All Gold Line trains will serve Foothill Extension stations beginning Sunday

All Gold Line trains will run from Azusa to East Los Angeles beginning Sunday with frequencies of every seven minutes during peak hours starting on Monday.

To put it lightly, Foothill Extension riders have been requesting this change. Gold Line trains currently run every six minutes between East L.A. and Pasadena during the rush hours but every 12 minutes to the new stations in Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale and Azusa. That often meant longer waits and more crowded trains for Foothill Extension riders.

The 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension opened in early March and ridership has exceeded Metro’s expectations. The change means that service levels will match demand along the entire 31-mile Gold Line. The change is a one-year pilot program, allowing Metro monitor ridership, on-time performance of trains and customer satisfaction to determine if the change should be made permanent.

The Gold Line crossing the San Gabriel River in Irwindale. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The Gold Line crossing the San Gabriel River in Irwindale. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Metro staff see the revised schedule as a win-win for customers and operations staff. Among the benefits:

•The schedule will be easier to read and all trains will stop at all stations.

•Passenger loads should be more consistent from train to train and wait times at Union Station will be reduced for Foothill riders.

•No more waiting at the Sierra Madre Villa platform, which sits in the middle of the not unquiet 210 freeway.

•Going from six minute to seven minute headways does not significantly increase the wait time for passengers.

•As more rail cars are delivered, a greater percentage of trains will be longer.

Here’s the news release. And here’s the new timetable:


What do you think, riders? A good change? Comment please.

114 replies

  1. Why can’t we run 3-car trains to all stations in 6 minute intervals? Why the increase from 6 to 7 minutes? That’s 8 trains per hour vs. 10. Doesn’t seem like progress to me. The train cars are always packed during rush hour – standing room only from union station to Pasadena.

    • Hi Jason;

      We don’t have enough new light rail vehicles yet to run all trains from East LA to Azusa in three-car configurations.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Any ETA on this? The crowding is brutal. Standing is one thing. Standing with our faces in other people’s arm pits is another.

    • Doesn’t seem like progress?? Trains were running every 12 min to Azusa no matter the time of day. Trains every 7 min during peak hours definitely sounds like progress. The Expo Line still runs every 12 min from 6am – 8pm so yeah, I’d call the Gold Line treatment as progress.

  2. Pretty smooth this morning ( Monday June 27,2016)! Trains were 7 minutes apart, I just missed a 1/4 full train at Irwindale by a few seconds the next train was a little more than half full there were still a handful of seats available except for the ones taken by the usual seat hogs.

    Thank you

    • I had a similar experience boarding at Arcadia Station this morning — still a number of seats available, though it was standing room only by the time we got past South Pasadena Station..

    • It scared me how well it worked at the Monrovia stop this morning. Everyone on the platform piled into the train that showed up at 7:33am, so I waited for the next one. It came just 4 minutes later, and there were barely any passengers on it. Then at every stop between there and Memorial Park, the doors would open, but the platform was empty because everyone had caught the earlier train. At Memorial Park, only about 8 people got off, where every other morning it’s been around 50.

      I think this is mainly a case of a small percentage of people being aware that there’s a new schedule, and once they figure it out, those two trains’ ridership should level out, which will still be a much more comfortable number of people per train.

      • Greg: You did the right thing. Most passengers won’t have your patience and will cram onto the first overcrowded train that arrives.
        With the new operating plan, the biggest challenge for Metro will be to maintain the train spacing. With 7-minute headways on a 31-mile rail line it is very easy for one train to fall behind schedule. So instead of serving seven minutes worth of passenger demand, it ends up serving 10, 12 or even 15 minutes worth of demand. And as you noticed today, then the next train shows up, 3-5 minutes later, and it catches fewer than half the passengers of the previous train. This continues in a domino effect as the first overloaded train slows more and more, as dwell times increase, and the following trains bunch up behind. I can see this happening using my cell phone app.
        With the reduced service frequency on the Gold Line the average load between Pasadena and LA will increase from an average of ~70 passengers to ~85 passengers per rail car (capacity 65-68 seats), even without bunching. If Metro can’t maintain the train spacing some cars will end up carrying 120-150 passengers each.

  3. Standing room only, as usual when a train comes in from Azusa, at Siera Madre Villa this morning. The new change doesn’t seem to have made it any more likely that I’ll get a seat on the Azusa trains.

