What we learned from our K Line Northern Extension community events

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 MidCity, 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. 

“I personally have lived in the Sycamore Square since 1995, and have found myself walking down La Brea at all hours, waiting for the bus. I’m excited to have more options.” – Conrad Starr, Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Photo by Tom Bertolotti

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.

“As one of the hundreds of thousands of Angelenos who don’t own a car, this project is personal for me,” Chelsea Byers, a member of the West Hollywood City Council, told me. “And I’m proud that the City of West Hollywood is taking such a strong role in the project. Given that two-thirds of the projected riders will be coming from low-income communities, this is a huge piece of equity in the transportation space that WeHo is driving.” Photo by Tom Bertolotti

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.

“I don’t like surprises, and Los Angeles underground is full of surprises. If it makes sense to do aerial, let’s do aerial. But for me, the more transit we have, the better.” — Presley Burroughs, The Collard Project. Photo by Tom Bertolotti

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.

“I don’t own a car. I use bicycles and public transit to get around. I prefer the San Vicente option, because it goes through more of West Hollywood. My main concern is the 2047 schedule for completion! Many people in this room won’t be here then!” – Kevin Burton, West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition. Photo by Tom Bertolotti

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.   

“I support the project, and think that the equitable expansion of our public transportation system is critical. Those who live and work closest to the proposed routes deserve to be better informed and have the opportunity to be heard.” – Monica Carlos, urban planner and Carthay Circle resident. Photo by Tom Bertolotti

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.  

Questions about the project? Visit our project page here or leave a comment or shoot us an email at klinenorth@metro.net

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37 replies

  1. If the expo line has capacity issues (or had) with three car train sets, I think this line will have immediate capacity issues with 100k daily riders, many with luggage and connecting to three other major train lines.

  2. I think the Fairfax route is an ideal compromise. It’s only 3 minutes longer than LA Brea but at least hits big destinations and serves half of West Hollywood. The half that’s most built up and where buses are most used.

  3. Metro needs to build this much sooner than 2047. These timelines are absurd. This whole area needs several lines, not just one, and we shouldn’t have to wait 25 years for something that’s such a no brainer.

  4. Get the Torrance extension done soon, but it’s looking really bad. Maybe start the North Hollywood extension first.

  5. Honestly, all three lines should be built, La Brea, Fairfax AND the WeHo San Vicente “loop.” If trains are built in the center of L.A. — ridership will increase well beyond “low-income” residents. It’s FALSE to think that transit is built for the neediest people. You want folks to ditch their cars (?) give them a viable alternative. I welcome not having to drive my car to events in DTLA if a train could take me from San Vicente / Santa Monica Blvd to the rest of the city. We’re waiting, since the disappearance of the old ‘red car’ — one axiom for the MTA, more stations, more riders.

    • Only Americans (North Central, and South) actually believe that transit is a third class utility for the poor.

      Currently in Japan right now, and people from all classes ride their transit systems with pride. Sure, you have “green cars” on commuter and Limited Express trains for those who want a more comfortable ride, similar to how Amtrak offers businesses class and absolutely NO ONE screams “Classism and Discrimination!!” As a result.

      I’ve given up on public transit in the states in general though. There’s no such thing as freedom if it still comes at the expense of conformity (being forced to get a car) and be discriminated if I choose to live life a bit differently.

  6. I wonder how many of these people profiled will even be alive when the extension opens, especially if they are waiting for north of Wilshire?

  7. This would be a complete game changer for transit in LA, and attract lots of riders from all over the region trying to access all these busy places. It’s a shame Metro would put this project off for decades. It creates a real rail system, not centered on just downtown LA. The K line should have been built to at least Wilshire from the start, which was Metro’s original plan.

  8. Has Metro studied the possibility of exclusively using cut-and-cover subway construction on this extension, instead of tunnel boring machines? Many people feel that shallow cut-and-cover subways are superior to bored subways, because of cost.

    • You really couldn’t do cut and cover in many of the sections proposed for K north. That process worked okay on Flower and 6th because there were alternatives for street traffic and not a large number of small businesses or residences there. Cut and cover causes major disruptions to businesses. Even if used on San Vicente, the neighborhood which doesn’t want an at-grade option would surely strongly oppose the disruptions caused by cut and cover.

  9. Once the “K” Line reaches San Vicente Bl. there is a former P.E. right of way clear to Santa Monica Bl. so there is no need to build the line underground. The logical question then is should it turn north on La Are Ave. from San Vicente Bl., the least expensive route, and proceed to the “B” Line Station or should it continue via San Vicente Bl. to Santa Monica Bl. then start the long mandated underground tunneling to La Brea Ave. then north to the “B” Line Station. It’s laughable that the MTA asserts that tunneling is less expensive than building at ground level. Using said logic the MTA would be admitting the street level construction of the “A” Line; “E” Line; “K” Line and the former GoldLine were all mistakes. The completion of the “K” Line should be the MTA’s highest priority over extensions to the former Gold Line and the construction of any new lines. Ten, twenty or thirty years before the “K” Lines completion are but vague promises by the MTA when one considers the MTA may not even exist that far in the future.

