Metro Heavy (Subway) and Light Rail
April 2006
by Damien Goodmon

It was a little over five months ago, when returning to LA from my longest stay in Boston thus far that I became interested…no obsessed…with figuring out what type of subway and light rail transportation system could get LA moving. I pulled out a map of LA County and started drawing lines.

I stumbled upon the Transit Coalition website and the SkyscraperPage Forum when searching the web to find information to supplement or revise my alignments. These two internet communities along with the countless links and libraries the participants directed me, was my crash course in mass transit. You have shown me - and probably all other "late comers" just how few of our ideas are unique; a lot of people already had this figured out long ago. So you'll notice, my proposed routes aren't much different than most of the suggestions found on this board, the SkyscraperPage board, or other rail advocacy group websites.

The consensus on the need and roughly the routing of rail left me questioning why the solution had yet to be implemented. That's when I decided to take my little project a lot further.

I first wanted to go back to the drawing board and create a rail system as best as a layman like myself could. When determining the routes I paid particular attention to the discussions that have taken place on this board (especially in parts of the county I'm less familiar with) and the SkyscraperPage Forum. There were some other resources I drew upon, like the previous Long Range Transportation Rail and Bus Maps, paying particular attention to the 1992 map, the current MTA rapid bus map, freeways, right-of-ways, and density per square mile as determined by the census. I heavily relied on the map created by the Southern California Association of Governments that identifies communities in the county with a high concentration of transit-dependent citizens, which I found in the 2001 Long Range Transportation Plan Executive Summary. My goal was to connect by rail existing high-density and transit-dependent communities, major shopping destinations, large commercial/job districts, cultural centers, and LA proper areas that have the potential to/are currently densifying. Simply, to build a rail system that everyone can use and, with the worsening traffic crisis, will use.

The next question I wanted to answer dealt with the political climate that has us currently lacking an adequate rail system and a comprehensive plan to build one immediately. To end the scraps-table fight that currently divides politicians and arguably communities when trying to build rail I figured it would be necessary to establish a revenue stream large enough to complete the lines in a reasonable amount of time. Using the formula that at-grade rail cost $40-60M/mile, elevated $100-120M/mile, subway $300M/mile and trench $120M/mile, I determined that the cost of the system was $28-38 billion. (The trench estimate is a guess, as I couldn't find any official source for light rail trenches, besides the $70M/mile number for the trench on the recently completed Alameda Corridor Project, which does not have stations. And I still don't know the cost of cut-and-cover tunnels.) The $38 billion estimate is for a fully efficiently mostly grade-separated system befitting a world city like Los Angeles, and the $28 billion estimate is the cut-corners, limit our ability to upgrade in the future plan…the Pasadena Gold plan if you will. For example, in some areas like Vermont north of Gage subway is the only option, so from Gage to Wilshire the estimate is $300M/mile. But south of Gage, because the median is so large, at-grade, elevated or trench are possibilities. In such a case I would put the low estimate for the routing (at-grade) in the column for low estimate and the high estimate (elevated) in the column for high estimate.

Finding about $40B isn't exactly easy, but not as difficult when spread out over decades. It's far from scientific or even politically sound but I established January 1, 2026 as the target date for completion and figured $10 billion should come from taxes, $10 billion from the feds and the rest from a bond. Regarding the federal funding I'm hoping that with a Democratic House we'd see substantial federal funding for projects that would instantly become the #1 passenger rail transportation priority of the country (Wilshire, 405 Line, 10 Line) along with lines that would lead to an economic revival/cultivation in areas with a large minority populations (Vermont, Florence/Firestone). The $10 billion dollars from taxes comes out to about $500 million a year, hopefully raised through applicable taxes like increases in the gas tax, registration fee, new pollution taxes for vehicles that get low gas mileage, etc. That leaves us issuing a $20-25 billion dollar bond, although an argument can be made to simply ask for a $30 billion dollar bond without increasing taxes (or using the tax money for operational costs). Whatever the choice I'd rather see the county massively rally around the creation of one large bond to build the system rather than several smaller bonds for particular lines, which pits project against project and put us in the position of going to the electorate numerous times - leaving the fate of rail system to the political winds of the day.