    And I’m not expecting any change at Union Station at the end of the day. I already have a pretty good idea of how things will shape out there. Based on the number of passengers who always debark at Sierra Madre Villa and wait for the next train, it’s pretty clear that not many of the Azusa passengers were waiting for “their” train before the change.

      • I use “Go Metro” and “LA Metro and Bus”. Both of those apps are free, and the latter app seems to be more reliable, from my experience.

    • Union Station was even worse than I’d expected. In the past, typically the train to Sierra Madre Villa would come through, cram in roughly 2/3 of the passengers on the platform, and then head out. The train to Azusa would come through, and squeeze in the rest, plus any additional passengers who’d come to the platform in that time frame.

      I would watch all of this because I was sticking around for the train with the nearly empty third car that would show up after the Azusa train pulled out.

      I don’t know why things were different yesterday (logically, they shouldn’t have been), but they were. A northbound train pulled in, picked up 2/3 of the passengers on the platform, and left. The next train arrived, picked up 2/3 of the passengers on the platform, and left. By the time the third northbound train arrived (which did not have three cars this time), I could see that it was going to take a ridiculously long time for things to get better. So I caught the southbound train that arrived at pretty much the same time, got off at Little Tokyo, and caught the fourth northbound train (again, only two cars) when it arrived at that station. So far as I could tell (sitting at a window on the side opposite the platform), there were just as many people waiting when my train pulled out as had been the case when the earlier trains left.

      As for this morning at Sierra Madre Villa?

      Standing room only, again.

  4. Has Metro ever considered building platforms for trains longer than three cars? I recall the Blue Line fiasco where the stations initially could only accommodate two car trains and all of the station platforms had to be extended..

    I appreciate the traffic problems that four car trains can create during street running but we most look far ahead when three car trains may no longer be adequate to handle the traffic.

    Four questions:

    1. Can your present LRT cars safely operate in trains longer than tree cars?

    2, What is the minimum headway possible with your current signal system? There is already a potential problem where the Expo and Blue lines share trackage.

    3. Have you changed the Metro Center practice where an incoming train has to wait in the tunnel while an outgoing train changes ends?

    4. Why can’t both Metro Center platforms be used — one for the Blue Line and the other for the Expo Line? Videos I have downloaded show trains waiting several minutes for access to the west platform at Metro Center.

    • Hi Frank;

      I’m not aware of any consideration at this time to build longer platforms for longer trains. It’s a big and costly endeavor and I think it’s fair to say that while some trains are crowded at this time, the crowds during most hours of the day do not warrant this type of improvement. Hypothetically, I do think it’s possible to run longer trains but there may be associated issues (power supply, for example).

      I’ll ask the ops staff about 7th/Metro. In recent weeks I’ve seen trains pull into the station serving both platforms. My educated guess is that the train maneuvering there is somewhat situational and may depend on train schedules, service issues, etc.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • For each line there is a maximum length trainset that can be run before the lack of grade separation becomes a problem. For instance on the Blue line on Washington Blvd, if the train was too long it would block traffic. If it got held up at a light, it would block a cross street behind it. Only the green, red or purple lines could theoretically have much longer trains because they are completely grade separated.

        This can be mitigated with signal priority so the trains rarely stop, but LADOT has not given Metro trains that priority.

        Eventually platforms will need to be lengthened, but in the short term increasing frequency would be better. Both might require some power system upgrades.

        Once the regional connector is completed in 3 years and more rail cars are delivered I wonder what the capacity of the Gold/Expo/Blue line will be. The central tunnel might limit the combined service to 20-30 trains per hour, which would mean each leg would only get 10-15 trains per hour.

        • Good points. Perhaps in the not-so-dim future Metro can eliminate some of the problems you note by extending the Metro Center subway to include the, but still flat, Blue-Expo junction. The ideal situation would be an underground flying or burrowing junction between the Blue and Expo lines. Although this would be much more expensive than a flat junction, it may be necessary to maximize the number of train movements through the junction. In passing, the same problem train movement limitations could exist at the Blue-Expo junction on the Regional Connector.

          Most NYC Subway junctions are of the flying variety,.but the Broadway-Myrtle junction between the 2-track M line-three track J Line junction built around 1915 is flat with its share of double-slip switches.. All M Line trains have to use the junction and station. Most M Line trains go on to Manhattan and Queens, but even the shuttles serving Metropolitan Avenue and the Fresh Pond Yard have to use this junction to reach the station and change ends.

