Significant Blue Line work coming in 2019

A southbound Blue Line train in Long Beach. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

Work to modernize the Blue Line — Metro’s oldest and busiest light rail line — has been underway since 2014 as part of a $1.2-billion project we’re calling “The New Blue.” The idea is to bring the Blue Line up to the specs of Metro’s more recently-built rail lines and to make it faster and more reliable.

As part of that work, there will be extended closures of parts of the Blue Line beginning in early 2019. The southern half of the line will be closed while the northern half remains open and then the northern half will be closed while the southern half resumes train service.

A variety of bus shuttles will replace rail service during the closures, including express and local bus service. There will be an extensive public outreach campaign before the closures — the reason we’re announcing them so early.

The closures are designed to get this much-needed work done as quickly as possible and have it complete by October 2019 before the Crenshaw/LAX Line opens. The alternative would be repetitive closures on the Blue Line over two to three years.

There will also be an extended closure of the Blue Line’s Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station, which is being completely rebuilt with a new public plaza (including a Metro Customer Service Center), bike hub, transit court, brighter LED lighting and new bus bays. Please see the project home page for more information.

Work to be done on the Blue Line includes adding four new switches so that trains can move between tracks in more locations, signal system upgrades, improvements to the Washington-Flower junction of the Blue and Expo Line, overhead wire refurbishment, rail replacement in downtown Long Beach and power system upgrades, among other items.

A detailed list of the work to be done on the Blue Line in 2019.

The Blue Line opened in 1990 and carries more than 73,000 boardings on the average weekday, according to Metro’s ridership estimates and stretches for 22 miles between downtown Long Beach and downtown Los Angeles. A separate project, the Regional Connector, is under construction and will allow Blue Line and Expo Line trains to continue traveling beyond 7th/Metro Center and through downtown Los Angeles.

The closures were announced during the Metro Board’s System Safety, Security and Operations Committee on Thursday morning. I’ll post the link to the webcast after it’s published on to the Board’s agenda page on metro.net.

35 replies

  1. “rail replacement in downtown Long Beach ” they just did this 4 years ago!!!! what gives!???
    Improvement is great but just make sure there is a train at the end of the bus bridge, more time than not, on the last run, I have been left stranded in south LA at 3AM trying to get back to long beach! RIDICULOUS! If I catch the last Long Beach train at 210AM at 7MC and there is a bus bridge, there should be a train waiting when we get to the other end of the clouser!!! More communication between Metro Local and Metro Rail is need on these projects.

  2. I have no idea why that project has to be finished before the Crenshaw Line is done. It will be better if the project STARTS after the Crenshaw Line is done so that there are north south rail alternative while the closure is happening

    • I was thinking the same thing. (Must be the same name). Downtown-South Bay passengers could conceivably go Expo to Crenshaw relieving a portion of the Blue crowd

    • I too don’t understand what this project has to do with the Crenshaw Line. I can see how the Regional Connector will have an impact on the Blue Line but, not the Crenshaw Line.

    • Of all the things that Metro does (or say it will do), the so-called “bus bridges” it promises are among the worst. Metro just doesn’t seem to care about late-night travelers who are trying desperately to find their way home late on nights when Metro has decided to “temporarily” eliminate service on a major segment of one of its rail lines (or BRT lines).

      I well remember the horrible experience of being stranded after midnight around Del Amo Blue-Line Station, trying to get back north from Long Beach. No help at all from the train operator or several Metro employees standing around (and collecting their fat paychecks). I finally took the train back to DTLB and waited to take the Line 60 late-night bus back north–which took me hours.

      What I have learned is NOT to trust Metro to provide any meaningful alternative to travel on rail segments that it decides to take out of service. I just do my best to avoid any travel at all on trips requiring MetroRail connections during such periods and on such routes.

      Is it any wonder that Metro passengers have been deserting Metro in increasing numbers?

      By the way, the N/S segment of the Silver Line BRT on I-110 (Harbor Fwy) does NOT provide any sort of meaningful substitute (or alternative) for the Blue Line in such circumstances because Metro has failed to provide stations on the Silver-Line BRT at MANY of the major E/W streets where the Blue Line DOES provide stations, including some with the busiest surface bus lines.

      Of course, if Metro had made good on its solemn promise of over a decade ago (remember Measure R?) to build the West Santa Ana Branch rail line to the Orange-County line, much of the current passenger load on the Blue Line would have been alleviated by now, and it would be easier for Metro to take parts of the Blue Line out of service temporarily for repairs/improvements.

      But, of course, it now seems clear that Metro never was serious about keeping that promise to the cities of SE L.A. County (the largest concentration of low-income and transit-dependent population in the entire county). Look at all the other projects that Metro since then has jumped ahead of that promised rail line.

      It now seems that Metro just was running the old “bait-and-switch” to get votes for new transit-tax measures.

