Reader email: color that Expo Line edition

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been running a poll asking our readers to choose a color name for the Expo Line. In addition to votes we’ve also received a lot of feedback in the form of reader email and comments left on the poll site.

While Aqua is currently the favorite, both by Source readers and Metro Staff, some have written in with concerns about the color and its similarity to the Blue Line:

My biggest issue with Aqua is that, because it shares tracks and stations with the Blue Line, it could lead to confusion.  The color looks like light blue to me.  Having Blue and Light Blue sharing tracks is as bad as having Yellow and Gold side by side.

However, let’s not toss out yellow.  Yellow is still up for grabs, and in this case it would be good because it complements Blue, and it wouldn’t cause confusion because the Yellow (Expo) Line and Gold Line don’t even connect (and won’t for at least several years).

Anyway, if Metro is hell-bent on using Aqua, it should at least make it green-blue, so that it is a little more distinct from Blue-Line blue.


Given that the Expo line is close to the Blue line and will be connected to it I think it should be something different to make it easy to differentiate the two lines.  Citrus/Lime is too close to the green line in appearance, and the Expo line will be close to the Green line.  Olive I don’t think fits because whenever I think of Olive I think of Burbank and I think it may confuse others who also have that association.

So I arrive at Copper.  The closest colours to copper are Orange and Gold.  Since those lines run into the SFV and SGV respectively I don’t think there would be as much cause for confusion.  Rose I think is also a good choice – but if/when the purple line extends to the west side it may cause confusion there.

While I agree that the busways having colours can be confusing, it gives me hope that they may one day be transformed into rail and hopefully other residents would think of that potential where they otherwise may not have.  I live in Woodland Hills and I would love nothing more than to see the Orange line become light rail even though there are some political obstacles to that idea.


I used to be a supporter of the “aqua”/”teal” proposal, until I saw how similar it looked to “blue” on the map… and considering the Blue and Expo Lines share the same track and then diverge after Pico, I’m imagining a lot of annoyed riders asking “How is this NOT blue??”. If lines intersect or overlap, their colors should be a little more different than “dark blue” and “light blue”. The most different color from all the other lines (looking at just the ones proposed) is olive.


A number of people have written in suggesting that the whole color naming convention be scrapped for good and replaced with letters or numbers:

You have a poll where people can pick which color name they prefer for the new expo line. However, your poll is flawed. You do not have a choice for “none of the above”.  All the choices are terrible. The MTA should STOP using silly color names for the rail lines. Once you have more than 5 or 6 lines, all the remaining colors sound silly and make LA look bad. They don’t use colors for names in cities like New York or Tokyo.


While lines are always colors on the map, I think it’s worthwhile to adopt numbers and colors, which makes things even clearer, and also benefits those who are colorblind, and have a difficult time distinguishing between certain colors. If you look at the Metro rail map as is, it assumes you can tell the difference between all the colors, and it’s not that difficult to make much such a map more accessible. Especially coming back from a trip to Paris, where there is an obviously apparent greater consideration for the visually impaired, including number and color based metro maps, it seems L.A. could be doing a lot more.


I think that Metro should be moving away from color coded lines and eventually work toward numbered train lines, though that will probably have to wait until far in the future. As for the current expo line situation, I don’t really have a preference since it will (hopefully) become part of the Gold line in the future.


I’d like to see Metro resume lettering their rail lines (like they began doing waaaaay back when the Blue and Red lines debuted), since there are only so many colors that can be used before confusion reigns. Plus, let’s not forget the needs of those who are color blind; continuing to use colors to identify lines only makes using Metro more difficult for those with color blindness.

Go ahead and use Aqua or Pink on the map and on the signage (a letter would fit nicely in a Gold Line circle!), but a conversion to letters really needs to be in the works, especially considering the potential new lines that will be created once the Regional Connector is completed.


How about just keeping the name Expo Line:

I don’t care what color it is on the map as long as they call the line Expo. That to me is really the right answer.

The problem here is that this line has been known as Expo for 15 years since the beginning of environmental impact study. What Metro is proposing is actually renaming it (from Expo to Aqua). Everyone that lives along the line calls it Expo line. Every transportation blog and knowledgeable transit user already know it as Expo line. Everyone who will likely ride the line when it opens knows it by the Expo name. Even the haters are organizing against Expo line… not Aqua (or whatever lame ass color name).

Compounding the renaming issue (Expo –> Aqua), it is likely that Metro will need to rename the line again in about 5 years when Downtown connector is completed under 30/10. This is shortsighted planning at its worst! If Metro is going to rename this line, it should be proactive and go directly to the final version of the name when the system is fully build out. Will this be the E train in 5 years? Metro should have an answer for that… anything short of that is an abject failure in planning.


How about Expo? Color it aqua, but call it Expo. That way, it’s easily identified from the blue line, while still the aqua line.


Others think that running out of “good” colors wouldn’t be an issue if some of those colors weren’t used on bus rapid transit lines:

Will someone please talk to the staff responsible for color designation about eventually taking away Silver and Orange from the BRT lines. That would take us closer to not having to worry or argue about a new designation system with letters for rail lines.
Colors serve as excellent marketing visuals and they are more distinguishable than letters (and less confusing). Yes, there might have to be retrofitting of signage after the Connecter, i.e. Gold Line stations to Pasadena become Blue. And Eastside extension stations become Aqua. If we don’t use them for BRT, we won’t run out of colors, so let’s just use Orange and Silver for some of our future rail, if need be.

Metro should quit advertising their harbor transit-way service as “Silver Line” as if it were a rail line (which is definitely is not… take it from someone who has waited over 90 minutes for a bus on that line to arrive). When the Expo Line opens, call it the Silver Line, and use gray/silver on signs and maps (which they already do for the transitway service). The confusion between the old bus service name and the new rail service would only be very brief, and far more new riders would understand the logic behind coloring the rail line instead of misleading visitors by identifying an express bus service as such.

Finally, here’s my two cents: I think a lot of our readers have made good points, especially considering the coming rail boom and the implications that the Regional Connector will have on existing rail lines – calling lines by their color on the map may very well become cumbersome and confusing as we run out of the basic colors. Colors on the map may also have to be reconfigured when the Regional Connector links multiple lines.

My personal preference is a naming convention that uses either numbers or letters in conjunction with colors on the map. That way a wide away of colors can be used, regardless of how silly the color names may sound, since the lines will be referred to by their letter or number. I much prefer this to “descriptive” names which will likely lead to prolonged and unnecessary debate (what describes a particular line? The right of way it travels on? The neighborhoods it travels through?) and can end up being unwieldy on maps on signage.

That being said, I don’t know if the first phase of the Expo Line is neccessarily the right line to start a new naming convention with. I say bring on the new convention with the Measure R rail projects. Oh, and while BRT is fantastic, I’m of the school of “don’t waste precious colors on bus lines no matter how great they are.”

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