Metro’s Regional Connector, explained

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Welcome to Curbed’s firstTransportation Week!

From how to improve public transportation in cities, ranking the best car-free neighborhoods across the country, and a friendly competition among NYC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles to determine which has the best public transit, this week is all about how we get around in our favorite cities. All aboard!

Under construction now, Metro’s Regional Connector will bring a trio of new underground transit stations to Downtown LA. But it’s so much more than new stops.

The project also entails laying new track from Little Tokyo/Arts District to 7th Street/Metro, essentially extending the Gold, Blue, and Expo lines so they link up with each other.

The three stations will do some heavy lifting, eliminating transfers for travelers on the those three lines who are going north-south (Azusa to Long Beach) or east-west (East LA to Santa Monica).

That will change the way a lot of Metro riders take the train. It’s going to mean less fuss for a chunk of cross-city (or inter-city) trips, and it’ll be more efficient, too: Metro expects that passengers making the full Azusa-to-Long Beach or East LA-to-Santa Monica trip can shave about 20 minutes off of their travel times once the Regional Connector opens, says Metro Communications Manager Rick Jager.

It’ll be a while until the project is complete—the connector isn’t expected to start running until 2021. But many people have questions now, so we’re diving in to answer some common questions about the Regional Connector.

A rendering of the Regional Connector’s 2nd St/Hope station.
Courtesy of Metro

The Regional Connector only has three stations. What’s the big deal?

Right now, there is an inconvenient “gap” in Downtown’s rail service, says Jager. For example, taking off from the Gold Line’s Mariachi Plaza Station to Expo’s Palms Station entails switching trains at Union Station, taking the Red Line for a few stops, then switching to theExpo Line at 7th/Metro.

With the Regional Connector, Boyle Heights to Palms will be a one-seat ride. Long Beach to Little Tokyo, South Pasadena to the Watts Towers, downtown Santa Monica to the Gold Line’s Atlantic Station—all of theseare examples of rides that will be transfer-free trips once the Regional Connector is online.

Courtesy of Metro

What about travelers going from Azusa to Santa Monica? Or from East LA to Long Beach?

They will still not have the luxury of a one-seat ride to their destination, but they will reduce the number of transfers from one to two. Instead of transferring at Union Station and 7th/Metro, they’ll transfer at the Regional Connector’s 1st/Central Station.

How will people know which train to get on?

With the Regional Connector, the Expo and Blue Lines heading toward Downtown will no longer end at 7th/Metro; some will continue on as far as East LA and Azusa.

The Gold Line will split, going both toward East LA and toward 7th Street/Metro. To make sure they end up at their desired destinations, people are going to have to pay closer attention and do a little reading.

Jager says that people boarding in Long Beach and hoping to get to Azusa will board a train with a head sign, the sign at the front of the train, saying something like “LA/Azusa.” People in Santa Monica hoping to take a train toward East LA will look for head sign saying “LA/East LA.”

When the Gold Line’s next extensions to Montclair and Whittier open up, the head signs will change again to reflect the line’s new termini.

Wasn’t Metro going to do letters instead of colors or names for lines, like New York?

Metro was thinking about switching uniformly to letters because “with the huge expansion we’re doing, we’re going to run out of easily named colors,” says Jager, but that switch still appears to be “a ways off.”

Left: A rendering of the 1st/Central station. Right: The 2nd/Broadway station.
Courtesy of Metro

These Regional Connector trains have a long trip to make. How frequently will they arrive?

“I don’t know if that’s been fully developed yet,” says Yager, who says he hasn’t heard of any estimates for headways on the Connector. The project won’t be complete until 2021, so Yager says there’s still time to work it out.

Now that people hoping to take the Blue or Expo don’t have to transfer at Union Station or 7th/Metro, will it be less crowded there?

The two stations are the busiest in Metro’s network, but Jager says crowds for the Expo and Blue Line at 7th/Metro may ease up a bit after the Regional Connector opens. “I think you’ll probably see more people making the transfer at 1st/Central Station in Little Tokyo,” he says.

(It’s worth noting that once the Regional Connector opens, the station in Little Tokyo will move to the 1st/Central corner. The existing Little Tokyo station will disappear and become the spot where the above-ground Gold Line will surface to go to East LA and Azusa.)

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