Metrolink (Southern California)

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Hyundai Rotem Cab Car.jpg
Metrolink Hyundai Rotem cab car, Virginia Colony, Moorpark, California
OwnerSouthern California Regional Rail Authority
LocaleSouthern California
Transit typeCommuter rail
Number of lines7[1]
Number of stations55[1]
Daily ridership42,265 (2012)[1]
Chief executiveMichael P. DePallo
HeadquartersMTA Building, Los Angeles
WebsiteWelcome to Metrolink
Began operationOctober 26, 1992[2]
(under contract to the SCRRA)
Reporting marksSCAX
System length388 mi (624 km)[1]
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
System map

Metrolink system diagram.svg

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Hyundai Rotem Cab Car.jpg
Metrolink Hyundai Rotem cab car, Virginia Colony, Moorpark, California
OwnerSouthern California Regional Rail Authority
LocaleSouthern California
Transit typeCommuter rail
Number of lines7[1]
Number of stations55[1]
Daily ridership42,265 (2012)[1]
Chief executiveMichael P. DePallo
HeadquartersMTA Building, Los Angeles
WebsiteWelcome to Metrolink
Began operationOctober 26, 1992[2]
(under contract to the SCRRA)
Reporting marksSCAX
System length388 mi (624 km)[1]
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
System map

Metrolink system diagram.svg

Metrolink (reporting mark SCAX) is a commuter rail system serving Southern California; it consists of seven lines and 55 stations operating on 388 miles (624 km) of rail network.[1] It travels up to 90 miles per hour (140 km/h).

The system operates in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties, as well as Oceanside in San Diego County.[3][4] It connects with the Los Angeles County Metro Rail system, the San Diego Coaster commuter rail and Sprinter light rail services, and with Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner, Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief, and Sunset Limited intercity rail services.[5]

The system, founded in 1991 as the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) and quickly adopting "Metrolink" as the marketing and user friendly moniker, started operation in 1992. Average weekday ridership rose to 42,265 in 2012.[1]


In addition to several suburban communities and cities, Metrolink also serves several points of interest such as Downtown Los Angeles, Bob Hope Airport, California State University, Los Angeles, Angel Stadium, and the San Clemente Pier.[6] Special service has also been extended to the Pomona Fairplex,[7] the Ventura County Fairgrounds,[8] and the Auto Club Speedway[9] for certain events.

The rail system experiences its peak ridership during weekday mornings and afternoons.[10] More trains operate during the morning between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. and between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.[11] However, the agency's recent[when?] success providing trains to concerts at the Honda Center has rekindled interest in providing more service to other venues near stations, and inspired AEG, in its effort to build Farmers Field, a proposed NFL football stadium, to cite the possibility of selling Metrolink fare media at the time of purchasing tickets for events at the stadium to meet environmental concerns regarding increased vehicular traffic should the stadium be built.[12][13]

     91 Line700[14]Los Angeles
DailySoutheast from Union Station, then east along the Riverside Freeway.
     Antelope Valley Line200[15]Los Angeles
DailyNorthwest from Union Station, roughly following Interstate 5. Turns east, then north, to parallel State Route 14.
     Inland Empire–Orange County Line800[16]San Bernardino
DailySouthwest from the Santa Fe Depot to follow the Riverside Freeway west. Turns south to parallel Interstate 5.
     Orange County Line600[17]Los Angeles
DailyNorthwest from the Oceanside Transportation Center along Interstate 5. Deviates slightly from the interstate in north Orange and southeast Los Angeles counties.
     Riverside Line400[18]Los Angeles
WeekdaysNorthwest from the Downtown Riverside Metrolink / Amtrak station, eventually paralleling State Route 60.
     San Bernardino Line300[19]Los Angeles
San Bernardino
DailyWest from the Santa Fe Depot between Interstate 10 and I-210. Runs in the Interstate 10 median starting near El Monte.
     Ventura County Line100[20]
Los Angeles
East Ventura
WeekdaysEast from the East Ventura Metrolink station roughly following State Route 118. Turns south at Bob Hope Airport towards Union Station. Trains with 900-series numbers run between Union Station and Bob Hope Airport as the Burbank-Bob Hope Airport Line.[21]


Metrolink ticket vending machines. Machines also sell tickets for Amtrak trains and the FlyAway Bus to LAX.

