Gold Line Eastside Extension celebrates first anniversary of service

The Gold Line's Eastside Extension on opening day in 2009.

It seems like just yesterday but a full year has passed and today, Nov. 15,  is the first anniversary of the Metro Gold Line/Linea de Oro del Metro, as Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina requested it be named in Spanish.

In just 365 days, the entire light-rail line from Sierra Madre Villa in Pasadena to Atlantic in East Los Angeles has grown from an estimated 22,000 weekday boardings to more than 35,000. Nothing spectacular … but right at the projected ridership for the first year.

As the sleek rail cars cruise over the 101 Freeway, the downtown skyscrapers appear. And then you reach the first station at Little Tokyo/Arts District. The landscape of Little Tokyo, Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles have definitively changed along the six-mile length of the rail system and its eight new stations.

“Now it’s so pretty, so clean and it makes me feel proud,” said Mercedes Velado, as she sits enjoying the morning sunshine on Mariachi Plaza.  “One year? So soon? I remember when the construction was taking place. Now everything is much better.”

For Columba Gazca, owner of La Placita del D.F., the coming of Metro Rail has been a blessing. “Yes, I believe there are more people coming to my restaurant. Even so, the economic downturn has hurt everybody. Some businesses feel it differently but the economic effect is there.”

Despite the economic problems, for Eleno Caro, who is with Mariachi Real, there is a new face to Mariachi Plaza. “It is something to enjoy — very clean and very modern. It looks great.”

Of the four joint developments projected, two of them have been put on hold due to the economic downturn. The one at First and Lorena streets has been changed to a charter school and only First and Boyle, in Boyle Heights, will offer affordable housing.

Underground the train speeds up and keeps picking passengers up or dropping them off at the stations Soto, Indiana and Maravilla. Some of the riders go to work; some others go to school or for medical attention.

For Norma Acosta the convenience of the rail ride has been a lifesaver. “Now I can go to school and to visit my grandma on the same day. Buy my monthly pass and off I go four times a day in the train. Never before could I do that. And the stations really look very nice and cool.”

As the train comes back from Atlantic station and heads to Pasadena, it moves quietly along the streets of East Los Angeles.

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