          In passing, the busiest junction on Metro North is the flat junction at Mott Haven in the Bronx which handles all of the traffic to and from Grand Central Terminal (GCT). Fortunately, there is a four-track mainline between GCT and Mott Haven, and the dispatchers handle this during the evening rush hour by routing some outbound Hudson Division (the west-most Metro North east-of-the-Hudson line) trains on the track nominally assigned to inbound local trains, so that there are now three outbound and only one inbound track, nominally the inbound express track.

          To assist this, Metro North, like LA Metro, has dispensed with line-side signals and instead uses cab signals and on-board messaging to tell the train operators what speeds to set at the various junctions. On the other hand, there is a flying junction at Woodlawn where the Harlem and New Haven Division lines merge and diverge, with inbound New Haven Division trains using a bridge over the Harlem Division tracks.

      • Thanks for the update. In the dim past, the Pacific Electric could not run trains of its Hollywood (600-series) cars longer than three cars due to inadequate braking response. Three car trains were the norm during peak periods on the Glendale-Burbank and Venice Short Lines. I never saw a three-car train on the Van Nuys Line near where I lived and went to school.

        To minimize confusion, ALL Expo Line and ALL Blue Line trains should ALWAYS use different Metro Center platforms. I don’t care which. The problem is that there is no single-level walkway connecting the two platforms.

        I have seen one YouTube Video where some trains apparently used the scissor crossover at the north end of Metro Center. Obviously the tail tracks were not occupied. Can those tracks always be free to use by storing out-of-service cars on the tail tracks on the Blue Line where it turns south onto the former PE right-of-way?

        As for LRT trains longer than three cars, a four-car train could straddle a three-car platform by not opening the doors in the very first and last articulated units. I sincerely hope there will be a time when three-car trains are not adequate to handle the traffic demand. This could especially be true when the Gold Line is extended to Claremont on the North and to South El Monte or Whittier on the South.

        We may never get there, but I always frequently watch in awe the YouTube videos of 12-car Long Island Rail Road (locally referred to as the L-I-double-R) trains that stop at stations with platforms shorter than 12-car lengths. Announcements tell the riders which cars to use in order to platform at stations with shorter platforms, even some that can accommodate only 4 or 6 cars, and the train stops accordingly. Metro North actually runs some 8-to-10-car trains serving platforms in the Bronx that are only 4 cars in length.

  5. Hey there, Steve Hymon, I do hope that you or someone else speaking on behalf of L.A. Metro will respond to the 6/27 comments posted here by Frank Mastroly.
    ALSO: Is Metro still going to continue adding a third car to peak-time Gold Line and Expo trains as new cars are added to the working fleet? I’m asking because a fellow Metro rider just told me she’s heard rumors that there have been problems with the new trains when a third car is added; supposedly the extra load sometimes results in the train not being able to move at the proper speed. Any truth to that, or is it just wildly misinformed chatter?

    • Adding one or even two cars to a train should not adversely impact performance as they are all Electrical Multiple Unit (EMU) cars, and assuming they have compatible electrical (not pneumatic controls) and brakes.

      One item not addressed is if all Metro LRVs can train together irrespective of supplier. Their couplers can be identical so that a transfer vehicle can haul any dead unit, but the control systems may be incompatible. Ideally, Metro should be able to mix-and-match LRVs from different suppliers to maximize flexibility, the same way that all railroad freight diesel locomotives today can. That is why you will see ElectroMotive and GE diesels even from different railroads all in the same lash-up on the head-end and frequently as mid-train and/or end-of-train helpers.

      The Pacific Electric had two classes (600/700 and 5000 PCCs) of steel EMU suburban cars, and two classes (1100 and 1200) of steel EMU interurban cars that could not train with each other. Same with their wooden interurban cars (800, 900, 950, and 1000) and even their wooden and sleel box motors (1400).

  6. So glad to have more frequent trains to APU. Unfortunately, this benefit is currently blunted by the reduction of the shuttle to get from the station to the other side of the not-yet-completed Citrus Street to only once every 20 minutes during the Summer (spelled “S-U-M-E-R” according to the signs!). I actually now have to ride even EARLIER to make sure I get to work on time!