Metro Board approves route for initial segment for West Santa Ana Branch Project and Union Station as northern terminus

The Metro Board of Directors approved Los Angeles Union Station as the northern terminus of the West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor Project. The 14.8-mile Slauson/A Line to Pioneer route was also approved as the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for the project’s initial segment between Artesia and Downtown Los Angeles.

A Facebook Live event was held Friday afternoon; watch it here*.

Spanning 19.3 miles, the new light rail project will include 12 stations connecting the Gateway Cities of Artesia, Cerritos, Bellflower, Paramount, Downey, South Gate, Cudahy, Bell, Huntington Park, Vernon, the unincorporated Florence-Graham community and Downtown Los Angeles, with 1.4 million residents living near the route. The project will provide relief to the limited mobility and transit options currently available to these communities. Together, the Gateway Cities have populations and employment densities that are five times higher than the L.A. County average. In addition, the new light rail line will provide transfers to the Metro C Line (Green), Metro A Line (Blue) and the L.A. County regional transit network.

Metro staff will proceed with completing a Final EIS/R by spring 2023 for the initial segment, allowing for a groundbreaking in 2023 and the delivery of this 14.8-mile segment between 2033-35. At the same time, Metro staff will identify a cost-effective route in lieu of the aerial and underground route previously evaluated for the 4.5-mile Slauson/A Line (Blue) to Union Station segment.

The project is estimated to reduce end-to-end transit travel time to 40 minutes in the corridor. The project is funded by Measure R and M voter-approved transportation sales taxes as well $300 million in state funding. With today’s Board actions, Metro can also aggressively pursue more federal funding for the project.

The Board also approved Metro’s recommendation to build a maintenance and storage facility for its light rail vehicles in Bellflower. The approved site has the fewest community and economic impacts of the options that Metro studied.

For more project information, please visit https://www.metro.net/projects/west-santa-ana/.

QUOTES

“This new light rail line serving Southeast Los Angeles (SELA), a region I had the honor of representing for seven years, marks a milestone in our initiative to make Metro B.E.T.T.E.R. and Bring Equitable Transportation To Every Resident,” said L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Hilda L. Solis. “A transit-dependent community, SELA overwhelmingly supported Measure M back in 2016. To that end, I’m thrilled that that the Locally Preferred Alternative moving forward is in-line with the needs of residents who frequent our public transit system every day.”

“The West Santa Ana Branch is not just a crucial project to deliver light rail to historically underserved areas of L.A. County — it’s an opportunity to stitch our region together and connect people to opportunity,” said Metro Board Director and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Through Measure M and collaboration across the County, we are improving congestion and air quality, and bringing high-quality public transportation to every corner of our region.”

“Today’s decisive action to adopt a Locally Preferred Alternative for the West Santa Ana Branch Project represents a transformative investment for Southeast Los Angeles communities,” said L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Holly J. Mitchell. “Since joining the Board in 2020, I have fought to ensure equity is at the center of decision-making and this project represents a renewed commitment to inclusive, thoughtful mobility and economic benefits in Southeast Los Angeles. I am grateful to CEO Stephanie Wiggins for her leadership on this project and am encouraged to know that a completed project will connect all of Southeast L.A. to everything Los Angeles has to offer.”

“Today, we are bringing high-quality public transit to the communities of Southeast LA,” said Whittier Councilmember and Metro Board Member Fernando Dutra. “The West Santa Ana Branch project can serve as a national infrastructure model for the entire United States – one that prioritizes funding in equity-focused communities.”

“The action taken by our Board really represents a renewed commitment on the importance this project brings to address equity, regional mobility, environmental and economic benefits for all the Gateway Cities,” said Metro CEO Stephanie N. Wiggins. “The project will greatly improve access to opportunities and improve transit service to low-income riders and communities of color who have suffered for too long with higher than average rates of morbidity and mortality due to their exposure to air pollution and a lack of transit alternatives.”