    • “the street level construction of the “A” Line; “E” Line; “K” Line and the former GoldLine were all mistakes.”

      Failure by design? Oh yes they are. Spare me the ridership numbers, the reality is all 3 lines you mentioned are slower than the car and prone to serious delays and speed limits because they are at-grade. The Gold Line (Pasadena section) is the only that was half-baked compared to the rest. Freeway stops? Really?

      Ask yourself this: Why would anyone on a weekend/holiday morning take the Expo Line from Downtown to Santa Monica which can take about 45 min due to its design and lack of express tracks when someone could drive it there in 20-30 min as there is no traffic.

      Also, good luck convincing SV Blvd residents to accept a train going through the middle of their street.

      “The logical question then is should it turn north on La Are Ave. from San Vicente Bl., the least expensive route”

      And this is what’s wrong with LA residents and why their public transit continues to be seen as a 3rd class utility instead of infrastructure that its people should take pride in.

      I’ll ask this, why skip Fairfax where the ridesship actually is just because La Brea is the “least expensive” option?”

    • Street running sections should be avoided, especially for a line as significant as this. The delays to transit riders in the form of traffic light stopping and potential accidents affecting reliability, are reasons enough to avoid this and have been issues for the other lines you mentioned. And I wish metro would own up to that more rather than making it all about “delays to cross traffic / congestion”. The fact is that building all below and/or above grade is objectively better for TRANSIT RIDERS every bit as much as drivers. It allows for faster train speeds due to not having to stop or slow down for traffic light controlled intersections and said 35 mph max speed restrictions when in such street median rights-of-way (assuming san Vicente wouldn’t be wide enough for crossing gate preemption).

  10. Why is this not a top priority project for Metro? It does so many things and hits so many destinations, has record high ridership, creates a real rail network, a new north-south line connecting the entire region along with LAX. Why does Metro insist on prioritizing rail lines to low lying suburbs, outlet malls surrounded by highways, and oil refineries and parking lots? Instead of something like this line that would have record high ridership and serve the most number of people? We should be building these lines based on performance and how much benefit they provide! This should have been built years ago, and traffic in this area will only get worse with more growth and development.

  11. Many subway station portals currently just open onto the sidewalk taking up a lot of space, without really adding to usable public space where people can gather. If station portals can be integrated into developments, then there would be a lot more that people can reach just coming out of the station. Developers would also pay to use the space on top of the stations helping a but with the funding of the construction as well. I really like the new 7th St Metro Center portal that opens directly into the Bloc, but too bad that exit closes rather early.

  12. All of Metro’s projects take too long to build and most of the time, over budget. The
    K line needs to be the shortest route (La Brea) as when budgets and money are tight, the less miles of tunnel to dig and fewer stations to build will make this happen a little faster.
    And for such a long line (especially if it finally gets to Torrance and beyond on the south end), it will be a really long time to try to keep trains on time.
    My second choice is Fairfax, and not that spagetti bowl route on San Vicente.
    I love how West Hollywood wants a line, but it should not be a the expense/benefit of the region as a whole. West Hollywood should pursue another line along Santa Monica blvd in both directions out to Silver Lake/Echo Park for example
    Regardless, Hollywood Bowl should be include- not just for events, but it would make a good park-n-ride and kiss-n-ride right off the Hollywood Freeway, plus you need a place to drop the tunneling machine in the ground anyway.

    • They looked at a SM spur but it would create a ton of operational issues.

    • ‘ K line needs to be the shortest route (La Brea) as when budgets and money are tight, the less miles of tunnel to dig and fewer stations to build will make this happen a little faster.“

      This is NOT the way you build a rail line. Let’s stop building things on the cheap. The majority of tourists and employees are NOT going to La Brea as the jobs aren’t there. They are going to Fairfax where their jobs and destinations actually are.

  13. As much as we want the K-Line extension to serve as many people and as many destinations/origins as possible– we have to find ways to cost cut that won’t affect the capacity and accessibility of the line. If Metro hasn’t already they need to stop paying for outside consultants– engineering and planning should be in-house especially with all sorts of projects in the pipeline. Cut and cover construction– while more disruptive than tunnel machines– should be considered if it is cheaper, even with the disruption. Stations shouldn’t have crazy mezzanines–people should get from street level to the train as fast and safe as possible. That hybrid-routing that has been proposed is “wild” to say the least– it traps us to that alignment with little flexibility to extend or improve. The argument in favor of it is the destinations that are served and that we may not have another chance to build this line– and that latter point is cynical BS. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at the expense of people who don’t live and work in West Hollywood. The Fairfax alignment is the best of both worlds. And if Cedars and Beverly Center care enough, they can run bus shuttles with their own or with Metro money.

