The Los Angeles Metro Rail is an urban rail transit system serving Los Angeles County, California in the United States. It consists of six lines, including four light rail lines (the A, C, E and K lines), and two rapid transit (known locally as a subway) lines (the B and D lines) serving 101 stations. It connects with the Metro Busway bus rapid transit system (the G and J lines), the Metrolink commuter rail system, and several Amtrak lines. Metro Rail is owned and operated by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), starting service in 1990.
It has been extended significantly since that time and several further extensions are either in the works or being considered. In 2022, the system had a ridership of 57,299,800, or about 189,100 per weekday as of the second quarter of 2023.
Los Angeles had two previous rail transit systems, the Pacific Electric Red Car and Los Angeles Railway Yellow Car lines, which operated between the late 19th century and the 1960s. The Metro Rail system uses many of their former rights-of-way, and thus can be considered their indirect successor.
In Los Angeles Metro terminology, common with most other metro systems, a line is a named service, defined by a route and set of stations served by trains on that route. (The word does not refer to a physical rail corridor, as it does in New York City Subway nomenclature.)
Metro also uses the same line letter naming system for its Metro Busway services (which are bus rapid transit routes operating in transitways).
Six Metro Rail lines operate in Los Angeles County:
|A Line||48.5 mi (78.1 km)||44||APU/Citrus College (north)
Downtown Long Beach (south)
|B Line||14.7 mi (23.7 km)||14||North Hollywood (north)
Union Station (south)
|C Line||19.3 mi (31.1 km)||14||Redondo Beach (west)
|D Line||5.1 mi (8.2 km)||8||Wilshire/Western (west)
Union Station (east)
|E Line||22 mi (35 km)||29||Downtown Santa Monica (west)
|K Line||5.9 mi (9.5 km)||7||Expo/Crenshaw (north)
The B and D lines follow a fully underground route, and the C Line follows a fully grade separated route. The A, E, and K lines run in a mix of environments, including at-grade in an exclusive corridor, street running, elevated, and underground.
The two rapid transit (subway) lines (B and D) share tracks between Union Station and Wilshire/Vermont, while two of the light rail lines (A and E) share tracks between Pico and Little Tokyo/Arts District.
The large majority of light rail stations are either at ground level or elevated, with some trenched or fully underground. All heavy rail (i.e. rapid transit) stations are fully underground.
Stations include at least two ticket vending machines, wayfinding maps, electronic message displays, and bench seating. Each station features unique artwork reflecting local culture and/or the function of transit in society.
Stations are unstaffed during regular hours. Call boxes are available at stations to allow employees at the Metro Rail Operations Control Center to assist passengers with concerns.
Metro Rail uses a proof-of-payment fare system, with Metro's fare inspectors randomly inspecting trains and stations to ensure passengers have a valid fare product on their Transit Access Pass (TAP) electronic fare card. When passengers enter a station, they encounter TAP card validators which collect fares when a customer places their card on top. Additionally, fare gates (turnstiles) connected to TAP card validators are at all underground stations, all elevated stations and some surface stations. Once passengers pass these validators or board a train, they have entered the "fare paid zone," where fare inspectors may check their TAP card to ensure they have a valid fare.
Street-level stations are typically simpler with platforms designed with shade canopies, separated from nearby roads and sidewalks, where passengers can purchase fares and board a train.
Underground stations are typically large in size with a mezzanine level for fare sales and collection above a platform level where passengers board trains. Underground stations and tunnels are designed to resist ground shaking that could occur at a specific location, but there is no general magnitude of earthquake that the entire system is expected to withstand. The Metro Rail system has not suffered any damage due to earthquakes since its opening in 1993.
Some suburban stations have free or paid park and ride lots available and most have bike storage available.
Metro Rail maintains two distinct systems of rail: a light rail system and a rapid transit (subway) system, which use incompatible technologies, even though they both use 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge. Metro's rapid transit lines are powered by third rail, whereas its light rail lines are powered by overhead catenary. Also, the two separate systems have different loading gauge, and platforms are designed to match the separate car widths.
