Metro Blue Line receiving a $1.2-billion overhaul

A media event was held this morning along the Blue Line. Metro will soon be issuing a contract for work at Blue Line stations while other work is ongoing.

In addition to some of the upgrades mentioned in the news release below — new and upgraded rail cars and both track and power system improvements — there are also some other fixes including more pedestrian swing gates and warning signage, replacement of the train control system and four new crossovers to improve train movements when the Blue Line is reduced to one track.

There is also a new web page for the project.

Here is the news release from Metro:

The Metro Blue Line, Los Angeles County’s oldest light rail line and one of the busiest light rail lines in the United States, is undergoing a $1.2-billion overhaul replacing power stations, overhead power lines, tracks, rail cars and improvements to station platforms in a multiyear investment to bolster reliability, comfort and safety.

Some of the work on the Blue Line, which has linked Los Angeles and Long Beach and all the communities in between for 23 years, has already begun while other upgrades and improvements will be completed over the next six years.

“Even as we move forward on new transit projects, we are committed to maintaining the world-class transportation system we’ve already built,” said Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois. “The Metro Board commits to our customers and taxpayers a long term investment to keep the Blue Line in top form.”

“In the past seven years we have spent $260 million improving grade crossings, replacing street lights and upgrading vehicle lights to improve safety,” said Metro CEO Art Leahy. “We are in the midst of painting and replacing worn parts and fixtures at Blue Line stations. Next, patrons will see brand new trains and some refurbished rail cars,” Leahy said.

Nearly $739 million is earmarked to purchase 78 new light rail vehicles plus $130 million to repair and upgrade 52 light rail cars now in service.

“The Blue Line is an old train that’s long overdue for an upgrade,” said Metro Board Vice Chair and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.  “This investment will make life better for the 90,000 people who ride the Blue Line every day with a safer, more convenient, and more comfortable commute.”

A southbound Blue Line train approaching the Vernon station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A southbound Blue Line train approaching the Vernon station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

To improve reliability and performance, $82 million is being invested to replace all 20 traction power substations with 19 already completed. Overhead power lines (Overhead Catenary System) in downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach are being upgraded at a cost of nearly $13 million. Another $13 million is being spent to replace rail track in Long Beach that was degraded by moist sea air with completion expected in 2019.

The Metro Blue Line has 22 stations between downtown Long Beach and the 7th Street/Metro Center in downtown Los Angeles where it connects with the Red/Purple subway lines and the Expo Line. The Metro Blue Line services Los Angeles Trade Technical College, the famed Watts Towers and connects to the Metro Green Line at the Willowbrook station for service to Norwalk and Redondo Beach.

“The Blue line is the backbone of transportation for the central part of Los Angeles County and this investment means that working families can continue to count on this system for decades to come,” said Metro Board Director and Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe.

During the six years of the Metro Blue Line overhaul project there will be periodic service interruptions. Work is planned for weekends, off-peak and overnight hours to minimize the impact on commuters, who account for most of the nearly 90,000 daily boardings. When necessary, bus shuttles will be used to bridge gaps in rail service.

“The Metro Blue Line proved to Southern California that public transit is clean, economical and convenient for everyone,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Metro board member. “At any time, you can step on a train and see workers in boots carrying lunch pails, students with book bags slung over their shoulders and business people in suits holding briefcases.”

The Metro Blue Line first began operation on July 14, 1990 as a partnership between the Southern California Rapid Transit District and the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission with rosy predictions of 5,000 riders per day. Within two weeks, at least 600,000 people had ridden the Blue Line.

The Metro Rail system has about 360,000 average weekday boardings with 88 miles of track consisting of the Blue Line, the Red/Purple Lines subway connecting downtown Los Angeles and North Hollywood, the Gold Line connecting Pasadena with East Los Angeles, the Green Line and the Expo Line traveling between Culver City and downtown.

“Without the bold experiment that was the Blue Line we would not have the growing network of light rail and subway lines that we have today,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board member Zev Yaroslavsky. “This year, construction begins on the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line and preparation work continues on the Purple Line subway that will extend all the way from downtown to UCLA. Construction continues on Phase 2 of the Expo Line completion to Santa Monica and on the Gold Line extension to Azusa.”