Metrolink's fare structure is based on a flat fee for boarding the train and an additional cost for distance with fares being calculated in 25-cent increments between stations.

Metrolink riders can ride most buses in Los Angeles and Orange County, as well as the Metro Rail, free with their valid ticket or pass, and monthly pass holders in Orange, Los Angeles, and Ventura Counties can use Amtrak Pacific Surfliner and Thruway Coach services through the Rail 2 Rail program.[22]

Fare increases normally occur annually in July, to coincide with increased fuel and labor expenses, and have generally averaged between 3.5% and 5% per year (although the restructuring caused a larger jump in rates).[23] The oil price increases since 2003 are partly to blame for consistently increasing fares, as Metrolink trains are powered by diesel fuel.[24]

In July 2011, Metrolink introduced a new Weekend Pass allowing for passengers to travel all weekend trains for only $10. This was the first pass of its kind on Metrolink giving passengers unlimited rides all weekend long going anywhere in the system. However, with a fare increase on July 1, 2013, the Weekend Pass was renamed the Weekend Day Pass and is valid for one day rather than the entire weekend. The Weekend Day Pass still functions as an EZPass and TAP media for travel on LACMTA and other L.A. County transit services.


See also: CalTrain
Metrolink trains approaching and leaving Union Station during the evening rush hour

The member agencies of the SCRRA purchased 175 miles (282 km) of track, maintenance yards, and stations and other property from Southern Pacific for $450 million in 1990. The rights to use Los Angeles Union Station were purchased from Union Pacific, the station's owner at the time, for $17 million in the same year (Union Station has since been purchased by and is owned by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority).[25][26] The Authority was formally founded in 1991.[27] It began operation of the Ventura, Santa Clarita, and San Bernardino Lines on October 26, 1992 (the Santa Clarita Line later became the Antelope Valley Line)[2][28] which were operated by Amtrak.

In 1993 service was expanded to include the Riverside and Orange County Lines in 1994. The Inland Empire-Orange County Line opened in 1995, becoming the first suburb to suburb commuter rail line in the country. In 1995 more trains on the Orange County service were funded.[29] The system gained its current form in 2002 with the addition of the 91 Line.[30]

From July 2004, Metrolink fares were changed from zone based to one based on distance. In 2005 a five-year operational contract was awarded to Connex Railroad/Veolia Transport. In 2005, the Orange County Transportation Authority approved a plan to increase frequencies to 76 trains daily on the Orange County and Inland Empire-Orange County Lines by 2009,[31] and funding for increased Metrolink service was included in the renewal of the Measure M sales tax for transportation approved by voters in November 2006.[32] A proposed station in Yorba Linda was canceled in 2005 due to local opposition.

In July 2008 it was announced that ridership had risen 16% over the previous year.[33][34] Following the 2008 Chatsworth train collision in which 26 people died and 126 were injured a number of safety measures were taken; in the fall of 2009, inward-facing video cameras were installed in locomotives in order to ensure that staff were complying with regulations, in particular a ban on use of mobile phones,[35] $200 million of funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was provided to implement the positive train control crash avoidance system,[36] and in 2010, the first of 117 energy absorbing passenger carriages (which lessen the toll on passengers in the case of an accident) were received by the operator.[37] Amtrak regained the contract to operate Metrolink beginning in July 2010.[38] Average weekday ridership for the fourth quarter of 2009 was 38,400.[33]

In 2010, to save money in the face of funding cuts, the Metrolink board voted to reduce mid-day service on the Inland Empire–Orange County Line, as well as weekend service on both the Orange County and Inland Empire–Orange County lines.[39]