The third component of this project is what I call "political construction." The goal it seems is to pacify as many regions as necessary to get widespread support for rail lines that go places citizens/politicians in other regions of the county aren't that interested in going/serving. To address the "I don't go there" problem I tentatively propose that if most of the rail lines can't be constructed at once, three to four regions should simultaneously be laying rail. If I were to define the regions in Los Angeles County they'd be: San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, East LA, Westside, South LA, South Bay and Gateway Cities. This is probably the most difficult aspect of this plan and probably not even worth determining, since regardless of however I, we or the MTA prioritize/group the projects, give a group of politicians 20 years and everything will change.

The final, most important and not yet completed component is a broad aggressive voter education and outreach strategy. I hope to complete this by the end of the week.

Now back to the map. It's only a draft so I didn't worry much about cutting off the South Bay. All the alignments are going to be discussed below anyway, except for Glendale to Universal City Station, which I've yet to find an adequate solution.

All input and suggestions are greatly appreciated, and again these are just estimates.

The heavy rail line extends underground from its current terminus at Wilshire/Western west to Wilshire/Santa Monica Blvd. Southwest down Santa Monica Blvd to Westwood (this diversion serves Century City). North up Westwood to Wilshire. West down Wilshire to the Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade station terminus.
-Miles of Additional Track: 13.3 (all subway)
-Total Number of Purple Line Stations: 22
-Junctions: Aqua (4), Blue (3), Bronze (2), Red, Lime, Green, Pink
-Cost: $4 billion ($2.7B to Veterans Hospital)

RED LINE (170/110)
The heavy rail line has two extensions:
1) South from Vermont/Wilshire station to Gage (subway). From there it continues elevated south down Vermont to the Artesia Transit Center. East to Avalon. South down Avalon to Carson. West down Carson to Vermont. South down Vermont to PCH. East down PCH to Figueroa Place. And then at-grade down Figueroa Place to Harbor College terminus.
2) The North extension is elevated until San Fernando Road. North from North Hollywood station to Oxnard. West down Oxnard to Laurel Canyon. North up Laurel Canyon to a few blocks north of Sheldon. North over the wash or the area to San Fernando Road. And then at-grade northwest up San Fernando Road to the Sylmar Metrolink station terminus.
-Miles of Additional Track: 34
-Total Number of Red Line Stations: 41
-Junctions: Lime (5), Silver (3), Bronze, Purple, Green, Orange, Pink, Aqua, Silver, Gold (all except Blue)
-Cost: $4.2-4.8 billion

GREEN LINE (105/1)
The light rail line has two extensions and three new stations to the existing alignment:
1) North from Imperial/Aviation to LAX (see Bronze Line). North up Lincoln to Manchester (grade). North up Lincoln to 10 freeway/Olympic (el). West above the 10 freeway to the 3rd Street Promenade station terminus.
2) Southeast from the 105/ROW in between Garfield and Paramount to the Los Cerritos Center terminus.
3) Infill stations at Western, Atlantic and the ROW for the extension.
-Miles of Additional Track: 18.3
-Total Number of Green Line Stations: 30
-Junctions: Orange (4), Bronze (3), Aqua (2), Purple, Red, Lime, Pink, Blue
-Costs: $1.2-1.7 billion

Two improvements for the light rail line:
1) The Downtown Connector: A subway linking the 7th Street Metro station to the Little Tokyo station. North up Flower to 1st Street (subway). West to Alameda (subway).
2) Grade-separating the existing segments from Long Beach Ave/Washington to the Flower Street tunnel. (The Washington Blvd segment might make a completely different downtown alignment for the Blue Line more feasible and desirable (Olympic or 12th as an alternative).
-Miles of Additional Track: 1.7
-Total Number of Blue Line Stations: 36
-Junctions: Aqua (8), Purple (3), Lime (2), Orange (2), Silver (2), Green, Gold
-Cost: $900-950 million