*Correction: in the project video shown at the Facebook Live event, an incorrect number was provided for the impact of the project on greenhouse gas emissions. The correct number is that the entire rail line between Artesia and Union Station is expected to reduce emissions equivalent to 7,574 cars annually and to reduce emissions equivalent to saving 3,918,533 gallons of gasoline annually.

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11 replies

  1. A decision based purely on politics, picking the lowest ridership route that ends at the edge of downtown LA instead of all the connections to the west and north, and destinations in the heart of downtown near 7th Street/Metro Center. Simply because a politician promised Union Station as a terminus 30 years ago, before today’s rail network was even built. Another purely political decision at the expense of ridership and performance and actual usefulness to the most amount of people, especially the most transit dependent people in the entire county.

    • I highly agree. Union Station isn’t a great terminus for this rail route for multiple reasons.
      – Construction will happen again in Little Tokyo Station once Regional Connecter opens for business. This is a huge waste of tax money. This will also lead to the residents in Little Tokyo to throw a fit that they don’t want an another rail construction coming in the neighborhood. Also if residents in Little Tokyo don’t want construction in their area, then Metro may not build the station
      in Little Tokyo which will be a huge mistake.

      – Fashion District is a busy part in Downtown, and it deserves a station. Adding the station will improve the economy and boost the ridership.

      – 7th/Metro Station is one of the most important stations in the entire systemwide and also it is busier than Union Station.

      What’s worse is that Metro claims the ridership will be nearly “90,000” in the new rail, which I call it false. The highest level of ridership I could estimate will be no greater than 30,000 or little less because stations south of Firestone/Atlantic are suburban and ridership won’t be high in those stations (probably except the Green Line transfer station). Also much worse, the rail will end at a COUNTY line which is a huge no-no. I would like that Metro should communicate with OCTA and Orange County to extend their new rail to at least Beach Bl. Although it’ll definitely be expensive and it is hard to do, they should do it anyway. I believe Metro should also add stations at Lakewood Bl, 183rd/Gridley (should be reinstated), and Bloomfield; and also Metro should add stations in OC (with approval ofc) at Moody (Optional), Cypress College, Knott, and Beach Bl. With additional stations, it’ll serve better connections like Hollywood Sports, Cypress College, Los Cerritos Center, etc and it would provide an increase with ridership.

      • Complete co-sign on the second half.

        Either our state/federal laws regarding transit dollars need to change or Metrolink needs to be given full control of rail operations here.

        This line was a perfect candidate to have express tracks build throughout parts of the system. But now because the OC/LAC built completely different systems on this corridor, you can forget about light rail service south of Harbor.

        Extending to Beach Blvd will give a 1 bus transfer only connection to Huntington Beach, Knotts Berry Farm, Buena Park Downtown, Adventure City and Disneyland. The fact that the agencies ignore this factor only proves that transit is not a priority in this country.

        To the Little Tokyo residents, I can only say to just accept the lesser of 2 evils: Accept construction of another station platform and 2 extra tunnels because more than likely you will still face yet another construction mess with tunneling to bypass Little Tokyo. But Metro NEEDS to make sure that this will be the last time Little Tokyo is forced to deal with Metro idiotic excuse for lack of foresight and communication as per usual.

        Walking 1000 feet is normal in other parts of the world. I’m sorry but the 2 times I was in Japan, walking almost a mile to get from one platform to another is just a part of daily life for many and that is something ALL Americans will need to accept if they want a rail system that actually works.

        But with that said, The north end of the line can be served for the basis of 2 lines, A Downtown circular line, with the Red Line, Streetcar and Regional Connector to serve within that circle, and the Yellow Line (Dodger Stadium/Downtown Glendale/Downtown Burbank) proposal needs to go through now.

  2. I must have missed it. What kind of a station is going to be at Little Tokyo how is it getting to Union Station? Is this going to use the under construction station in Little Tokyo and they existing Gold Line station at Union Station?

