Metro staff recommends using colors with letters to name rail and bus rapid transit lines

Metro staff are recommending changing the names of Metro Rail and Bus Rapid Transit Lines to colors with letters to accommodate a growing system and make our rail and bus rapid transit network easier to understand. Here is the new staff report.

There are several reasons why the names should change. Among them: being customer friendly and making the system easy to navigate; there are only so many distinguishable colors to go around, and; some rail lines are being joined together by new projects such as the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Regional Connector — another reason that now is a good time.

As part of the process, a team of employees at Metro evaluated four options:

•Colors with letters, which are commonly used by transit agencies around the world.

•Colors with numbers, which are also commonly used.

•Colors only.

•Some colors and some names based on areas. 

The process included getting feedback from the public in the form of focus groups and an online survey. The public made it clear the naming convention needs to be consistent and simple.

The research also found that the public — including current riders and potential riders and tourists — perceived two naming options to be easier to use: Colors & Letters and Colors & Numbers. Both help with navigation and are consistent and simple.

Why letters over numbers?

Letters are different from and minimize confusion with bus numbers and platform numbers.

Metro staff recommends a phased approach that would help save money and begin making the change as new rail lines debut. Under this plan, the renaming would begin with the Blue Line once it fully reopens after next year’s closures followed by most other lines when the Crenshaw/LAX Line opens. 

The staff recommendation will go to the Metro Board of Directors’ Executive Management Committee this Thursday (Nov. 15 ) at 11:30 a.m. with the full Board scheduled to consider the item at their Dec. 6 meeting. All Board meetings are livestreamed


Categories: Policy & Funding, Projects

23 replies

  1. I like full names associated with a color as in London’s “Picadilly Line”; easy to remember. Remember the old days when telephone numbers were “DUnkirk 6-2871, ATlantic 4- 4986 and BUtterfield 8-9048 Elizabeth Taylor’s number in New York City. Don’t they sound better.

  2. I am a huge fan of letter designations. But there are a few issues to consider, which I also wrote about in a letter I sent in 2015. I’ve copied just the main concern here:

    There could be significant confusion with A (current Blue and Gold to Pasadena) and E (current Expo and Gold to East LA). For the five Downtown LA stations where the A and E run on the same track, people will need to know if they’re getting on an A train or an E train, to make sure they don’t end up in the wrong corner of LA County after the lines split. This will no doubt be confusing for people switching between English and Spanish, since the Spanish (and French and German and Italian…) name for “E” sounds like the English name for “A” – both are roughly pronounced like “ay”. I can imagine many situations where a rider will ask in Spanish which line they are on, and someone will respond with English “A”, but it will sound like Spanish “E”, and the Spanish-speaker rider will be mistaken. So, while I like the use of “E” for a line we already associate with “Expo” and “Eastside”, I propose that the Blue + Gold-to-Pasadena line be given a designation other than “A”.

  3. We should name the lines, highlighting LA’s history. Giving directions could be, “take Jackie Robinson to Toypurina and transfer east on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It’ll be your third stop.”

  4. Letters sound so similar, have you ever had to tell someone over the phone how to spell your name?? I can see that being an issue here
    “I’m at the B line!”
    “B?!? I thought you said D!”

  5. Wouldn’t Aviation/LAX become Aviation/Imperial after the Crenshaw project opens?

    • There needs to be some renaming on a few Green Line stations. In addition to Avaiation/LAX, “Crenshaw” needs to go back to Crenshaw/105 or something that doesn’t confuse occasional travelers into thinking it’s one of the many other stops on Crenshaw Blvd much further north.

  6. just use color with some names based on area, such as Red Line as Hollywood subway Line, Purple Line as West side subway line, Blue Line as North South LA line, Gold Line as East West LA line, Orange Line as South SFV line, Silver Line as Silver express line, green line as LAX line.

  7. I prefer Letters and Numbers with letters as the prefix. There’s just too many letter combinations that without numbers, you’re lost in a bunch of Letters that are difficult to figure out.

  8. How can I formally comment on this? I only know of one or two cities worldwide that use letters rather than names, and they are extremely confusing to navigate – I’d like to get this view recorded with metro.

  9. I like the full names and comes like in London where you have District Line, Piccadilly Line, Victoria Kind.

    Letters aren’t as memorable.

  10. I love it, I think it’s the right move.

    I don’t understand, however, why we’ll now see three distinct BRTs originating at NoHo – why we don’t either have a NoHo to Chatsworth loopset or a Chatsworth to Pasadena line. Seems like that would better fit with your MO of longer lines, like the Regional Connectors A/E lines.

    Also, what happens to E when there’s that spur in East L.A.? E1 and E2? Or E(n) and E(s)? Or…? (I hope someone’s got something smart and elegant in mind.)

  11. It took the LACTC, one of the predecessor agencies, three years to build the Blue Line. It took Henry Huntington six months and it ran to Ocean Ave. adjacent to the beach. The Crenshaw Line should have been completed long ago but the clowns at the MTA are unable to build anything in an expedient manner. If they had been in charge in the early twenty century the two largest private transit companies in the United States, the Pacific Electric and L.A. Railway, would have never existed. Half of earths population will be living on Mars before the MTA builds 26 rail lines. There is no long term plans otherwise they would not have built the small Gold Line rail yard adjacent to the L.A. River only to replace it and virtually abandon it when they built the larger yard in Monrovia. We see the same plan with the Green Line now. And how are they going to store the additional railcars in the Expo Line Yard when the current Gold Line is severed? Is it going to be another whoops moment like they had when the Expo Line was ran into the Seventh & Flower Station and there was not enough room for both the Blue Line trains and Expo Line trains to operate efficiently. Hell, if they had any smarts the completed portion of the Regional Connector tunnel would already be in use to alleviate the current problems. What do I know, I’m only a former RTD?MTA employee who worked in Transportation for 30 years and provided them a way to collect fares, old fareboxes, on the Blue Line when it first opened since their ticket machine were not up and running. And with the agreement of my fellow Department heads avoided a complete initial failure of the TAPCard program when those who were in charge grossly underestimated the number needed to be issued to every bus operator each day.

  12. Looks good. Can’t please everybody but seems reasonable. I would skip including the busway express buses. Staff probably want to make the system look more expansive but I feel it would just confuse people. Can I have one of the old signs?