Signage improvements at stations serving Expo and Blue lines

New signage at the Pico Station serving the Blue Line and Expo Line.

The Expo Line opened in late April and since then we’ve received a steady trickle of comments from Metro customers saying that it’s difficult to differentiate Expo Line and Blue Line trains at the two stations they share — 7th/Metro Center and Pico.

A few passengers have even complained of getting on the wrong train and realizing the mistake too late.

A new sign in the 7th/Metro Center station.

As some of you have likely noticed, Metro is working to improve the situation. Among the improvements being:

•Improved announcements on both trains and stations.

•Signs on trains that are more easily visible — Long Beach means it’s a Blue Line train, Culver City signifies an Expo train.

•Better signage at 7th/Metro Center showing patrons where to board Blue Line and Expo Line trains. Both trains use platform 2 on the upper level. The lower level is for Red and Purple Line subway trains.

•Maps and information are being added adjacent to platforms and an alphanumeric system — the ‘E’ — is being introduced to help distinguish the two lines.

Have you noticed any of the improvements? Are they helping? Comment please.


34 replies

  1. why not use platform 1 for Blue Line and platform 2 for Expo line (or vice versa)?

  2. I don’t see what’s so logical about using letters for names.

    With “the Blue Line,” the name of the train matches the color on maps and signs. “The Expo Line” reflects the name of the street that it (mostly) runs on. Change “Blue Line” to “Long Beach Line” and you would get an indication as to the ultimate destination.

    But A, B, C, D has no signifigance. Letters have no meaning.

    If I’m a tourist visiting a foreign country for the first time, maybe the names may be hard to pronounce, but tourists should recognize that foreign places are going to have foreign, “exotic” names. It’s a poor tourist who eats at McDonalds and fails to learn anything about the culture that they are visiting. Learn the names.

  3. One of the things that I like about cities I visited around the world is that station names are also assigned station numbers.

    As a tourist who has a hard time remember station names (especially if it’s something like Thai!), it’s very easy to memorize stations by letters and numbers.

    Here’s how the Bangkok Metro does theirs:

    So instead of memorizing “I have to go from Nana to Silom, switch trains and go to, er what was the name again…oh yeah Krung Thong Buri,” it became “E4 to CEN, go to S7”

  4. This is a positive step towards logical names for our expanding rail service. May I suggest the following:
    – E for Expo and East LA (after regional connection opens) – eventually switch to gold circle but keep the name as E train.
    – W for Wilshire – keep the purple circle
    – H for Hollywod – keep the red circle
    – I for Imperial – keep the green circle
    – L for Long Beach – keep the blue circle
    – F for Foothill (assuming there will be a truncated “short line” after the regional connection opens) – eventually switch the blue circle or maybe blue square to differentiate from the L train.
    – C for Crenshaw – some other color

  5. “Half of the confusion is because the Expo Line is represented in BLUE and the Blue Line is also represented in BLUE — just because it’s a different shade of blue doesn’t mean that it makes any sense to riders. Ultimately, they still see a line represented with BLUE. Has Metro not considered giving the Expo Line its own color that is NOT BLUE?” -Joshua S.

    Before Expo Line was finished there was talk of calling it the Aqua Line. That is why it is that shade of blue.

    A little history on the color pick. Name never got changed from Expo to Aqua. Don’t know if it ever will:

    The poll was right here… on the website you are reading right now! So 61% picked the Aqua Color.

    Makes it tough for color blind people. My Dad can not tell the difference between shade of the same color.

    Expo was the “working title” place holder name for the project, since it followed Exposition Blvd. The I-105 freeway had a “working title” place holder name of the Century Freeway since it followed the path of Century Blvd.

    An example of unofficial names sticking… I-105 has also been referred to as the Century Freeway. But officially it is the Glenn Anderson Freeway. No one uses that official name.

    So… can people start calling it the Aqua Line! You know since it will end 4 blocks from the ocean. The Pacific Ocean is not Aqua color but closer then other colors.

    So… when you mention the Expo Line to family and friends just start calling it the Aqua Expo Line. Then just like the signage this article is talking about… after a while call it the Aqua ‘E’ Line. Then later just the Aqua Line!

    A good example of turning the tide in name changes can be found here:

  6. Our HOA sponsored 2 tours on the EXPO line last week which introduced almost 100 new riders to the line. The rides were greeted with great enthusiasm, but there were 2 suggestions that came up often in the group as we got off at various stations or transferred to different lines: (1) The signage about direction, platform, line, etc. was often unclear or absent. (2) It would be extremely helpful to display the expected time of the next train at the stations.

    It might be helpful for some Metro people to accompany a group of new riders to see how they figure out the lines. For those who are familiar with the lines, there are many challenges to new riders that might not be apparent.