Hours of operation
Between the system's opening in 1990 and February 2020, Metro Rail lines ran regularly between 5:00 am and midnight, seven days a week. Limited service on particular segments was provided after midnight and before 5:00 am. On Friday and Saturday evenings, service operated until approximately 2:00 am. There was no rail service between 2:00 am and 3:30 am, except on special occasions such as New Year's Eve. Service operated every 5–10 minutes during the peak period, every 10–15 minutes during middays and during the day on weekends, and every 20 minutes during the evening until the close of service. Exact times varied from route to route.
In March 2020, the system started to adjust train frequencies in order to accommodate for restrictions that were enacted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trains would continue to run between 5:00 am and midnight daily, with late night weekend service being removed in order to accommodate for train cleaning. Currently Light rail runs at 10 mins (peak) and 12 mins (off peak)
Fares and fare collection
The standard Metro base fare applies for all trips. Fare collection is based on a partial proof-of-payment system. At least two fare machines are at each station. Fare inspectors, local police and deputy sheriffs police the system and cite individuals without proof of payment. Passengers are required to purchase a TAP card to enter stations equipped with fare gates. Passengers using a TAP card can transfer between Metro routes for free within 2 hours from the first tap.
In July 2023, Metro updated their fares to make them easy to use. They replaced their 1-Day, 7-Day, and 30-Day passes with fare capping. With fare capping, passengers will never pay more than $5 (3 rides) in a day or $18 (11 rides) within seven days. Once they reach the 1-Day or 7-Day fare cap, rides are free.
The following table shows Metro fares, effective July 1, 2023 (in US dollars):
|Fare type||Regular||Senior (62+)
|Low Income (LIFE)|
|Base fare||$1.75||$0.35 (off-peak)
|$0.75||20 Free Rides then Regular fare|
Transit Access Pass (TAP) and fare gates
Metro has implemented a system of electronic fare collection using a stored value smartcard called the Transit Access Pass (TAP Card). This card was intended to simplify fare collection and reduce costs. In 2012, paper monthly passes were phased out and replaced with the TAP Card. As of September 2013, first-time Metro riders must deposit an additional $2 (or $1 at TAP vending machines) on top of their first fare payment to obtain a reloadable TAP Card. In addition, in 2008 Metro began installing fare gates at all underground stations, all elevated stations and some surface stations. Implementation of both programs (the TAP Card and the fare gate program) has turned out to be expensive ($154 million in total, so far) and its initial rollout was problematic.
In 2022, the Metro Rail system had a ridership of 57,299,800.
As of the second quarter of 2023, the combined Metro B and D lines averaged a weekday ridership of 85,400, making it the ninth busiest rapid transit system in the United States. Taking overall track length into consideration, Metro Rail's rapid transit lines transport 7,960 passengers per route mile, making this the fifth busiest U.S. rapid transit system on a per mile basis.
Metro's light rail system is the busiest in the United States with 103,700 average weekday boardings as of the second quarter of 2023. In terms of route length, Metro's light rail system is the largest in the United States.
Security and safety
Half of the Metro Rail's trains and stations are patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department under a law enforcement contract. The Los Angeles Police Department, and Long Beach Police Department also patrol stations within their respective cities, also under contract. The system is also monitored by security personnel through closed-circuit television cameras.
In the early 20th century, Southern California had an extensive privately owned rail transit network with over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of track, operated by Pacific Electric (Red Cars) and Los Angeles Railway (Yellow Cars). However, from 1927 revenue shortfall caused Pacific Electric to begin replacing lightly used rail lines with buses. In 1958 the remnants of the privately owned rail and bus systems were consolidated into a government agency known as the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority or MTA. By 1963 the remaining rail lines were completely removed and replaced with bus service.
In the following decades, growing traffic congestion led to increased public support for rail transit's return. Beginning in the 1970s, a variety of factors, including environmental concerns, an increasing population and the price of gasoline led to calls for mass transit other than buses. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA, now branded as Metro) began construction of the initial lines throughout the 1980s using revenues from a voter-approved increase in sales tax. The Blue (A) Line finally opened on July 14, 1990, some 27 years after the final streetcar line closed. Since that date, the system has been developed to its current size. The following table shows this expansion's timeline:
Just prior the opening of the Metro Rail, Proposition U passed, which halved the allowable residential density throughout much of Los Angeles. This reduced the viability of the Metro Rail by limiting dense residential housing near transit stations. Before 2000, none of the land near the stations was converted to residential use.
