Explaining the downtown regional connector

RC OverviewWith the opening of the Eastside Gold Line, I’ve noticed some confusion in the media about a related project: the downtown regional connector. One story in a prominent newspaper whose name I shall not speak said the connector would still require passengers from East L.A. to transfer to reach the heart of downtown (a small error since corrected–gracias!)

So not true, folks! The whole point of the connector and its billion-dollar price tag is to supply a no transfer ride into downtown L.A. to all of Metro’s light rail passengers, no matter what part of town they’re coming from.

Let me back up a bit and explain. At present, both ends of the Gold Line terminate at Union Station. Meanwhile, the Blue Line and future Expo Line both terminate at Metro Center at 7th and Figueroa/Flower. Once upon a time there was actually a plan to connect them as part of building the Gold Line to Pasadena. But politics and lack of money intervened and it never happened.

RC Overview2The problem with the Gold Line ending at Union Station is that it’s not really convenient for riders unless they work at Union Station, Metro or the Metropolitan Water District. Those working elsewhere in downtown Los Angeles must transfer to the subway or a bus to reach their final destination.

And how does The Source feel about transfers? While often a necessary evil, they still munch time and make public transport less competitive with driving, which brings with it the convenience of door-to-door travel.

The beauty of the connector is that it would, as its name implies, finally build the set of tracks that would connect all four light rail lines that will one day come into downtown L.A.

Under current plans, the connector would be operated along east-west and north-south alignments. In other words, some trains will be traveling straight through between Pasadena and Long Beach while others will go back and forth between East Los Angeles and Santa Monica. That’s what the two maps attached to this post attempt to show.

It’s especially important for riders on the new Eastside Gold Line. At present, the line heads down 1st Street straight toward downtown and then veers north to Union Station. When the connector is built, passengers boarding on the Eastside can jump on a connector train that instead of going to Union Station will continue straight into downtown.

I looked at the map and wondered: what about other potential routes? What about, for example, running a train straight through from Pasadena to Santa Monica? Or a train from Long Beach to East Los Angeles?

Nothing is being ruled out, say the regional connector people, and there is the option of operating different routes in the future. Of course, the line must first be built. And that means federal money must be found and a decision made whether to build it at street level or underground. At the moment, the plans are to open the line in 2019.