    Glad to hear that signage issues are being addressed.

  7. Digital signs INSIDE the trains would also help to avoid confusion from tourists and transit riders after it’s too late especially on the trains that share the same track and platform like the Blue/Expo Lines and Red/Purple Lines.

    Check out page 7 on this PDF of how Japan does it by installing LCD displays inside the train which shows what train you are on, which way it’s headed, and how many minutes to the next train station. A great feature is also showing which door is going to open.

  8. Los Angeles Transit, Pre 3/31/1963 used letters…… P car, Pico, now the 31 bus…. J Car, Jefferson, etc. Easy to read from from a distance ……..

  9. I’ve been using the train from SW Museum station to Culver City station (Gold to Red/Purple to Expo) since end of June and have had no issues with signage or knowing which train to board. All seems pretty clear to me.

  10. Many of these suggestions are actually in the works already… Metro is going to move towards lettered line names, the Expo Line apparently will become “Gold” once the regional connector is done, and there are improved dash signs that should start being used within the next week or two to help distinguish between Expo/Blue line trains.

    More info on all of this here:

  11. Funny: Chicago Transit Authority hasn’t run out of colors for “L” lines: Blue, Red, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple, Brown, and the latest, Pink. Then again, they don’t apply colors to any non-rail lines, and they use roll-type headsigns, with each destination color-coded (mostly white lettering on a colored background, with outbound “branch line” trains on Green and Blue using colored lettering on a white background).

    The San Francisco MUNI has six letter-designated Metro lines sharing the upper level of the Market Street Subway (and BART has several color-coded, but destination-designated lines sharing the lower level), as well as two Cable Car lines running on Powell Street (Mason cars, which usually have yellow headsigns, and Hyde cars, which usually have brown ones), and they don’t have any significant confusion problems. Whenever a train pulls into a subway station, there are both audible announcements and electronic platform signs (as well as the headsigns on the trains) to indicate where a particular train is going.

    We’ve already got most of the hardware we need to implement all of these things.

  12. Washington Metro has a digital color swatch on the header board that is next to the destination so you always know which train you are getting on. I’d love it if Metro would put a letter on each colored dot (B for Blue, E for Expo, G for Green, Y for Gold/Yellow, R for Red, P for Purple) and then have the headers list the destination. At the platform, we’d see the following:

    E – Culver City
    B – Long Beach
    B – Willow
    B – Del Amo
    R – North Hollywood
    P – Wilshire/Western

    Just make sure to use a white B and P, because black will not show up on those colors clearly.

  13. Another +1 for Transit Rider’s comments.

    I can’t wait for the lettered signage to filter (back*) over to the other rail (& maybe transitway) lines. The New York-like signage is easier to recognize and comprehend at a distance than plain colored circles and squares, especially for those with certain visual impairments. So all hail the “E Line”! 🙂

    *Didn’t the Red, Blue, and Green lines have letters assigned to them a few years ago?

  14. What they really need to do, too, is change the train announcements on the video monitors on the platform, so that instead of saying its destination on a yellow background, say it on a RED or PURPLE background. I don’t know how many times I’ve run down the escalator in Union Station because a train was at the platform but I wasn’t close enough to read the monitor to see the destination.

  15. Half of the confusion is because the Expo Line is represented in BLUE and the Blue Line is also represented in BLUE — just because it’s a different shade of blue doesn’t mean that it makes any sense to riders. Ultimately, they still see a line represented with BLUE. Has Metro not considered giving the Expo Line its own color that is NOT BLUE?

  16. George

    “Its always entertaining to see people getting on the wrong train, even when all they have to do is look at the signs. What a concept. :-)”

    Doesn’t really help when the fading yellow dot matrix signs are so faint that words can’t be deciphered.

    What Metro needs to do is convert the signage on the trains to brightly colored-text-on-black LEDs like these:

  17. Need to do something about trains announced to “Willow”. Almist everyday people ask me if “Willow” means Long Beach.

  18. Ditto to what Transit Rider said- Metro needs to treat the Red Line separate from the Purple line. They can start by creating separate schedules instead of consolidating the two, and replacing the red pylons at Wilshire/Western and Normandie with purple ones. Also, the red dots that are next to the station name on the platform should be replaced with purple at Wilshire/Western and Normandie and added to Wilshire/Vermont through Union Station.

  19. The only problem I had was knowing which stairway to take from the Red Line up to the Blue/Expo Line platforms at 7th. The signs are very high up on the columns and you practically have to walk all the way around the column and down the platform to see where the arrow is pointing. Also, as one other commenter mentioned, when are they ever going to put purple “dots” on the platform signs in the stations downtown that serve both the Red/Purple lines?????

