Latest Metro staff report on issues involving an Arts District Metro Rail station

A view of the subway portal (bottom left), Division 20 subway yards (right of center) and Santa Fe Avenue in the Arts District (at right). That’s the 1st Street Bridge in the foreground followed by the 4th Street Bridge and then the skeleton of the old 6th Street Viaduct. Click to see larger version. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Above and below, A bird’s eye view of the Division 20 rail yards. Source: Google Maps.

It’s no secret that new residential and commercial development is soaring in the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles. Several projects are underway and a lot more are in the planning pipeline for approval by the city of Los Angeles (see this Curbed LA post for a map).

As it happens, Metro’s rail yard and maintenance facility for subway cars sits between the Arts District and the Los Angeles River between 1st and 6th streets (it’s called Division 20). With increasing interest in adding a station or stations to serve the Arts District’s growing population and businesses, the Metro Board earlier this year asked for a more holistic study of Metro’s long-term needs at Division 20 to determine how a station might fit into the bigger picture.

That report has arrived and it’s posted immediately below (pdf here). To cut to the chase: there is no imminent decision on building a station for the Arts District, nor is there funding for it at present. But there is this: in the past Metro staff have tended to say that improvements within Division 20 would not “preclude” a station. This report, on the other hand, spells out a shift in thinking with Metro now doing the necessary work to actually find space for a station or stations.

There’s a lot to unpack in the report. For those who don’t wish to wade through the entire thing, here are the essentials:

•The highest priority for Division 20 is to find space for a growing fleet of subway cars. With the passage of the Measure M ballot measure in November, Metro is aiming to complete the Purple Line Extension to Westwood as early as 2024 (prior to Measure M, the subway would not have reached Westwood until 2035). That means Metro needs space for up to 100 new subway cars, especially because the agency is also aiming to offer service as often as every four minutes on both the Red and Purple Lines.

•Going forward, Metro will be looking at different configurations of tracks in the rail yard, the idea being to find more space for new rail cars, space for a “turnback” facility that will allow subway trains to turn around more quickly at Union Station and space for a new station. The aim is to complete that work later this year.

•Metro has heard loud and very clear that there is a lot of stakeholder interest in a 6th Street Station and that’s absolutely on the table. The agency will almost certainly need to partner with the community to help find funding for a station project. It should be noted that as the report explains, building two stations (with the other near Third Street) would be much more complicated and expensive than one station.

•And the answer is no, there is not a cost estimate yet for this project. That will come later and will depend on finding a rail yard configuration that satisfies the above operational needs and figuring out what, if any, property may need to be acquired.

One last thought. I think it’s important to understand that putting a station in the midst of an active rail yard is not as easy as simply building a new concrete platform in Division 20 and extending a sidewalk to the platform.

Division 20 is an active rail yard with trains in movement throughout the day and night — and it’s the ONLY rail yard for the Red and Purple Line and will remain so. There’s also an important safety issue. Subway trains are powered by a third rail that sits at ground level and Metro cannot have people walking anywhere near that third rail. That likely means aerial walkways and/or elevators will be needed to get people from the neighborhood to a station platform(s).

The report will be discussed at the Metro Board’s Planning Committee at 2 p.m. Wednesday (the 19th) and the Board’s Operations Committee at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday (the 20th). Live webstreams will be available of both meetings — links will appear in the far right column of this page. You will also be able to watch and listen to these meetings at a later date.

UPDATE: The Board’s Planning Committee held the item until May, when it will be discussed.



14 replies

  1. The PDFs there are helpful. Maps B-D were (wisely) drawn as a single drawing with certain layers turned on for each. Mac users using Safari or Preview may see all the layers jumbled together. Adobe Acrobat (Reader or Pro) shows only the layers the graphic artist left on, so you can see each map as intended.

  2. Is there any way we can get the attachments to this report uploaded as well? I don’t see Attachments A-D included in either the PDF link or Scribd. As a current resident of the Arts District, we are certainly transit deprived (the Gold Line station shared with Little Tokyo only covers a small portion of the Arts District, and desperately calls out for at least a circulator bus line that runs on nights/weekends), so I am very interested to see this plan come to fruition with either station.

  3. Seems like it may become untenable for Division 20 to remain the sole heavy rail yard in the long term. Especially with the new interest in extending the red line down Vermont. If Metro does indeed pursue this course (which I think is highly warranted based on user need), it may make sense to add a separate rail yard for the red line in the valley. There is plenty of industrial space in the vicinity of Bob Hope (not so much along Vermont), and putting a separate rail yard there would have 3-fold benefits. Alleviate pressure on division 20, bring rail to Bob Hope (a continuous plea from valley residents), and create more local transit jobs in the east valley.

    Obviously this is a whole lot of money we’d be talking, but given the increasing demands on limited space at division 20, it might behoove those in charge of long term planning to think about expanding heavy rail yard capacity and planning any re-configuration of Division 20 accordingly.

    • Agreed. Division 20 will be completely maxed out once the Purple line opens, regardless of whether or not they build the AD station. “Finishing” the Purple line to Santa Monica won’t be possible without a new rail yard and there is zero space/ much too expensive land on the westside. Which leaves only one other option.

      Extend the Red Line to BUR and put a new rail yard somewhere in the middle, thus making it possible to expand in other areas like down Vermont. I’d love to see one North-South line from BUR to the Vermont Green Line Station and an East-West line From Farts District to Santa Monica….we can dream right?

      • Even just getting down to Expo would be a godsend. From there it could be extended further south bit by bit till it reaches the green line.

        • Agreed. My worry is that if there is this much trouble about District 20 capacity already, even adding service to the Expo line may not be tenable without a new rail yard, and the Valley seems like the only area with enough industrial land that could be purchased to make it happen.

  4. Doesn’t seem to make sense that part of the space issue being discussed is due in part to the need for test tracks, when testing is currently done on the main line. The lines don’t run 24 hours/day–why can’t testing be done at night? Why does increased capacity necessitate a change in the testing mechanics?

    • I think Metro has floated the idea of 24hr service for many years. I don’t think they want to cut themselves off from being able to move to that service model, should they find it feasible or necessary to do so.

    • There are only so many hours a day to do maintenance, using the main line for testing would cut into that and could end with a maintenance backlog like BART and WMATA that end up breaking the system.

      Increasing capacity means purchasing additional rail cars. 250 or so new rail vehicles that need to be tested and certified before being put into service. Then there are also the existing rail cars that may be refurbished with a midlife extension and will need to be retested. All that on a system that is now actually busy, it isn’t like when the system first opened and was well below capacity. (remember when the train didnt run late on weekends? Remember when it didnt run on Sunday)