|Segment description||Date opened||Current line(s)
|Blue Line Initial Segment||July 14, 1990||Pico – Anaheim Street||17||19.1||$2.2 billion|
|Blue Line Long Beach Loop||September 1, 1990||Anaheim Street – Pacific Avenue||4||2.2|
|Blue Line To Financial District||February 15, 1991||Pico – 7th Street/Metro Center||1||0.7|
|Red Line MOS-1||January 30, 1993||Union Station – Westlake/MacArthur Park||3[a]||4.4||$3.1 billion|
|Green Line||August 12, 1995||Redondo Beach – Norwalk||13[a]||20.0||$1.5 billion|
|Red Line MOS-2 West||July 13, 1996||Westlake/MacArthur Park – Wilshire/Western||3||2.0||$3.4 billion|
|Red Line MOS-2 North||June 12, 1999||Wilshire/Vermont – Hollywood/Vine||5||4.7|
|Red Line MOS-3||June 24, 2000||Hollywood/Vine – North Hollywood||3||6.3||$2.3 billion|
|Gold Line Initial Segment||July 26, 2003||Union Station – Sierra Madre Villa||12[a]||13.7||$721 million|
|Gold Line Eastside Extension||November 15, 2009||Union Station – Atlantic||8||6.0||$887 million|
|Expo Line Phase 1||April 28, 2012||Flower/Washington – La Cienega/Jefferson[b]||8||7.6||$1.3 billion|
|Expo Line To Culver City||June 20, 2012||La Cienega/Jefferson – Culver City||1||1.0|
|Farmdale Station||June 20, 2012||Farmdale||1[c]||–|
|Gold Line Foothill Extension||March 5, 2016||Sierra Madre Villa – APU/Citrus College||6||11.5||$714 million|
|Expo Line Phase 2||May 20, 2016||Culver City – Santa Monica||7||6.6||$1.5 billion|
|L Line Little Tokyo Closure||October 24, 2020||–||Little Tokyo/Arts District||-1[d]||-0.3[e]||–|
|K Line Initial Segment||October 7, 2022||Expo/Crenshaw – Westchester/Veterans||6[a]||5.9||$2.1 billion|
|Regional Connector||June 16, 2023||7th Street/Metro Center – Little Tokyo/Arts District||3||1.9||$1.8 billion|
- Segment also included significant expansion of an existing station(s): this was not counted as a new station.
- In terms of added trackage; Expo Line was through service to 7th Street/Metro Center.
- Infill station on the Expo Line between Expo/La Brea and Expo/Crenshaw; opened on the same day in conjunction with the Expo Line To Culver City.
- The at-grade Little Tokyo/Arts District station was demolished to make way for the Regional Connector; it was replaced by an underground station nearby.
- In terms of removed trackage; L Line service between Union Station and Pico/Aliso was discontinued.
- Likely varies from the "official" Metro figure due to rounding differences.
Metro has worked to plan and prioritize project funding and implementation. Metro's 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) was developed to provide a long-term vision of transportation system development for the next 30 years. Metro worked to update the 2009 LRTP plan citing new housing trends and fiscal changes. Metro released the updated LRTP in 2020.
Beginning in 2014, Metro saw its ridership numbers begin to decline. Many explanations exist for the decline, including safety concerns, an increase in ride-hailing service usage, low-income housing opportunities drying up in L.A. because of the increase in rents, and a shortage of housing. Ridership declines also coincide with passage of AB 60, signed into law by Governor Brown in 2013, which provides for issuance of a vehicle operators license regardless of immigration status.
The fiscal changes are the passage of Measure R, a countywide incrememental sales tax increase passed by voters in 2008, provides funding for many of the highest priority projects in the LRTP.[non-primary source needed] On November 6, 2012, Metro attempted to pass Measure J, but failed as it did not reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass. In November 2016 election, Metro decided to place another sales tax on the ballot. The voters then approved Measure M, a half-cent permanent sales tax increase, to fund many local projects, including Metro Rail expansion.