Average weekday ridership was 41,000 during May 2011. A survey found that 90% of users during a typical weekday in 2009 would have previously driven alone or carpooled and the system replaced an estimated that 25,000 vehicle trips.[1] During a weekend closure of Interstate 405 in July 2011 the system recorded its highest-ever weekend ridership of 20,000 boardings which was 50% higher than the same weekend in 2010 and 10% higher than the previous weekend ridership record which occurred during U2 360° Tour in June 2011.[40] Ridership continued to rise in 2012 (up 2%),[1] when average weekday ridership reached 42,265.[1] Although 2013 annual boardings were almost 12.07 million, ridership dropped to 11.74 million by fall 2014 which was contrary to projections. Blaming the decrease on the worst recession since World War II, the railroad found itself caught between cutting service and boosting fares. Both of which would probably further decrease ridership.[41]


Metrolink has grown in popularity and there are a number of planned extensions of the system and new stations. Station parking capacity has also been strained.[42]

The Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) wants to extend the 91 Line east- and southward 24 miles (39 km) to Perris, using the existing San Jacinto Branch Line, which it already owns.[43] Initial plans were for construction/renovation of the line to begin in 2012, but these were delayed by a lawsuit filed by homeowners in the affected area, who challenged the RCTC's environmental report. The lawsuit was finally settled in late July 2013,[44] and construction is now scheduled to begin in January 2014, with plans to debut the Perris Valley Line Metrolink extension in summer 2015.[45]

A new Metrolink station in Placentia, which will serve the 91 Line's north Orange County passengers, has completed its final design phase, save for issues related to the parking needed to accompany the station.[46] Construction on the Placentia station is currently projected to begin some time in 2014.[46] It will be the only station on the 91 Line not shared by another Metrolink line.[47]

The San Bernardino-Redlands Passenger Rail Corridor, a 9-mile (14 km) eastward rail extension from San Bernardino to Redlands and Mentone, is planned by the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG). The association was considering whether to extend commuter rail along the corridor or to install either bus rapid transit or light rail lines,[48] but the current plan is to extend heavy rail, in the form of Metrolink, along this planned corridor. Currently, construction isn't projected to begin until 2015.[49]

Metrolink is already working with Los Angeles County's Metro to restore the old San Dimas train station on West Bonita Avenue to provide another station on the San Bernardino Line (between Covina on the west and North Pomona on the east); the project is expected to be complete by mid-2017.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has proposed adding commuter rail service along the Harbor Subdivision corridor offering services to Inglewood, Los Angeles International Airport, the South Bay, the Port of Los Angeles, and/or the Port of Long Beach. A decision whether to employ commuter rail, light rail, or bus rapid transit in this corridor has not yet been reached.[50]

In 2008, lobbyists pushed for a rail line to Temecula in southwestern Riverside County via the 91 Line's La Sierra station.[51] While this proposed line could follow the route of an abandoned freight line, it would require significant money, as freight service ceased almost 30 years ago. Despite this, the Riverside County Transportation Commission's 2008 Commuter Rail Feasibility Study still lists this route as one possibility being considered.[52]

The cities of the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Palm Desert, and Indio) have requested commuter rail service from Los Angeles and Orange County, but the Union Pacific Railroad opposes further passenger service on its tracks.[53] Nonetheless, as recently as 1999, the Coachella Valley Association of Governments was investigating the possibility of two daily round trips via the 91 Line from Los Angeles's Union Station through Fullerton and Riverside to stations in Palm Springs and Indio (with a possible stop near Palm Desert),[54] possibly through a partnership with Amtrak. This extension would likewise require significant money for infrastructure improvements: at least $500 million, according to the California State Rail Plan of 2005.[53] Nonetheless, in 2013 Caltrans conducted a feasibility study of a Coachella Valley service[55] and RCTC has resolved to pursue establishing one.[56]


Interior of a Hyundai Rotem bi-level car.

The SCRRA is a joint powers authority governed by five county-level agencies: the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Orange County Transportation Authority, the Riverside County Transportation Commission, the San Bernardino Associated Governments, and the Ventura County Transportation Commission.[27] Ex officio members include the Southern California Association of Governments, the San Diego Association of Governments, and the state of California.[1] It is headquartered at the MTA Building at Union Station in Los Angeles where Metro (LACMTA) is headquartered.[57]

The Metrolink system is operated under five-year contracts.[citation needed] For 2010 it was allotted an operating budget of $168.1 million.[1]

Maintenance facilities[edit]

The upper level of a Metrolink Bombardier bi-level passenger car.