Commuters can stay informed on all Metro Blue Line updates by checking at where photographs, construction notices and timeline updates will be posted.

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Categories: Projects

36 replies

  1. The Foothill Light Rail Extension is being built to handle 5 minute headways.

    • Hi Ross;

      The manufacturer, Kinkisharyo, will be assembling the cars at a facility in the Antelope Valley in northern L.A. County.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. Hopefully the upgrade will include new vinyl seats on the trains. Currently the seats are covered with cloth, and they are vey disgusting to sit on. They are plastered with gum, feces, and who knows what else. The seats on all of the trains need to be made of some material that can be sanitized. Please, Please consider this option. Thanks – Blue Line Rider.

  3. Last year, when everyone was discussing gate latching, the antis were saying there’s no way we can latch up all the stations due to their designs and that it’ll cost millions of dollars to re-design the existing stations to accommodate them.

    Well it turns out that we didn’t get millions, we got a little over a billion dollars to massively overhaul the Blue Line.

    There are 22 stations on the Blue Line. Even if each station got a $10 million face lift, that’s still $220 million total. And then there’s the additional benefit of creating construction jobs and helping our local economies too.

    Let’s do it. Don’t let the money go to waste like artwork or union pensions. The money is for the public good, it should be used for the public good. And upgrading and remodernizing the entire Blue Line is a public good that all Blue Line riders can agree on.

  4. I agree that the Blue Line needs a complete overhaul of its entire system. Many of the Blue Line stations are in blighted shape. There are litters and trash everywhere and tagged with graffiti. The existing station designs make it too easy for dishonest people to ride the train without paying. And all of it contributes to further decay of our oldest rail line by bringing in vandals, the homeless, illegal vendors, and thieves into the Metro Rail system.

    We’re not talking about $1.2 million dollars. It’s $1.2 billion dollars, a “B”!

    Imagine what we can do with all that money. We can definitely make some much needed upgrades to some of the oldest and the most distressed stations. Many of them look like it has never seen any form of improvement since the Blue Line opened anyway.

  5. The Blue Line was like a beta test version of Metro Rail. It was built on the cheap and we learned so much what to do and what not to do since then. But we haven’t gone back to fix the Blue Line from all the things we learned.

    It’s time we bring out the Blue Line from beta testing. Call it the Blue Line 2.0 project. Even if half of the $1.2 billion is used to buy new trains, that still leaves us with about $600 million to do a lot of much needed upgrades.

    From what people have said, what’s needed are:

    1. Redesigning and expanding the stations into mixed use facilities and room to add gates without affecting existing service
    2. Grade separation where possible without affecting existing service
    3. Acquiring adjacent blighted properties for station, rail and platform expansions
    4. Gating the entire Blue Line system
    5. Install extra tracks for a potential “Blue Line Express” service

    Just like how Metro did an excellent job with their 405 expansion project with minimal closures, we can do this without severely impacting affecting the existing service.

    Nothing is impossible despite what people say. We’re a “can-do-city” so all it takes the will to do it.

  6. There’s also the problem with so many accidents on the Blue Line. Suicides, accidents, car crashes with rail, all of these add up to more delays when everyone is already stressed out due to time. Delays also add up to tremendous waste in cost and precious labor. The more we delay this, the more costly the problem becomes in the long term.

    Use the money to fence off the entire Blue Line, install suicide panel doors, and re-do at-grade crossings.

    Whatever problems there are, it’s not the citizens’ or riders problem, it’s Metro’s problem and it’s their job to get things fixed. They were the ones that built the Blue Line this way. They need to get their act together and start doing instead of constantly making excuses over and over again like the problem is going to go away.

    And for future purposes, LA needs to ban the construction of all at-grade rail tracks. Running trains sharing the surface with streets filled with cars is stupid idea and is not worthy of 2014 standards.