    • It’s not BS that this is the only chance to build a new rail line in this general area. Look at Measure M. It provides only $2 billion for this project, and not until the 2040s. So there’s not enough money to even do one line, let alone this fantasy of 2 lines in the same general area. The Metro Board will never allow such a large investment in one particular area of the county, when they are more concerned with extending our lowest ridership rail lines further out to single family homes, parking lots, oil refineries and outlet malls surrounded by parking and freeways, disconnected from the surrounding community. These lines are built based on politics, not performance. And as much as a Santa Monica Blvd line makes sense, the Metro Board will never even think to fund it until all the other Measure M projects are built first. Which will take at least a few decades to begin with, if all goes well. Advocates for a Santa Monica Blvd line have no chance until after the year 2060 or 2070, after the last Measure M projects are scheduled to be built.

    • Strong agreement with the cut and cover option, it will no doubt decrease costs somewhat. Metro should strongly consider this option given how expensive it is, on top of limited funding.

      Although I will disagree on the latter half. Measure M has a strict schedule to follow, realistically it is true that there is not much of a chance to build another line. If there ever comes a day, I fail to see why we cannot simply integrate the Santa Monica Blvd K Line stations with a hypothetical SMB line. Metro’s study shows that the biggest origin and destination points of the K Line *is* indeed West Hollywood. So it makes no sense to delay serving WeHo’s most important activity nodes.

      • I can understand the fear of not getting it right the first time– but it’s hard to justify spending hundreds of millions more to connect other destinations in the hybrid routing for a couple thousand more riders than the Fairfax or La Brea alignments. It’s hard to predict the future but we lock ourselves into the past with the hybrid routing. And if a future SMB line comes around, potential capacity on both the K and the SMB line could be hamstrung if future integration is not thought of properly.

    • I think metro is obsessed with deep-level subways because they were traumatized by the experience of building the subway to Hollywood in the late 90s. There was a cave-in and anger over construction closures, so the prevailing “wisdom” at metro is that the slightly reduced amount of traffic disruption is worth the exorbitant cost of going with deep-level subways every time. But look at the construction of the Crenshaw line— it has shallow cut and cover for over half a mile under Crenshaw Blvd, and their there was any opposition to it, it didn’t make the news. In fact, what made the news is that a local group wanted MORE of the route to be in a subway, without specifying that it be deep-level. So that’s all it is— the metro power structure has an extreme and irrational fear of causing disruption to traffic.

  14. They should’ve built the K Line to connect at least to the Purple Line on Wilshire. Seems odd to end it at Expo, it’s only 3 more miles to Wilshire.

    • If they did that’ there’d still be people here saying:

      They should’ve built the K Line to connect at least to the Red Line on Hollywood. Seems odd to end it at Wilshire, it’s only 3 more miles to Hollywood.

    • We have to know at least part of the plan north of Wilshire before deciding where to build a K line station there.

      Originally, the plan was to connect at a cancelled station at Wilshire & Crenshaw. K was truncated to Expo due to costs and uncertainty of route north.

      Wilshire K junction will either be La Brea or Fairfax station, but that all depends on the route selected to Hollywood. Once that’s determined, phase one most likely would be to Wilshire D line.

      • “uncertainty of route north.”

        This is definitely quite an understatement.

        Apart from the NIMBYism, and outright low ridership projections, the earth around Olympic and Crenshaw is apparently a lot more toxic to deal with as well.

        Looking at the bigger picture now, I’m glad it wasn’t built based on original proposals. Now we actually have routes with more potential (I.E. – Fairfax) that actually meets current and future demand.

  15. Why isn’t this project a priority for Metro? Connects all the lines and serves the places people want to go, where driving is so hard and there are no freeways. Metro needs to finish its lines and system, the K Line is a stub only for south of Expo, why didn’t it originally connect North to at least the Wilshire line?

    • Same reason why the Harbor Subdivision wasn’t built. If we have already too many lines, it could be “duplicating service.” Clearly they are learning that isn’t true.

  16. Very excited for this line in particular, and am buoyed with hope by the fact cities are actually jockeying for this! I hope the southern extension can get built soon as well, despite a loud minority in the south-bay looking to block trans-generational transit projects. Let’s get this built, and fast!

  17. If you end up having to do it in 2 phases, it would make sense for the first one to connect with the D line.

  18. Makes total sense to connect all the way to the B Line in Hollywood. I like it. Question is how long will it take to build. On the south end, too bad it can’t actually continue connecting to the A Line in downtown Long Beach, but that probably would be impossible to build a new line near the ports of LA/Long Beach, as it would require huge bridges.

    • Rather than going across the island it would make more sense to go a bit north through parts of Wilmington. No big bridges needed. I have been an advocate for connecting an extension of the then Green Line to the then Blue line for quite a while. The more places the lines come together the better the system is as a system. That is why I would like to see the C go to the Norwalk Metrolink Station and the E line east end curve down through Whittier to meet the C at the Norwalk Metrolink Station.