      Personally, under current circumstances, I would MUUUUUCH rather have Metro spread its Blue-Line upgrade over a longer, less intense period.

      After all, Metro has been telling us for several years that it already has been spending lots of money (and interrupting service) to “upgrade” the Blue Line–without any significant improvement in the service or its reliability yet discernible.

      • Here was the expenditure plan as part of Measure R:
        http://media.metro.net/measure_R/documents/expenditure_plan.pdf

        The expected completion for the West Santa Ana Branch Line was 2025-2027. If I remember correctly, it was only the southern branch at that time and it was supposed to just be a bus line. They are still aiming to complete the whole line (including the northern portion) by 2028, so I don’t really consider promises broken with regard to that line.

  3. I’ve been using the Silver Line to make my trips to and from Long Beach (because the Blue Line is sometimes unridable), so here’s a stretch how about you extend the Silver Line into downtown Long Beach during the closures? Will beat having to wait for the Commuter Express which half the time misses the transfer by one minute.

  4. I see no mention about the plans for eliminating the problems caused by the lack of signal priority on the stretch between Metro Center and the junction.

    Blue and Expo trains rake far too long to transverse this relatively short segment.

    My personal preference is to put this segment below grade, perhaps as an open cut to reduce costs. Ultimately, a flying/burrowing junction between the Blue and Expo lines should also be constructed.

    While you are at it. you should connect the Blue and Green lines at Willowbrook/Rosa Parks so that there will be one-seat service between Union Station/Downtown LA and LAX.

    Finally, the fare on the Silver Line should be reduced to the standard local fare whenever portions of the Blue Line are out of service.

    • One seat service from Union Station to LAX is handled well by the Flyaway Bus, which brings passengers right to the terminal. Even if it were possible to interline the Green and Blue (which would reek havoc with headways), a transfer to the LAX people mover would be required.

      • Not so fast!! There is a junction track at Willowbrook/Rosa Parks which comes down from the Green Line trackage in the middle of I-105 to the Blue Line. Its use would be subject only to signal system modification (maybe) and timing to avoid conflict between trains changing from one line to the other. It might be better to reconfigure the junction but it is there.

        Regarding headways, if San Francisco’s MUNI can couple K, L and/or M trains in the Market Street subway and the Twin Peaks Tunnel, so can LACMTA (=Metro) use the same trick on the Blue Line with the Green Line; the ame goes for the Blue and Expo Lines, except that the length of trackage involved is shorter there and may not be worth the effort. Either way, it is a very simple no-brainer: remember the saying “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

        • It’s really not that simple. With the Regional Connector factored in, headways would be impacted every light rail line if the blue and green were interlined.

          For example: LB to Azusa trains would interline with “LAX direct” and SM/East LA.

          The existing Green Line would then have to deal with separate trains for Norwalk/South Bay, Norwalk/Crenshaw, “LAX direct” and Crenshaw/South Bay.

          Not sure the demand is there for one route to justify adjusting every light rail line.

      • Will the Fly Away service continue to service each terminal in the loop or drop off and pick up in the new 96th st complex?

    • The problems experienced by LAX-bound passengers should be relieved — big time! — when the Crenshaw Line opens.

      Of course, it would be nice to have a single-seat ride from LAX to Burbank Airport, but that will take a while to build!!!

  5. Steve – any idea of what the improvements to the Washington Junction will entail during this shutdown?

    Also, will the signal upgrades include additional signal priority (outside of the DT LB portion that has already been discussed) or signal preemption?

    • Hi Kyle;

      At the committee meeting they talked about some track improvements that would allow trains to run a little more quickly through the junction, turnaround times at 7th/Metro and working with LADOT to get trains moving along Washington and Flower more quickly.

      As for the traffic signal upgrades, Metro has hired consultants to do some traffic studies and work with LADOT on getting trains moving along Flower and Washington. It’s yet to be seen what improvements result. On both streets — especially Flower — the challenge is a lot of car traffic, especially at peak hours. So we’ll see what happens.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  6. And yet still no quad gates for the Blue Line….
    The crossings along Long Beach Ave in South LA could use cantilever gates in were the gate mounted on the cantilever.
    Examples: 200-232 Lakeville St, Petaluma, CA 94952 and 1300-1398 W 3rd Ave, Gary, IN 46402 (Google Maps)

    These examples could be used at a crossings like Vernon and 48th Place on the Blue Line since those cantilevers were mounted on the left side of the crossings instead of the right. Don’t forget the sensors for vehicle obstruction so the quad gates don’t lower until vehicles are still on the crossings.

  7. The big problem with the Blue Line is it wasn’t built to standard gauge specifications as has been the rest of the system. I can not recall if the tracks a little wider between them or a little narrower between them. That is why new rail cars can not run on their tracks but the old Blue Line cars can barely run on the Expo Line. The Blue Line was constructed before the merger of the RTD and the LACTC with the LACTC designing and constructing the line. The LACTC were not versed in transportation and the remnants of that thinking still prevails to this day.