    I know the Baby Boomers have a knick-knack for reliving their childhood memories back in the 1950s where the Pacific Electric trolleys shared the tracks with the roads, but we’re not living in the 1950s anymore. We have a lot more cars on the road today than back then. We have a lot more people living in LA than 1950. We have a lot more 21st century problems than the 1950s.

    Get with the program, Baby Boomers. We need to build transit suited for 2014 and forward, not go back to way things were back in 1950.

  7. I don’t see any reference to a redesign of the switch at Washington/Flower – the curve radius needs to be increased to reduce track and vehicle wear, probably by taking some land from the power pole instruction area (is that LACC?).

  8. Station upgrades, however true what you say I still see no interest in what you promote. Can you cite stakeholders, electeds etc. promoting it? Just posting on a blog doesn’t change the shape of the public sphere.

  9. It supposedly takes 53 minutes from downtown LB to 7th St/Metro Center. That’s rarely the case when I took it…more like 1 hour 15 minutes average. So to use $1+billion to put lipstick on a pig does not incentivize choice commuters such as myself and many others out there. Transit planners, remember, it’s 53 minutes at best just to ride, BUT you must also account for commuters’ door-to-door walking/biking/driving to the stations, wait for the train, possible transfers, then walking/biking/driving to our final destinations. So shaving an extra minute or two from the 22 minutes getting out of LB is not enough. How about express commuter rail options? I’ve given up on helplessly staring out from the train window, counting down the clock as my commute time ticks…55 minutes…1 hour…1 hour 10 minutes…

  10. This is a better link for the P.E. Santa Ana Branch Corridor:
    It is ironic that when OCTA was looking at the line for LRT years ago, Metro was not interested. Now Metro is interested and OCTA is not, but the cities of Santa Ana and Garden Grove are looking at the ROW for a streetcar. There was also a proposal for a “low speed” Maglev on the ROW, which was included in the AA for political reasons, but it is obviously a non-starter.

    The Santa Ana Corridor (from Bellflower to L.A.) was the next to last P.E. line to be abandoned, before Long Beach. The AA showed that this Gateway Cities corridor has very strong ridership potential in a part of town that is underserved by fragmented transit service. A clear case of why we need a 5-county Regional Transportation Authority !

  11. Dana,

    I have to disagree. Redesigns, reconstructions, and expansions happen all over the world without causing massive disruption.

    In fact, that’s what we’re precisely doing with Union Station and LAX today. We’re no shutting down all the entire rail lines that are serving Union Station, nor are we shutting down all the air travel needs at LAX when there are constant upgrades going on there, right?

  12. Metro should use some of the funds to redevelop some of their stations so that they can bring in additional revenue into the system. Let the stations themselves become a place to do business so that these additional revenues can help pay for station maintenance and upkeep.

    The Blue Line to Green Line transfer station at Willowbrook/Rosa Parks and the Green Line to Silver Line transfer station at Harbor Fwy are both prime locations that has a big potential to become a mass transit & mixed-use business hub.

    We need to stop building stations just as stations and start building them as a mixed use complex, like a station and a shopping mall put together into one. That way, people don’t have to drive to the shopping mall, they can go to the shopping mall on Metro and the shopping mall is already there at the station.

  13. The Blue Line has a lot of riders, but how many of them are actually paying? So many people get on the Blue Line everyday for free. Success of transit isn’t just about ridership numbers. Cost and revenues are important factors of sucess too. If ridership was the sole factor, they should just make Metro Rail free for all.

  14. $1.2 billion is a lot of money. Building the entire Crenshaw Line or the entire 2-phase Expo Line from scratch, with rail cars included, cost about $2-2.4 billion.

  15. The Blue Line originally cost $877 to build. Now there’s $1.2 billion in upgrades a quarter century later, yet no mention of express tracks…

  16. To Mike Sanburn, Regarding the Pacific .Electric Santa Ana branch line, You would think this would be a simple quick line to build but there is one big problem that we face, BABIES!! That’s right, basically the hold up is L.A. wants to operate it, and O.C. wants to operated it. Its weird how this was not a problem 60 some years ago, but today it is. Another hold up is plans to run it into Union Station. My guess is this will finally be in operation when the 710 connects to the 210, or when the 2 connects with the 101, Dates expected NEVER

  17. Here are some answers to questions raised:

    Alex Brideau III, Councilman Garcia of Long Beach has expressed support for preemption along the portion in that city and I am hoping to soon make contact with him regarding this.