GOLD LINE (101/134/210)
The light rail line would extend west from the Memorial Park station to the 210 freeway (el). West down the 210 to Figueroa Street/Colorado (el). West down Colorado Blvd to Broadway (el). West down Broadway to the southern shoulder of the 134 freeway (el). West down the 134 freeway to San Fernando Road (el). <b>Here's where things get less certain (the missing link). I'd like to continue the line down San Fernando Road to the Burbank Metrolink Station (grade) and then Burbank Media Center (subway), but that's not so easy. Neither is getting from the Burbank Media Center to the Universal City Station. The route ideally would serve the many studios along the way.</b> From the Universal City Station the line would continue west down Ventura to Canoga Ave (el). North up Canoga Ave to the Chatsworth Metrolink station terminus (grade).
From the Sierra Madre Villa station to Chatsworth Metrolink (not including the missing link or Foothill Extension):
-Miles of Additional Track: 31+
-Total Number of Gold Line Stations: 26+
-Junctions: Silver (2+), Bronze, Red, Blue
-Cost: $2.6-3.2 billion

Two extensions for the light rail line:
1) West from the Washington/National station down the Exposition ROW to Olympic/22nd (grade). West down Olympic to 10th Street (grade). West over the 10 freeway to the 3rd Street Promenade terminus (el).
2) East from Union Station down the Union Pacific ROW to Valley and Borland (grade). East down Valley to Metrolink ROW (el). Southeast down the ROW to Ramona (grade). East down Ramona to the Baldwin Park Metrolink station terminus (el).
-Miles of Additional Track: 25
-Total Number of Aqua Line Stations: 39
-Junctions: Blue (8), Purple (4), Lime (3), Silver (2), Green (2), Bronze, Red, Pink
-Cost: $1.7-2.3 billion

The heavy rail line begins near the junction of the 118/210 freeways and continues south down Van Nuys (el). After Van Nuys/Ventura it tunnels directly under the mountains to UCLA (a trip that that should take just 5-6 minutes). South down Westwood to Pico (subway). Southwest down Pico to the eastern shoulder of the 405 freeway (subway). It runs a combination of grade/elevated along the shoulder of the 405 freeway until Sepulveda where it continues south to the airport elevated/cut-and-cover (whichever is cheapest). From the airport station to Sepulveda/Imperial there are two possible routes. My favorite is a straight line - a tunnel under Sepulveda. Otherwise it continues east some kind of way to Aviation south to Imperial and west back to Sepulveda. The cost is probably the same (200 million), but I'm sure Los Angeles World Airport would likely create some issues. It continues south down Sepulveda to Rosecrans (combination el and grade). East down Rosecrans (el) to the 405. Southeast down the western shoulder of the 405 (el/grade) to Hawthorne Blvd. South down Hawthorne Blvd. to the Del Amo Mall terminus (el).
-Miles of Track: 38
-Total Number of Bronze Line Stations: 32
-Junctions: Pink (4), Green (3), Purple (2), Red, Aqua, Lime, Orange, Silver, Gold (all except Blue)
-Cost: $2.5-4.8 billion

PINK LINE (Crenshaw/La Brea) *it looks lavender on the map*
The light rail line begins at Hollywood/Highland and goes South to Sunset (subway). West down Sunset to LaBrea (subway). South down La Brea to San Vicente (el or subway). Southeast down San Vicente to Venice (grade or trench). East down Venice to Crenshaw (grade or trench). South down Crenshaw to Rodeo (subway). South down Crenshaw from Rodeo to Harbor Subdivision ROW (combination trench and cut-and-cover). Southwest down the ROW to La Brea (grade). South down La Brea, which turns into Hawthorne to the Del Amo Mall terminus (el).
-Miles of Track: 21
-Total Number of Pink Line Stations: 24
-Junctions: Bronze (4), Orange (2), Lime (2), Red, Purple, Aqua, Green
-Cost: $1.9-3.4 billion

