As we’re marking the first anniversary of the opening of the K Line, we’re also looking at how to bring it further north. Over the past few weeks, we held three community events to discuss the K Line Northern Extension, one of our most ambitious rail projects. The light rail project would continue the K Line from its current northern terminus at the Expo/Crenshaw station north through Mid–City, the Miracle Mile, West Hollywood, and eventually Hollywood.
Of course, its benefits would be felt far beyond those areas — from the South Bay all the way up to the San Fernando Valley. Not only would the project connect the K Line with four of Metro’s existing rail lines (the C, E, D, and B lines) and six of LA County’s busiest bus lines (the 2, 4, 16, 20, 720, and 33), but it would also provide Angelenos a one-seat ride from the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) to dozens of cultural attractions and job-rich areas. Nothing’s set in stone yet, but possibilities for station locations include Little Ethiopia, Museum Row, the Grove, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and even the Hollywood Bowl.
The implications are huge. With an anticipated ridership of up to 100,000 people per day, this project, on a per mile basis, is expected to be the busiest, most heavily ridden light rail line in the entire nation.
While the idea for this project has been kicking around for many years, this current effort began as a feasibility study to connect what was then known as the Crenshaw/LAX line to the B (Red) Line in Hollywood. In 2020, we narrowed down the possible routes to three and we’re currently drafting an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that will consider the impacts of each. We’re also working on related project studies to understand future ridership, travel time savings, and cost estimates.
Funding is an important consideration, as always. We have $2.24 billion available from the Measure M sales tax measure approved by county voters in 2016 – and those funds will escalate with inflation. Per Measure M, funding becomes available for construction in 2041, which we know is a ways away. We do want to be clear — as with other Measure M projects, this will need more funding to get built. That’s why we are working with the cities of West Hollywood and Los Angeles to identify potential additional funding and financing sources that will be needed to complete and/or accelerate the project. As we’ve done on other projects, we have the option of building in sections as we assemble the funding.
The events had a great turnout, which left us energized and confident that there’s a lot of demand for this project. Many of you were so enthusiastic about it that you asked if construction could begin sooner! If you couldn’t make the meetings this time, or if you did but you’re looking for an informal roundup, we’re highlighting below some of the most frequently asked questions that we’ve heard from all of you.
When will Metro decide on the alignment?
As of now, there are three proposed routes for the K Line Northern Extension –– a La Brea route, a Fairfax route, and a San Vicente-Fairfax route. All three routes include an additional option to continue service north to the Hollywood Bowl. You can learn more about the alignments in this video. (Got a favorite? Let us know in the comments!) We’re currently working on the Draft EIR, which will help inform the Following the public release of the report and a public comment period –– where you’ll get to weigh in –– our Board of Directors will have final say on the route.
This project will travel through many relatively wealthy Westside neighborhoods. How will this new rail line help low income Angelenos?
The K Line Northern Extension will do a lot more than close a major gap in our local transit system. It will serve some of the densest, most transit-dependent and job rich areas of the region. Many people often think of West Hollywood as a very wealthy area, but there are a number of low-income transit-dependent riders throughout the project area. Moreover, extending the K Line northwards would better link communities along the K Line’s current segment (such as Inglewood, Westchester, Leimert Park, and West Adams, to name a few) to rail lines, bus lines (see above), job centers along the Wilshire Corridor, and health care facilities such as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Our projections also show that two-thirds of the riders using the new rail line will come from Equity Focused Communities — communities that U.S. Census data shows are heavily non-white, transit-dependent, and low-income. We’ve estimated that 60% of the rides taken on the K Line Northern Extension will originate in these communities. That’s a big deal.
Will the K Line Northern Extension be above ground or below ground?
While the current open segment of the K Line is street level (at grade), elevated (aerial), and below ground, this new segment is planned to be exclusively underground. Why? Three reasons: land use, traffic volumes, and cost. First, the areas that the train would serve are some of the densest in Los Angeles. Submerging the new line in this case would avoid some very expensive and disruptive right-of-way purchases that could impact housing and job densities in the area. The second reason also involves traffic. Building the train at street level would require us to remove traffic lanes, as well as left turn lanes, from already very congested thoroughfares (think Santa Monica Boulevard and Fairfax and Highland Avenues) — and we think that would impact everyone, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Third, we performed a cost analysis and found that a fully underground project was more economical to build (for example, we wouldn’t need multiple tunneling machines) while also being less disruptive to surrounding communities during years of construction.
What can I expect to find at the stations? Will there be art and cultural exhibitions at the museum-adjacent stations? What about transit-oriented developments?
Activating our stations is a very big deal for all of us at Metro, and this is key to our station analysis. As we mentioned above, the K Line Northern Extension will travel through some of the densest parts of Los Angeles, so we want to ensure that stations are carefully woven into the city’s fabric. Cultural spaces are definitely on the table, especially for stations adjacent to museums. Since many of the potential project stations could be adjacent to major destinations and attractions, we’re also going to include “knock out panels” in the station walls to accommodate future connections and entrances to expand access as our system and the built environment evolve in the decades to come. We’re also looking at ways to design stations to allow for future transit-oriented developments that could be served by the project.
The K Line Northern Extension’s 2041 projected groundbreaking date is a long time from now. How are you planning for the future?
We realize that the way that people get around changes dramatically –– and quickly. Seventy-five years ago, we didn’t have interstates. Fifteen years ago, we didn’t have Uber. What we do know, however, is that automobile traffic is at capacity. And despite new technological advances, the fundamentals of congestion and travel aren’t changing. No technology will ever be able to move so many people in individual pods without running out of land or being bogged down in congestion … there’s just not enough space in dense areas! In 2041, there will be more people in the areas served by this new rail line, and this will cause a lot more congestion. That’s why this project is so important. It’s why we’re planning peak service at five-minute headways –– which will allow these three-car trains to transport 4,800 people per hour in each direction! That means up to 100,000 riders or more per day, every day. We’re also coordinating our potential station locations with areas where people are building new developments, so we can ensure that the trains are as accessible –– and useful –– as possible.
Rail has always been a tool of transformation –– a way to create new possibilities by collapsing constraints of time and space. This project shares that goal. It looks ahead toward a livelier, denser, and more connected tomorrow, and presents a new option for getting around. In other words, we’re designing the K Line Northern Extension for the Los Angeles of the future –– which is why your questions and comments matter so much today.
Categories: Transportation News