In 2018, Metro approved renaming its rail lines using a letter-based scheme, similar to those in New York City. Metro recommended the opening of the refurbished A Line in 2019 as a starting point to rename the lines, and then continuing with the opening of the K line, finishing in time for the opening of the Regional Connector in 2023.[non-primary source needed]
Current and priority projects
The following rail projects have been given high priority by Metro. They all appear in the 2009 LRTP constrained plan, and all have funding earmarked from Measure R. With the passage of Measure M in 2016, Metro released an updated Long Range Transportation plan in February 2017, and released a full report in 2020, along with its Twenty-eight by '28 initiative.
|LAX Automated People Mover and K Line stations||Will connect LAX terminals and a new rental car facility to the Metro Rail system through the construction of an automated people mover system. Two K Line stations, LAX/Metro Transit Center and Aviation/Century, will open as this project completes.||2018–2024||Late 2024||Under construction|||
|D Line Extension||Phase 1 extends the D Line west along Wilshire Blvd to La Cienega, Phase 2 extends a further three miles west from La Cienega thru Beverly Hills to Century City. Phase 3 extends west to Westwood/UCLA and the VA Medical Center. All phases are under construction with plans to finish in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics.||2015–2027||2025 (Phase 1) / 2026 (Phase 2) / 2027 (Phase 3)||Under construction|||
|Foothill Extension Project Phase 2B||Further extends the northeast segment of the current A Line eastward from APU/Citrus College station to Pomona.||2019–2025||2025||Under construction|||
|East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Transit Project||LRT line connecting the east San Fernando Valley to the G Line, largely along Van Nuys Blvd and San Fernando Road. The HRT Sepulveda Transit Corridor is immediately south of Van Nuys Blvd corridors terminus. A transfer station will be constructed to connect with three possible transit options: the BRT G Line, HRT Sepulveda Transit Corridor Line and the planned LRT. Transfer station options include the Metrolink Van Nuys station, a Sherman Way station or the G Line Van Nuys station.||2023||2030||Pre-construction utility relocation|||
|Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2||Further extends the southeast segment of the current E Line eastward along Washington Boulevard to Whittier.||2025||2035||Final EIR/CEQA in progress|||
|South Bay C Line Extension||Extends the C Line from its current terminus in Redondo Beach towards Torrance and South Bay cities. If accelerated and funds are available, could be completed by 2028.||2026||2033||Three LPA's optioned / Draft EIR in progress|||
|West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor||Creates a new LRT route connecting downtown LA to Artesia and the Gateway Cities, much of it along the West Santa Ana Branch, a disused Pacific Electric right-of-way.||2023||2033||Draft EIR complete / Pending EIR|||
|Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project Phase 1 and 2||Planning underway on a rail connection between the G Line and the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor (see above) in the Valley to the D and E Lines on the Westside. Modes under consideration including a standalone rapid transit line; or a monorail, which unlike the other modes could traverse the Sepulveda Pass without tunneling. Existing local funding sources will provide approximately $5.7 billion for the project for a scheduled opening in the early 2030s; additional funds, including from public-private partnerships, are being sought to complete the line before the 2028 Summer Olympics.||2028||2039||Six LPA's analysis in progress / Draft EIR in progress|||
|K Line Northern Extension||Create a new underground light rail line connecting the B Line's Hollywood/Highland station south to the D Line, and the K Line's Expo/Crenshaw Station via Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. Possible north–south routes include Fairfax, La Brea, and San Vicente Boulevard. An extension north of the K Line is included as a Tier 1 Strategic Unfunded Plan project in the 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan.||2041||2047||Three LPA's analysis in progress / Draft EIR in progress|||
|Arts District/6th Street station||Extend the HRT D and B Lines from their eastern terminus at Union Station, south along the L.A. River to the Arts District, and possibly across the river along Whittier Bl to the Eastside. However, Metro is studying the possibility of adding one or two stops along the river in the Arts District as part of a project to improve and expand the rail yard already in the area to accommodate increased headways once the D Line extension west is completed.||Unknown||Unknown||Draft EIR in progress|||