  20. Oh, and the E for the expo is a step in the right direction. Although it may contradict what I have stated above slightly, eventually Metro will run out of colors. The Blue line, may become the “B” line, and he Expo “E”, etc.

  21. Still wondering when the beacons for the purple line will actually be turned purple; espeically since metro is working to exend this line. It would be good to have more people recognize and acknowledge it as purple. I heard a 720 driver tell a European tourist “You have to catch the Redline from Wilshire Western……” The toursit was confused as he looked at his guidebook and then corrected the driver.

  22. In this day and age I’m surprised that Metro even has to resort to train drivers making announcements themselves that’s barely audible.

    Is it so hard to hook up an mp3 player loaded with pre-recorded messages? Create a file called “Blue Line to LB.mp3” “Blue Line to DT.mp3” or “Expo Line to Culver City.mp3” “Expo Line to DT.mp3”

    Problem solved. Duh.

  23. Hopefully when the Regional Connector arrives, Metro will rebrand the trains, so that Long Beach-to-Pasadena (and beyond) gets the Blue Line name while East Los Angeles to Santa Monica gets the Gold Line name.

    Giving Pasadena the Blue Line would bring things full circle, as Pasadena was originally supposed to get an extension of the Blue Line. And “Gold” would be appropriate for USC.

    Nobody would ever confuse Gold with Blue. It would eliminate the need for New York subway-esque (E) train sign design.

  24. And there’s also a related issue with having to change multiple trains in order to get from the Gold Line to the Expo Line. I wish the monitors would let me know when the next connecting train is going to arrive. Missed connections tend to amplify with the multiple connections and before I know it I’m 30 minutes late. From the Gold Line platform at Union Station it takes 3-4 minutes to get to the Red Line platform, but it’d be nice to know when I can walk and when I must run.

  25. Now can we get a sign at Venice and Robertson letting people know the station is open during construction of the bridge?

  26. It looks to me from these photos like they also lightened the color of the Expo Line icon… last time I saw it in the station, the two hues were close enough that, had they not been next to each other, I probably would have been easily confused.

  27. I got on the wrong train at 7th/Metro when the train indicated Expo when it pulled up and then the signage changed without me noticing and there was no audio announcement at either 7th/Metro or Pico Stations. But that was a few weeks ago and the conductors have been very good about announcements since.

    Speaking of, the recorded announcement on the Expo still say it’s going to La Cienega instead of Culver City.

  28. Its always entertaining to see people getting on the wrong train, even when all they have to do is look at the signs. What a concept. 🙂

  29. At 7th/Metro, I noticed that this was a big pain in the butt for many people as recently as a few weeks ago. People were frantically asking other passengers and dashing in and out of trains at the last minute. Once you get on a train there is no way to know where it is headed (or I haven’t noticed any signs facing the interior). The announcements are sometimes hard to hear as well because the drivers mumble.

    Is it possible, for now, to have Blue Line trains board at one platform at 7th/Metro and Expo Line trains board at another? I know that this will no longer be possible when the Regional Connector opens, but that’s many years away.

  30. The problem we saw was that many of the Blue Line trains apparently don’t go all the way to Long Beach, so they had headers such as Willow and Del Amo on them. Even for a veteran rider, I found that confusing.

  31. I LOVE the Expo line. Love it.

    My “getting on the wrong train and not realizing it” moment happened because the signs on the train as it pulled up to the platform said La Cienega (before the Culver City station opened), and did not change until after I boarded and sat down. Now I am very paranoid and stare at the inside sign until the train starts moving – good thing, too, as I would have been on the wrong train a second time. USUALLY the trains have the correct sign displayed when they pull up, but they need to ALWAYS have the correct sign displayed.

    Is it (PLEASE??) possible to have the trains ALWAYS discharge passengers on platform 1 and board them on platform 2? When it’s very busy, the trains tend to discharge and board on 2, which is so crowded it creates a very dangerous, difficult situation – especially for the handicapped, folks with strollers, folks who are carrying more than one thing, etc. Since you can’t force the passengers to treat each other decently, you could lessen the chance that someone could get hurt by not discharging and boarding on the same side.

  32. Thank you for clearing up the signage! They first time I was in the 7th Street/Metro Center station I had to ask a sheriff’s deputy! I do love the Expo line!

  33. The improvements are definitely helping… At the Transit Coalition meeting last night, Metro’s Bruce Shelburne also mentioned dash signs that the agency got in this week and should start using very soon.

    He didn’t have them at the meeting so I don’t know the details, but assume they’re “good old fashioned” hard signs placed in the front window of the trains that are designed well and clearly to distinguish between Blue and Expo trains. One of the main reasons we needed these, he said, was the rolling signs on the old trains that don’t often work well. Looking forward to seeing the roll out.