in progress
West Santa Ana Branch Corridor


Creates a new mass transit light rail or bus route connecting the Gateway Cities to Orange County.20172024alternatives analysis in progress[27]
Airport Metro Connector


In cooperation with Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), connects LAX to the L.A. Metro system, through the construction of a automated people mover system, or through a light rail extension, via the Metro Crenshaw/LAX/Metro Green Lines.2010-122028alternatives analysis in progress
Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor


Creates a new rapid-transit heavy rail or light rail route connecting the west San Fernando Valley to the Westside.20282039scoping in progress

Other expansion concepts[edit]

The following proposed line/system expansions do not currently have funding or high priority in Metro's long-range plans. Some are listed as "strategic unfunded" in the last Long Range Transportation Plan, indicating some possibility they could be constructed should additional funding materialize. Others have been the subject of Metro Board discussion, with the possibility of future feasibility studies. (More information on each project can be found in the references.)

Concept NameDescriptionSource
Pink Line (Originally HRT)Create a new LRT line connecting the Metro Red Line's Hollywood/Highland station to the Metro Purple Line, via Santa Monica Boulevard and West Hollywood. Possible future extension south of Wilshire on San Vicente Boulevard, connecting to a future Crenshaw Line that would run north of Exposition Boulevard.Metro's Westside Subway Extension meetings.[22]
Gold Line Ontario ExtensionFurther extend the Metro Gold Line eastward to L.A./Ontario International Airport, via Upland.Metro Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority,[17][31]
Red Line Eastern ExtensionExtend the Metro Red Line (or Purple Line) from eastern terminus, south along the river to either Arts District or the future "Cleantech" corridor, and possibly across the river along Whittier Blvd. to the Eastside. Considered unlikely after decision to serve some of these areas with the Gold Line Eastside extension.[32]
Burbank-Glendale LineStudied in the 1990s
Red Line To Burbank AirportExtend the Metro Red Line 3.2 miles (5.1 km) from its northwestern terminus to Burbank Airport.
Lincoln Blvd LineExtend the Green Line northwest to Westchester, Marina Del Rey or Santa Monica. Included in City of Los Angeles Westside Mobility Plan.
Green Line To Norwalk MetrolinkExtend the Green Line east to Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs (Metrolink station).
Vermont Corridor SubwayCreate a new subway down Vermont Avenue, connecting the Metro Red Line and Purple Line to the Metro Expo Line and Green Line.
"Silver Line" (former name)New light-rail line planned to connect El Monte to Hollywood, via Valley Blvd corridor and Santa Monica Boulevard.Silver Line website (archived),[33] The Transit Coalition website[34]
NoHo/Burbank-Pasadena CorridorMentioned as potential subject for study in recent Metro Board motions.
Yellow LineNorth Hollywood to Downtown L.A. Planned to use former Pacific Electric "Belmont Tunnel." Tunnel can no longer be used due to recent construction now blocking tunnel portal.
Harbor LineLight rail line to connect harbor area (San Pedro) to Metro Blue Line or Green Line.Citizens for a Harbor Line (blog)[35]
Get LA MovingDetailed comprehensive plan of regional mass transit, including new lines and extensions to existing lines.Get L.A. Moving Plan[36]
LAX ExpressLimited stop line connecting Union Station to Los Angeles International Airport, mainly via rail right-of-way along Slauson Avenue.


Rolling stock[edit]

Metro Red Line train at Wilshire/Vermont.
Siemens P2000 train on the Metro Expo Line docked at La Cienega station. The Metro Gold Line used to operate these cars, but all of the Siemens P2000 trains were transferred to the Metro Blue & Expo Lines.

Metro Rail maintains two distinct systems of rail: a light rail system and a heavy rail system. The heavy rail and light rail systems are incompatible with each other even if they both use standard gauge track (4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) between rails). Metro's heavy rail lines are powered by third rail, whereas its light rail lines are powered by overhead catenary lines. Also, the widths of the cars are different, and platforms are designed to match the separate car widths.

Security and safety[edit]

Metro Rail's trains and stations are patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department,[37] and are monitored by security personnel via closed-circuit television cameras in Metro Rail stations and subway cars.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Facts At A Glance". Metro. August 23, 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-26. 
  2. ^ "Metro Rail ridership surges in June". Metro. July 18, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-18. 
  3. ^ Taplin, Michael (1991). "City of the Automobile: Los Angeles looks to Light Rail London". Light Rail Review 2 (Platform 5 Publishing/Light Rail Transit Association). pp. 27–30. ISBN 1-872524-23-0. 
  4. ^ "Fares". Metro. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  5. ^ "MTA's $46M system of locking turnstiles sits unused, waiting for fare cards to be adopted - LA Daily News". August 21, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  6. ^ American Public Transportation Association, Light Rail Transit Ridership Report, Second Quarter 2007.
  7. ^ a b "Plans". Metro. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  8. ^ a b "Measure R". Metro. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  9. ^ "Measure J". Metro. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  10. ^ "Measure J Fails". County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder. Retrieved 2013-01-12. 
  11. ^ "Transit Backers Seek to Change State Law". Retrieved 2013-01-12. 
  12. ^ "Transit Program - Project Management - Project Budget and Schedule Status" (pdf). Metro. June 19, 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  13. ^ "Attachment A Proposed One-Half Cent Sales Tax for Transportation Outline of Expenditure Categories" (pdf). Metro. August 13, 2008. p. 2. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  14. ^ "Measure R Project Tracker - Rail & Rapid Transit Expansion". Metro. Retrieved 2014-08-15. 
  15. ^ "BuildExpo". BuildExpo. 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-19. 
  16. ^ a b "Metro Rail Expo Corridor, Phase 2 to Santa Monica". Metro. May 23, 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-09. "Metro is scheduled to begin train safety tests in late 2015, with a projected line opening in early 2016." 
  17. ^ a b "Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority (project website)". Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority. Retrieved 2013-07-24. 
  18. ^ a b "Gold Line Foothill Extension". Metro. May 30, 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-09. "Metro is scheduled to begin safety testing in late 2015 with a projected opening in 2016." 
  19. ^ "Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor". Metro. March 4, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  20. ^ a b "Regional Connector Transit Corridor". Metro. May 20, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-27. 
  21. ^ "Ground is broken for Regional Connector project to link Blue, Expo and Gold Lines". The Source (Metro). September 30, 2014. Retrieved 2014-09-30. 
  22. ^ a b "Purple Line Extension (project website)". Metro. February 11, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  23. ^ "Summer 2013 - General Fact Sheet - Purple Line Extension" (pdf). Metro. Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  24. ^ "East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor". Metro. July 8, 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  25. ^ "Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2". Metro. May 6, 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  26. ^ "South Bay Metro Green Line Extension". Metro. March 24, 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  27. ^ a b "West Santa Ana Transit Corridor". Metro. March 6, 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  28. ^ "Home". Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  29. ^ "Airport Metro Connector". Metro. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  30. ^ "Sepulveda Pass Corridor". Metro. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  31. ^ "Serv-U from". Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  32. ^ "Los Angeles Downtown News and Information". May 27, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ "Security". July 23, 2009. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  38. ^ "Riders with Other Forms of Transport Switching to Metro". September 13, 2006. Retrieved 2013-05-15. 

External links[edit]