|Vermont Transit Corridor||Create a new north–south route down Vermont Avenue between Wilshire/Vermont station, the Metro E Line and C Line. Included as a Tier 2 Strategic Unfunded Plan project in 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan; a Bus rapid transit line has been funded in the near term by Measure M, but studies will be conducted for possible heavy rail rapid transit, as the Vermont corridor is Metro's second busiest public transportation corridor.||BRT 2020; HRT 2060||BRT 2024; HRT 2067||Three LPA analysis funded / Pending Draft EIR for BRT|||
|G Line LRT Conversion||Converting the current G Line Bus Rapid Transit route into LRT. Made possible after the 2014 repeal of state legislation prohibiting LRT along the G Line right of way, which had been enacted due to neighborhood opposition in the 1990s. Long terms plans include complete conversion in phases with full replacement by 2057. Metro commenced BRT upgrades in 2018 to add grade crossing gates, and two new elevated segments at Van Nuys Bl and Sepulveda Bl, reducing travel time by 20%.||2051||2057||No current funds available for LRT until 2051|||
|Lincoln Blvd BRT/LRT Line||Extend the LRT C Line from LAX northwest to Venice and Santa Monica Beach and possibly connect with the E Lines western terminus. The C Line was originally engineered to maintain compatibility with this extension. Included in City of Los Angeles Westside Mobility Plan, and as a Tier 2 Strategic Unfunded Plan project in 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan.||BRT 2043; LRT Unknown||BRT 2047; LRT Unknown||No LPA or EIR conducted|||
Other expansion concepts
Metro's Long Range Transportation Plan was published in 2009, and was updated in 2020. The following proposed line/system expansions do not have funding or high priority in Metro's long-range plans. Some are listed as "strategic unfunded" in the last Long Range Transportation Plan, indicating some possibility they could be constructed should additional funding materialize. Others have been the subject of Metro Board discussion, with the possibility of future feasibility studies. (More information on each project can be found in the references.)
|Burbank–Glendale Line||Would connect Downtown Los Angeles to Glendale and Burbank. Studied in the 1990s, and included as a Tier 1 Strategic Unfunded Plan project in 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan.|||
|B Line To Burbank Airport||Extend the Metro B Line 3.2 miles (5.1 km) from its northwestern terminus to Hollywood Burbank Airport. Included as a Tier 1 Strategic Unfunded Plan project in 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan.|||
|C Line To Norwalk Metrolink||Extend the C Line east to Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs station (Metrolink). Included as a Tier 1 Strategic Unfunded Plan project in 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan, but is included among the Major Transit Projects (Figure 8) in the 2020 Long Range Transportation Plan with an estimated "open year" of 2052.|||
|"Pink Line"/"Silver Line" (former names)||DTLA Union Station thru Hollywood to Beverly Hills terminating at the under construction D Line Century City Station. Stops in or near Silver Lake, Dodger Stadium, Echo Park, West Hollywood and Century City. Mostly a Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard east–west route. Possibly using the already built HRT B Line tracks thru Hollywood or the LRT K Line under consideration in West Hollywood. East of Union Station would head to the City of La Puente or El Monte, CA. With possible stops in East L.A., Cal State LA, San Gabriel and Baldwin Park. No LPAs listed. No funds available. Listed as one of several "Strategic Unfunded Plan" project in the 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan, Tier 2. Eastside route no longer met by the removed Eastside Transit Corridor option along The 60 Freeway.|||
|Harbor Line||Light rail line to connect harbor area (San Pedro) to Metro A Line or C Line. Floated in LA City Council motions and Metro Harbor Subdivision studies. Also, a further southward extension of the C Line is included as a Tier 1 Strategic Unfunded Plan project in the 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan. Other plans could lead to the J Line being converted to rail.|||
|D Line Extension Phase 4||Extend the Metro D Line 3.5 miles (5.6 km) from its under construction western terminus, Westwood/VA Hospital station to Downtown Santa Monica station. No funds available.|||
|Venice Boulevard Corridor||Restore the Venice Boulevard right of way train service from Venice Beach in the west to Culver Junction area possibly heading north on La Brea Avenue to Hollywood or east into Downtown Los Angeles. Would service the westside and Central Los Angeles. Pacific Electric Venice Short Line was last used in 1950's.|||
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Media related to LACMTA Metro Rail at Wikimedia Commons
- History of the Metro Rail System
- Network map (to-scale)
- Google map of Metro Rail/Busway stations
- Go Metro – Rail Map
- Image of the underground construction of Metro Rail system in Los Angeles, California, 1989. Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive (Collection 1429). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.