One year in, a look back on some of our favorite Regional Connector moments!

Can you believe it? Only one year ago, the Regional Connector opened its doors to Los Angeles. With three shiny new underground stations in Downtown LA –– Grand Av/Bunker Hill, Historic Broadway and Little Tokyo/Arts District –– this 1.9-mile light rail project provided the “missing link” needed to tie three of our rail lines together. Moving around our region has never quite been the same:  

One-seat rides from the mountains to the beaches. More downtown destinations at your fingertips. Fewer waits and transfer times. What’s not to love?  

Our riders seem to agree! Since the three stations opened on June 16, 2023, we’ve seen ridership increase by a whopping 31% compared to the former on the E, L, and A Lines.  

Today, riding on the Regional Connector feels so smooth and seamless that it feels like it’s always been there, but we know that this project has been a long time in the making. You can trace its origins back to the early 1990s when plans for a ‘Blue Line Downtown Connector’ started kicking around, but the desire for a transit connection through Downtown Los Angeles is even older. Read this excellent history by my colleague Kenn Bicknell here 

The project wouldn’t have been realized without the unwavering support of LA County, the state of California, and the federal government. It’s a testament to teamwork, collaboration, and the spirit of thinking big.  

So in the spirit of appreciation, we wanted to revisit a few of our favorite project milestones: 

November 2008: LA County voters approved the Measure R half-cent sales tax to finance new transportation projects and programs. The Regional Connector was one of them; in fact, $160M-in sales tax revenue went toward building the Regional Connector.  

April 2012: The Final Environmental Impact Report for the Regional Connector was certified by the Metro Board of Directors 

February 2014: Officials from Metro and the Federal Transit Administration signed a pair of agreements that will provide a $670-million federal grant and a $160-million federally-backed loan for the Regional Connector. These agreements cleared the way for construction to begin.  

September, 2014: Groundbreaking ceremonies were held at the future Little Tokyo/Arts District station. Actor, activist, and former SCRTD board member George Takei served as Master of Ceremonies.   

 

January, 2018: Tunneling is completed! Our TBM, Angeli, started work October 2016 and finished the first tunnel in July 2017.  

August, 2022: Immersive artworks at Grand Ave Arts/Bunker Hill Station were installed! Eight artists had been commissioned to create site-specific, integrated artworks for the three Regional Connector stations.  

June 16, 2023: The Regional Connector opens to the public. Among the myriad of prominent speakers, George Takei reprises his role as emcee. More than 100,000 people ride the new and improved A and E Lines (for free!) that first day.  

Do you have a favorite memory of the Regional Connector? Let us know in the comments!  

Categories: Transportation News

10 replies

  1. Opened just in time for Anime Expo 2023 and the 2028 Summer Olympics.

  2. You know my favorite memory, the regional connector getting shut down 4 times within a 45 day period because one of the tracks had no power, and y’all did not design this with short line turnaround tracks in mind.

    Some of my favorite moments that still happen throughout the System is if there is maintenance in Santa Monica, for example, THE ENTIRE LINE HAS TO PUT UP WITH 20 MIN DELAYS. This was not the case before. Why!! Why isn’t this agency proactive in their design. No one on Pasadena should be dealing with the burden of delays because there is maintenance between Slauson and Firestone. This wasn’t the case before when the Gold and Blue Lines were separate, and because Metro lacks foresight there is no infrastructure for short line turnaround tracks that way at least one section can still keep its frequency while the other section deals with the inconveniences.

    Also, stop holding trains at Union Station, there is no reason whatsoever for trains to be holding at Union Station. Transfers are already occurring at 7th/Metro, and Metrolink hasn’t implemented pulse scheduling yet so there is no need for this.

  3. At the Grand Av/Bunker Hill station, you removed at least a dozen mature jacaranda trees, widened the road for cars, and even added new lanes — creating a dangerous island of 15 lanes of traffic (including a stop light after a blind, descending curve) surrounding the station. This was done against your own public plans. When pressed on this, you said “Metro will continue to work with the LADOT and other City departments to identify opportunities for further FLM [first/last mile] and mobility enhancements in the station areas”. It’s been a year — have you identified any opportunities to fix this?

    • If you couldn’t take the hint, that was a very polite way of telling you “we don’t care.”

      This is why California NEEDS to fix their stupid and outdated laws. I don’t care how transit agencies try to flip this, there is a conflict of interest when transit agencies also are responsible for roads and their funding.

  4. I am curious how the 31% increase of ridership was calculated? Each line separate?
    Also curious what the ridership is to each of the 3 new stations.

  5. Definitely a huge improvement and it’s hard to envision the system without it. New stations are beautiful and impressive.

    Could still be improved by allowing the trains to go faster, especially from Little Tokyo to Union Station. Having to wait minutes at Union Station for the drivers to switch is a bit of a bummer, but it wouldn’t be as bad if the trip to Union Station wasn’t so slow, including having to come to a dead stop over the 101, for whatever reason.

    And of course, Wifi in the Regional Connector would be nice.

  6. The Regional Connector made my commute from APU/Citrus to Vernon much smoother but not faster. The downtown section is very slow from Union Station to Pico. The trains do not move fast like the Red and Purple lines do through downtown. Plus the delays south of the Pico station along Washington are still oppressive. Give the A line priority over the cars at the traffic signals.

    • Call LADOT and cuss them out until they do so. Metro is not responsible for signal prioritization, the city of LA is. To my knowledge both Long Beach and Santa Monica actually give the trains signal prioritization.

    • The reason for much of this seems to be overly conservative speed restrictions (an all too common problem on LA metro light rail lines) around the curves coming into and out of Bunker Hill and Little Tokyo stations, as well as the notoriously snail-like pace of the bridge over the 101. Not sure how much the Union Station to Little Tokyo segment can be improved much due to that, especially going southbound due to the merging with another line, but the speeds approaching and leaving LT to the west are about 10 – 15 mph which seems excessively slow, as well as on both ends of Bunker Hill station which are about the same, speed wise. I would think these approaches could be traversed safely at a faster speed than what’s currently allowed.

      Also as others have lamented, there’s no reason Metro should be holding trains at LAUS as this just adds further delays to trips going through. As far as south of Pico, yup, classic LADOT carbrained mentality not allowing signal preemption for street-running sections. Ridiculous. But overall the regional connector is a much needed infrastructure improvement to the system, but needs some more work to optimize things.

      Remember, Metro, you need to think of your LRT lines functionally as light metro / skytrain type systems when running underground / elevated or wherever else the right-of-way allows. It needs to function as true rapid transit as much as possible given how committed you guys are now to this train type being the default go-to rail system for LA county.

  7. Hard to believe that one year in, there is still no cell phone / internet coverage in the regional connector project sections. I realize bureaucracies work slowly but this is really just unacceptable.