L.A.'s Rail Revolution Celebrates 20 Years

Dave Sotero reflects on the "mammoth undertaking" necessary to build L.A.'s modern subway system. He begins with the completion of the first phase of the Metro Red Line 20 years ago, and ends with a look at its promising future.

Read Time: 2 minutes

February 4, 2013, 11:00 AM PST

By Erica Gutiérrez


David Sotero reports, "Today, Metro marks the 20th anniversary of the Metro Red Line’s first phase from Union Station to MacArthur Park, a nearly 4.5-mile construction milestone that began a brand new chapter in regional rail construction and placing L.A. among other major cities across the globe with high-speed, high-capacity subways."

He recounts its "quixotic" history, spearheaded by former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, which required "$1.431 billion for the initial segment" that was started in 1986 and opened in 1993. It faced construction challenges including a subway fire, buried fuel oil tanks, and the draining and refilling of an eight-acre lake. "Workers also found the oldest and most diverse collection of fossils ever reported from the L.A. Basin’s Miocene period — with some dating back 15.5 million years," he adds.

Subway development has introduced countless benefits, initially to Downtown Los Angeles, and later to Hollywood Boulevard, revitalizing neighborhoods, and offering Angelenos more "transit-friendly" lifestyle options. It created the “live, work and play” ethos that "continues to draw new residents, cultural venues and entertainment centers to invest in downtown," writes Sotero. And it has continued to expand phase by phase, segment by segment. "Following the subway’s opening to Westlake/MacArthur Park in 1993, consecutive construction phases brought the line to Wilshire/Western in 1996, Hollywood in 1999 and North Hollywood in 2000."

Despite its many benefits, continued expansion and increased ridership (reaching 48 million riders on the Red and Purple lines in 2012),  Sotero points out that, "[o]ne of the peculiarities of the subway is that even today many residents in parts of the county have never used it or do not know it exists." "However," he adds, "that is likely to change as the subway moves from adolescence to maturity with the extension of the Metro Purple Line to the jobs-rich Westside."

The Expo Line is expected to open in Santa Monica in 2016 and the Metro Purple Line is expected to reach La Cienega Blvd by 2023, making its way to Westwood in 2036, "unless Metro finds a way to fund an acceleration of the project."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 in The Source (Metro)

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Green bike lane with flexible delineators and textures paint in Hoboken, New Jersey

America’s Best New Bike Lanes

PeopleForBikes highlights some of the most exciting new bike infrastructure projects completed in 2022.

January 31, 2023 - PeopleforBikes

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

A tent covered in blue and black tarps sits on a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk with the white ziggurat-topped L.A. City Hall looming in the background

L.A. County Towns Clash Over Homelessness Policies

Local governments often come to different conclusions about how to address homelessness within their respective borders, but varying approaches only exacerbate the problem.

February 3 - Shelterforce Magazine

Rendering of mixed-use development with parks and stormwater retention on former Houston landfill site

A Mixed-Use Vision for Houston Landfill Site

A local nonprofit is urging the city to consider adding mixed-use development to the site, which city officials plan to turn into a stormwater detention facility.

February 3 - Urban Edge

Aerial view of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin at sunset

Milwaukee County Makes Substantial Progress on Homelessness

In 2022, the county’s point-in-time count of unhoused people reflected just 18 individuals, the lowest in the country.

February 3 - Urban Milwaukee