    When a Bus Bridge is needed said service is a high priority. In an emergency most of the buses used for a Bus Bridge are stripped away from normal bus line service. Bus Divisions are called seeking available Bus Operators and spare buses , all calls go out to Bus Operators that may be pulling in their buses from an assignment but as stated above most come from line service.

    When scheduled such as in the instance described for a scheduled shut down Bus Assignments are created and must be filled. But here is where a serious issue arrises. If during the day regular assignments fall open due to Bus Operators calling in sick or not showing up for work on time the Division Transit Operations Supervisor must decide which assignments to hold in after using their last Report Operator. Even if they are successful in calling in an operator on their day off, that operator may take a hour or two to reach the Division depending on how far they live away. The second problem is equipment. The MTA is only allowed to have a set number of buses in it’s fleet in order to get subsidies to buy new equipment. So for every new bus they receive they have to take one permanently out of service and sell it. As i recall each Division has a 10% spare rate. Sounds good until one realizes buses need to be repainted, have collision damage repaired, brake work, engine work including replacement and transmission work to name a few. During normal operation it sometimes impossible to sustain normal service.

    Lastly with rail the trains do not incur traffic delays except in Downtown L.A. primarily. With the Bus Bridges traffic delays will affect the service along with mishaps aboard the buses including break downs.

    Bus Bridges are not in anyway a good replacement tool for a Light Rail Line but it is the only alternative.

    • “The second problem is equipment. The MTA is only allowed to have a set number of buses in it’s fleet in order to get subsidies to buy new equipment. So for every new bus they receive they have to take one permanently out of service and sell it.”…Thanks! I never knew that there were fleet limitations. That’s good info!

  8. I wish that Metro would consider bicycle routes and post potential routes when closing sections of the blue line. One night I found myself having to get off the blue line and ride to the next open blue line station. The bike racks on the bus were all taken and figured I would have issues loading my bicycle onto the rack of the next bus. I have a front rack and longer front fender and I really don’t expect to be able to use bus racks that’s why I use rail not buses when travelling to and from LA. I had to figure out a decent route in a neighborhood I wasn’t familiar with. Both metro staff and the sheriff I talked to told me to use a distant highway without bike lanes. I found a series of local roads next to the blue line – in other words I took advantage of the old human scale streetcar era grid to get to the next station. The sheriff was really insistent that I ride a mile out of my way and use a 5+ lane highway which is kind of funny given the general cultural hostility of the sheriff’s dept. to bicycles in traffic. I found a route that could or should be a bicycle boulevard in the future and was an easy ride aside from the difficulties getting a green light when attempting to cross major streets.
    =
    When a light rail line is closed Metro should post a map showing a preferred local route for cyclists to ride to the next station. There are usually more bicycles on the blue line than there are spaces on bus racks and not all bicycles work on bus racks. Local maps showing local lower stress bicycle friendly routes should already be a feature of metro stations.

  9. I am very excited about the prospect of long-needed improvements to the Blue Line. At the same time, thousands of us who ride the line every day are going to have to live with construction impacts.

    I will tell you now: if the “bus bridge” solution isn’t fast and reliable, I will stop riding. And not just me, but a big chunk of the ridership. People will unfortunately give up on Metro as the only rational response.

  10. Steve: How does this affect service on the Expo Line? When “the northern half” of the Blue Line (i.e. between the Green Line and 7th/Metro) is closed, will the overlapping segment of the Expo Line (i.e. between Washington Blvd. and 7th/Metro) also be closed?
    I agree with other posts stating that it would make more sense to delay the closure of the northern portion until after the Crenshaw Line is open, to ensure that there is at least one north/south rail line between the Green Line and DTLA.

  11. How frustrating… can you imagine what this closure means for all of us that have put up with this unmantained rail line. How much extra time we’re going to have to give ourselves. Not looking forward to this.

  12. Metro needs to fundamentally prioritize getting funding for grade separation between the Pico tunnel and the Washington / Flower junction or further. All of these closures without any real meaningful changes are just going to cause more overall frustration and inconvenience with the system without any real reward and its highly unlikely were going to see any true street running signal preemption given our car culture and Municipal reluctance to allow this. Even Santa Monica doesn’t fully prioritize LRT (as evident by trains routinely stopping and waiting before entering 4th street station) despite promising they would and demanding tram mode instead of Metro’s recommended elevated approach. SM literally wanted an inferior system… Facepalm…

    • The Lincoln at grade crossing doesn’t make sense for trains or cars. 26th and Barrington should also have been elevated.

  13. “improvements to the Washington-Flower junction of the Blue and Expo Line”

    Isn’t Washington & Flower were a lot of auto vs trains accidents occur? Why isn’t this intersection included in this project?Does Trump’s infrastructure bill include funds for local rail projects? Is there any funds from the State that can get this project going?