The light rail line better known as the Tangerine Line, but officially named the Orange Line when the San Fernando Valley Busway is renamed such. The line begins at the Norwalk Metrolink station heading west to down Imperial to Firestone ROW (el). Northwest down the ROW to Atlantic/Salt Lake (grade). North up the Salt Lake Ave ROW to the Randolph Street ROW (grade). West down the ROW to the Blue Line ROW (grade). South down the Blue Line ROW to Florence (grade). West down Florence to the Harbor Subdivision ROW (el). West down the ROW to Centinela. West down Centinela to Jefferson (grade or el). West down Jefferson to Lincoln Blvd terminus (grade).
-Miles of Track: 25
-Total Number of Orange Line Stations: 23
-Junctions: Green (4), Pink (2), Blue (2), Bronze, Red
-Cost: $1.2-1.7 billion

The light rail line begins at Venice Beach and heads northeast up Venice to Fairfax (grade or trench). North up Fairfax to 3rd Street (subway). West under 3rd to San Vicente (subway). North up San Vicente to Sunset (subway). East down Sunset to Highland. North up Highland to Hollywood (subway). It then uses the Red line tunnel and stations to Santa Monica/Vermont. Continues east down Santa Monica to Sunset. Southeast down Sunset, which turns into Cesar Chavez to Union Station. Uses the current Gold Line Eastside tracks and stations to Pomona/Atlantic. South down Atlantic to the Whittier Blvd terminus (el).
-Miles of Track: 29
-Total Number of Lime Line Stations: 39
-Junctions: Silver (11), Red (5), Aqua (3), Purple (2), Pink (2), Blue (2), Bronze, Green
-Cost: $3.9-4.5 billion

The light rail line head south from the Chatsworth Metrolink station down the Metrolink ROW to Nordhoff/Corbin (grade). East down Nordhoff to Reseda (grade or el). South down Reseda to Sherman Way. East down Sherman Way to the Metrolink ROW (grade, el or trench). Southeast down the Metrolink ROW to the 134 freeway (grade). East above the 134 freeway to Brand (el). South down Brand to Los Feliz (grade, el or trench). Southwest down Los Feliz to Vermont (grade or trench). South down Vermont to Sunset (subway). Southeast down Sunset to Union Station (subway). South from Union Station to 1st/Alameda. West down Alameda to San Pedro (subway). South down San Pedro to 9th Street (el or subway). Southeast down 9th Street to Olympic/Soto (el or subway). North up Soto to Whittier (subway). Southeast down Whittier to Atlantic (subway), continuing to Painter (el).
-Miles of Track: 50.6
-Total Number of Silver Line Stations: 45+
-Junctions: Lime (11), Gold (2+), Red (3), Blue (2), Aqua (2), Purple, Bronze
-Cost: $3.7-6.2 billion

Several final things:

1) All local stations should be constructed with at least one, possibly, two pass-through tracks for future express service.
2) Light rail lines should continue to be built with possible heavy rail upgrades in mind.
3) Stations that would serve both heavy rail and light rail vehicles should be constructed with a moveable plank to cover the gap for light rail vehicles. Ideally future stations would have two platforms with one side dedicated to light rail and the other to heavy rail.
4) Not included in this package are several other necessary upgrades like tunnels under Union Station and converting stations like Little Tokyo into subways stations, and upgrading the Hollywood Red Line stations with planks. Nor is the cost of additional rail yards, trains or electrifying the Metrolink tracks.
5) I didn't include the Gold Line Foothill Extension in this, because it supposedly will be mostly funded with federal dollars.
6) Let me end by discussing what isn't on this map:
-Atlantic/Lakewood/Paramount/Lakewood Line
-Soto/Huntington Drive spur of the Blue Line
-Western Blvd Line
-Beverly Line
-PCH/Anaheim St extension of the Pink or Bronze Line
-La Cienega/Jefferson and Fairfax/Jefferson lines
-Santa Monica Blvd line
-605 Line
-A line connecting Glendale to Union Station on the eastern part of the river.

I see all of these projects as goals for 2026-2046. Hopefully, I'll still be around and kicking then. I aligned some of the lines with these future lines in mind.

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