Central Maintenance Facility[edit]

Metrolink's Central Maintenance Facility (CMF) is located on the east bank of the Los Angeles River near the intersection of the 5 and 110 Freeways, just south of the location of the former Southern Pacific Taylor Yard.[58] The facility is operated by Metrolink's equipment maintenance contractor, Bombardier Transportation.[59]

Stuart Mesa Maintenance Facility[edit]

Coaster's Stuart Mesa Facility is located between San Clemente Pier and Oceanside at the southwest end of Camp Pendleton. This yard is owned by the North County Transit District and also services Metrolink trains.[59]

Eastern Maintenance Facility[edit]

Metrolink's Eastern Maintenance Facility is located in Colton. Metrolink's first crash-resistant cars were displayed at the facility at an event in May 2010.[60]

Rolling stock[edit]

Metrolink F59PH 860.
Late afternoon train passing through Lake Forest, California
Metrolink F59PHI.

The Metrolink fleet consists of 55 locomotives (52 owned, 3 leased) and 137 active Bombardier BiLevel Coaches (Sentinel Fleet) with 137 Hyundai Rotem Bi-level cars (Guardian Fleet) with cab cars that can absorb energy in case of a collision.[61][62] An additional order of 20 Rotem cars was ordered after Metrolink obtained a loan from the LACMTA, although this still leaves Metrolink 34 cars short of its goal of completely replacing its entire Bombardier fleet. With Metrolink continuing to receive its new Rotem cars, the agency has returned all its leased equipment to their owners. Around 2009, the authority leased 10 cars from the Utah Transit Authority, which operates FrontRunner.[63]

With the delivery of many of the new Rotem cars (Guardian Fleet), Metrolink now has sufficient numbers of cars that have enabled Previous CEO John Fenton to introduce new services on board trains. All weekday trains now include at least one Quiet Car (designated as the 2nd car from the locomotive) and 35 legacy Bombardier cars have had all seats removed from the first level to create Bicycle Cars as in-line on some trains.[64][65] Future Bicycle cars will be retrofitted legacy Bombardiers as the Rotem's seats have been cited by Metrolink as an integral part of the safety features of the new Guardian Fleet and cannot be removed. Both new services have had positive reaction from the public.

In addition, the extra equipment has allowed Metrolink to add express service on the Antelope Valley Line and the San Bernardino Line as pilot programs. If they are successful (currently reducing travel times upwards of 45 minutes), Metrolink will make express service permanent and add express service to other lines to gauge if such service should also be permanent on those lines.

Several of the surplus legacy Bombardier cab cars and in-line cars are stored just outside Union Station along the track used by Pacific Surfliner, OC Line, and 91 Line trains along the Los Angeles River. It is not certain at this time what Metrolink's long-term plan is for these cars as their original goal was to replace all Bombardier cars with the Guardian Fleet (Rotem cars), but will be short of that goal, until they are able to place additional orders. The decision of which Sentinel Fleet cars to keep or lease or sell will have much to do with the financing terms as much as age or cost to upgrade Sentinels with some of the Guardian Fleet safety features (this will be limited to enhanced seating and break-away tables, etc., but will not include the material and structure of the sentinel cars such as the weaker aluminum or aluminum alloy skin/body and the lack of horizontal steel beams on either side of the car to absorb impact forces. Although the Sentinel Fleet lacks crumple zones, it is unknown if that could be engineered for the Sentinel Fleet). The older the Sentinel car, the less debt owed on the car (or completely owned), or superior financing, while younger Sentinel cars carry more debt or less desirable financing. Metrolink is analyzing the cost of keeping either older or younger Sentinel cars to upgrade, as older Sentinel cars will require major rehabilitation of its systems, as they are close to the end of their life, in addition to upgrading them to some of the Guardian Fleet safety features. The younger Sentinel cars will not require any major rehabilitation of is systems, but carry more debt while still needing to upgrade to some Guardian Fleet safety features.