    Or is the whole thing going to be duplicated?

    • The new Little Tokyo/Arts District station will be on the west side of Alameda and be underground. From the station, one set of trains will continue to East L.A. and the other set to Union Station and beyond to Azusa (and eventually Pomona when the Gold Line extension is finished). Learn more about the Regional Connector project that is tying together the A, E and L Lines here: https://www.metro.net/projects/connector-2/

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Steve, he’s obviously asking how THIS project, West Santa Ana, will get to Union Station. You know,, the topic of this entire article.. This isn’t even a post about Regional Connector! But thanks for proving how little Metro knows about these projects and how they will actually operate and get to major destinations. The answer is: the 2 stations will be completely separate at Little Tokyo, IF this project is able to even build a station at Little Tokyo! That’s right, folks, Metro will build 2 rail lines duplicating each other from Little Tokyo to Union Station, and you might not even be able to transfer between them at Little Tokyo! A purely political decision from Janice Hahn because she “promised 30 years ago” to build a line from Artesia to Union Station, and she will not let things like the customer experience or utility to transit riders, get in the way of her fulfilling a 30 year old promise that no longer makes sense given Metro’s existing and future rail network. Metro does NOT care about ridership and utility, and will simply let the loudest board member have their way. A board member who will NEVER rely on this line, let alone transit in general, to get around.

        • I’m sorry, I misunderstood. The northern part of the route has been studied, but we’re going to go back and look again at the northern route and determine the best and most financially feasible way to get to Union Station. I don’t think the intent ever was for this project to share the A, E and L Line tracks being joined together by the Connector. So that will be an issue that needs to be studied and decided: the relationship between these two lines and how people will transfer from one to the other.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

  3. I wonder when some of the civil engineering is going to start. I am surprised this hasn’t been cleared up.

  4. This thing eventually needs to go to Santa Ana and up to Burbank/North Hollywood via Downtown Glendale and Dodger Stadium if it’s going to LAUS.

    Metro and LA city/county will also seriously need to consider redeveloping the area around Union Station (Especially EAST of LAUS). Why on earth do any city planners believe that the men’s central jail gives a welcoming vibe is beyond me. Seriously, the Jail, bail bonds joints have got to go. I understand the bus terminal being there because it’s important to have buses be nearby at the break of dawn. But exiting Union station just straight up is very unwelcoming.

  5. Disappointing choice. Having this line serve 7th would have allowed a new station in the historic core to be built thus serving a part of downtown without direct rapid transit access. Also would have better positioned the line for a northwestward expansion in the future towards areas like silverlake / echo Park and then west along Santa Monica blvd. towards West Hollywood. Metro needs to rethink this, but as others have said this sounds like it was very political and is also the result of Metro still having no masterplan for what a regional integrated rapid transit system should look like.

  6. Going to Union Station is a big mistake that Metro and Hahn will later regret. They don’t even have a clear and logical plan for a connection at Little Tokyo, as Steve just admitted, but are still going to waste money duplicating the existing Gold Line route! All so riders can be dropped off at the edge of downtown, next to the 101 Freeway and the prisons. And to add to the misery, you will be hundreds, if not 1,000 feet from any of the connections at Union Station! Shame on Metro staff for not pushing back against a random 30 year old political promise not supported by data or facts. The only reason we’ve been given for the Union Station route is that Janice Hahn promised that was the route 3 decades ago!! Forget the analysis, reports, data, and all the evidence that pointed to 7th Street/Metro CENTER as the ideal route. Janice Hahn will get her way no matter what, even though she will never be caught dead riding the train outside of a photo/media coverage opportunity. And Metro will go along because Hahn can have staff fired in a second if they dare to challenge her in any meaningful way. Thanks for screwing over regular transit riders, Metro and Janice!! The one’s who rely on these lines to get to work, not to some political destination in the middle of nowhere.