    More Color, Metro is considering new color schemes for its rail vehicles:

    johnny cheezy, funds for capital projects generally can’t be used for operations. Also street furniture is the province of the local jurisdictions NOT Metro.

    Rick Beaver, the express color went bye bye because at this point we have so few of them. Colors that brand services limit operational flexibility. Art Leahy has stated he would never have approved red for rapids if he was CEO when that decision was made.

    Mike Sanburn, Eco Rapid Transit is working on a line along that right-of-way:

    Chris C, station redesign would be very disruptive and I see little interest in that; grade separations are VERY expensive. Just ask the ACE folks working on something like that out in the San Gabriel Valley:

  18. Regarding color schemes, I’ve always been partial to the Pacific Electric throwback scheme (complete with an “extra headlight,” custom interior paint, and even, briefly, throwback maps) that two cars wore for a year or so, some years back.

    Now, if you want to see cars running in Pacific Electric colors, you have to go to San Pedro (on a weekend), San Francisco (when 1061 is running on the F-line), or Disney’s California Adventure (foreshortened cars running on battery power under dummy overhead).

  19. I’d also like to see some of the at-grade crossings redone so trains don’t have to cross street intersections. If the rails can’t be uplifted, then make the roads go underneath the rails as an underpass. That’s how many of the freeway underpasses were built on the east side of LA. If the roads can be rebuilt to dip underneath the freeways, then the roads can dip underneath the rail lines.

  20. Some of the money should go into redesigning and upgrading the stations so that they can accommodate gates. Too many freeloaders on the Blue Line because of the stupid way the stations were built.

  21. I echo the sentiment regarding bold colors needed on rail cars. Also, why has nothing been done about putting new light rail service on the former P.E. Santa Ana branch line running through Paramount/Bellflower/Cerritos???

  22. I thought originally MTA was going to have orange for local buses, red for rapid buses, and blue or purple for express buses. What ever happened to the color scheme for the express buses?

  23. At first I placed the $1.2 billion in my head as $1,200,000.00 and thought “wow pretty good deal,” then I read it again, its $1,200,000,000.00 THATS ALOT OF MONEY WAAAAY TO MUCH for an upgrade. I say keep the blue line as is, (I have no problem with the currant blue line) and use that money for something like no more zone charges on freeway buses, or install a long escalator/elevator for the Orange/Red lines so people would have no more crossing Lankershim Bl., or how about this: a bridge from the 110 busway to the 10 busway, that way no more long street gap on the Silver line, or how about every single bus stop must have a bench, chair, even a tree stump so older folks do not need to stand for an hour for the 169 they just missed.

  24. Our buses are bright orange and red– why can’t our rail have a bold color as well? The current black/white and grey are nice, but they aren’t visually striking. Why not make our rail purple or red? Metro is emphasizing uniformity as a means to make the stations more visible but wouldn’t having some colorful rail (like the yellow cars) make the system more visible too?

  25. In fairness: the 78-car order, which makes up over half of the $1.2 billion, is going to be used throughout the LRT system – in particular, on the Expo and Gold Line extensions. Still, it’s good to see the Blue Line get some long-overdue love.

  26. What will this mean in terms of capacity? Will the improvements allow additional capacity and if so what would that max capacity be?

    • Hi Craig,

      Good question. I don’t know the answer but I’ll try to find out and post.


      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Hi again Craig:

      The answer is yes, the upgrades should allow Metro in the future to run more frequent service on the line. I don’t know what the maximum is — I do know that another thing that will help the Blue Line is the construction of the Regional Connector, which will allow trains to run through 7th/Metro Center instead of having all Expo and Blue Line trains turn around there.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source