ModelManufacturedRoad NumbersNumber In FleetNotes
EMD F40PH19818001[1][2]
EMD F59PH198818520, 18522, 185333[3]
EMD F59PH1992–1993851–87323[4]
EMD F59PHI1994874–8818
EMD F59PHI1995882, 8832[5]
EMD F59PHI2001884–8874[6]
MPI MPXpress MP36PH-3C2008–2009888–90215[7]
EMD F1252016-NA20 on orderOrder for ten locomotives announced in December 2012,
with ten additional options, since exercised. Deliveries will begin in 2015.[66]
Passenger cars
Bombardier BiLevel Generation 11992–1993101–1636035 cars converted into bike cars
Bombardier BiLevel Generation 21997164–18218[8]
Bombardier BiLevel Generation 32002183–21026[9][10]
Hyundai Rotem bilevel cars2010–2013211-29080[11]
Cab cars
Bombardier BiLevel Generation 11992–1993601–63128[12]
Bombardier BiLevel Generation 21997632–6375[13]
Hyundai Rotem bilevel cars2010–2013638–69457[14]


Hyundai Rotem cab car, in the new livery.

Most Metrolink-owned units are painted in the Metrolink livery, white with blue streaks. The agency is currently in the process of rolling out a new blue and green "ribbons" design. Locomotives are being given the new livery during downtime for maintenance and the new Rotem Bi-level cars are coming from the factory with the updated design already applied.[38][69]

Major accidents[edit]

Placentia, April 2002[edit]

Two people died and 22 were seriously injured on April 23, 2002, when a BNSF Railway freight train collided head-on with a Metrolink train in Placentia, near the Atwood Junction, at the intersection of Orangethorpe Avenue and Richfield Road. Both trains were on the same east–west track moving toward one another. The Metrolink had the right-of-way; it was supposed to switch to a southbound track. The BNSF train was supposed to slow and stop just before the switch while the Metrolink passed, but the crew missed a signal one and a half miles back warning them to slow down. By the time the crew saw the red "stop" signal at the switch and the Metrolink train, they were going too fast to avoid a collision. Although there was speculation that the signals alerting the BNSF to slow and stop had malfunctioned, an investigation later concluded that it was human error by the crew that caused the accident.[70]

Glendale, January 2005[edit]

The 2005 Glendale crash aftermath.

Eleven people were killed (including an off-duty sheriff's deputy and a train conductor) and over 100 people were injured, about 40 seriously on January 26, 2005, when a Metrolink passenger train collided with a vehicle parked on the tracks, which then jackknifed and struck a stationary freight locomotive and a Metrolink train moving in the opposite direction. The man who parked the vehicle on the tracks, Juan Manuel Alvarez, was apprehended and charged with 11 counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances, including murder by train wrecking.[71][72] On June 26, 2008, Alvarez was convicted on the 11 murder counts and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.[73]

Chatsworth (Los Angeles), September 2008[edit]

26 people were killed and 135 injured when a Metrolink commuter train carrying 222 persons[74] collided head on with a Union Pacific freight train, toppling one of the passenger cars and the locomotive onto its side in the Chatsworth district of Los Angeles.[75] Along with the 135 people who were injured, 81 were transported to local hospitals in serious or critical condition.[76] The velocity of the trains caused the Metrolink locomotive to telescope into the first passenger car.[76]

Safety enhancement after accidents[edit]

Following the Glendale accident, Metrolink began work with the NTSB and FRA to design a new rail car from the ground up that would incorporate the latest in Crash Energy Management (CEM) technology. This included impact absorption technology and other safety features, necessitating a radical redesign of the cab cars. Crumple zones, steel beams to redirect impact forces around the car, high back seats, and tables designed to break away during strong impact were incorporated. These interior safety features were deemed to be of primary importance, as the two fatalities from the Placentia crash were blamed on riders' impacts with solidly fixed passenger car tables. The resulting Guardian Fleet was designed and constructed from the ground up, as existing rail cars could not be modified to meet the new Metrolink safety specifications. Hyundai/Rotem submitted the lowest contract bid (beating out top bidder Kawasaki and middle bidder Bombardier) to produce the rail cars at $2 million per car, which was approximately twice the cost of the previously used legacy Bombardier cars.

See also[edit]



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External links[edit]