LACMTA Expo Line


LACMTA Expo Line

The Metro Expo Line of the Los Angeles County Metro Rail is a light-rail line currently under construction in Los Angeles County, California, USA, which will run from Downtown Los Angeles to Culver City and eventually to Santa Monica. Its route makes use of the former Exposition Boulevard right-of-way, from which its name comes. The Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (Expo) [http://buildexpo.org/] is the project manager and the agency that is constructing the line; however, virtually all of the staff are also employees of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro).

In December 2005 the board of Metro approved the Final Environmental-Impact Report. All funds to construct the line have been obtained from local and state sources, obviating the need to wait with other localities for funds from the federal government. Expo broke ground on Friday, September 29, 2006. The line will start operations to the Culver Junction (Venice/Robertson Boulevards) in Culver City by June 2010 or earlier.

History

The line was originally built in 1875, with the name “The Los Angeles & Independence Railroad.” Southern Pacific bought it in 1877 and later leased it to electric-railway companies after it was electrified in 1908. These electric railroads merged under the name of Pacific Electric in 1911. It was known as the “Santa Monica Air Line” [http://www.erha.org/pewal.htm] for most of the history, providing freight and passenger service between Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Pacific Electric discontinued the passenger service on the Santa Monica Air Line in 1953. Southern Pacific continued the freight service, with the last freight service to Fisher Lumber in Santa Monica taking place in 1987 and to the Culver Junction circa 1989. Metro purchased the line from Southern Pacific in 1990 for future public-transit use.

The Expo Line is the second oldest railroad in Southern California, built in 1875 with the name The Los Angeles & Independence Railroad in order to connect the Nevada silver mines to the then existing Port Los Angeles in Santa Monica (later moved to San Pedro). The Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad, which then became the Southern Pacific San Pedro division and now is the Alameda Corridor, was built in 1869.

Donald Douglas was a regular commuter on the Expo Line, then known as the Santa Monica Air Line. He used to fantasize on the Air Line about airlines becoming a reality in the future. Indeed his Douglas Aircraft Company would become one of the major aircraft manufacturers.

Air line literally means a straight line through the air between two points. Therefore, it is used in the railroad industry to indicate a railroad line that directly connects two places without curves or winding routes.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was initially the No. 1 opponent of the Expo Line, claiming that the preferred method of transportation in Los Angeles should be subways, not surface rail, and almost succeeding in preventing the purchase of the Expo Line right-of-way by Metro circa 1990. He later changed his philosophy and opposed subways as being too costly and his Proposition A has prevented the use of local funds for subway construction. He is now a strong supporter of the Expo Line. He had also advocated bus rapid transit (BRT) for the Expo Line and had introduced the Venice/Sepulveda Boulevards street diversion (see below) to be used for the BRT buses. He now acknowledges that this relic from early busway considerations might not be a good idea, saying that the diversion would slow down the line while the speed being crucial for these lines.

The Friends 4 Expo Transit [http://friends4expo.org/] (and its predecessors), the grassroots group that has advocated the Expo Line since the late 1980s, played a big role in the acquisition of the Expo Line right-of-way by Metro and prevented the Expo Line being built as a busway (bus rapid transit) and succeeded in having it built as light-rail.

Name

Currently this is the only LACMTA Metro Rail line that is known by a name independent of its color on maps. Friends 4 Expo [http://friends4expo.org] , the grassroots organization that has strongly advocated the line since the late 1980s, originally used the name "Expo Line" however later campaigned for the name "Aqua Line." This name was recommended by the Metro staff to the Metro board [http://metro.net/board/Items/2006/08_August/20060824RBMItem37.pdf] . The name Aqua Line was also used by a guerilla-artists group called Heavy Trash which posted prank "Metro Aqua Line" future-station-location signs throughout the Westside during the 2000 Democratic National Convention, to stir up NIMBYs and to provoke civic dialogue [http://heavytrash.blogspot.com/2005/04/aqua-line.html] .

On May 4, 2006, a community meeting by Metro was held at Dorsey High School in Mid-City. In this meeting a color for the line was discussed in public. Metro board member and city council member Bernard Parks, whose district is served by the line, was actively involved in the discussion of line color with several hundred attendees. He later opposed the adoption of aqua as the color for this line as he felt aqua identified more with beach communities on the western end of the line than it does with inland communities on the eastern end of the alignment. [http://metro.net/board/Items/2006/08_August/20060824MOTIONItem36.pdf] .

On August 24, 2006, Metro board members debated for over an hour as to the color of the line. Council Member Parks introduced a motion that the line be officially known as the Expo Line and designated on maps with the color "rose." The board passed a modified motion, which named the line "Metro Expo Line" but deferred the color issue to sometime after more public input is sought and before the line goes into service.

Route

The route is the locally preferred alternative (LPA) officially adopted as part of the approval of the Final Environmental-Impact Report in December 2005. The Expo Line (also known as the "Mid-City/Exposition Light-Rail Transit Project") will begin at 7th/Flower Streets (Metro Center) and then travel south on Flower St. South of the Pico station, it will branch off from the Blue Line, continuing on Flower St to Exposition Blvd. The rest of its route is exclusively on the Exposition right-of-way. The line will end just short of the Culver Junction (the intersection of Venice, Robertson, and Exposition Boulevards, within short walking distance to Downtown Culver City). A second phase of the line will continue from Culver City to Santa Monica, mostly on the original Pacific Electric Exposition Blvd right-of-way.

tations

"Notes:"
* indicates that parking is planned.
† These are estimates for the near-optimal trip times, based on 50 MPH cruising speed, 3 MPH/s service acceleration/deceleration, 45 s wait at each intermediate station, and signal priority. The actual trip times may vary due to miscellaneous factors. The estimates by the construction authority are substantially higher to avoid future criticism.

USC/Exposition Park Station

The attitude of the high-level administration of the University of Southern California (USC) toward the Expo Line has been generally negative, while the attitude of students and neighbors has been positive. Originally USC opposed at-grade light-rail next to its campus, claiming that light-rail would separate the university campus from Exposition Park. But the locally preferred alternative in the final environmental-impact report only contended with a short tunnel segment at the junction of Flower St and Exposition Blvd. The final environmental-impact report left the USC/Exposition Park Station as an option, citing that it would be built if funds (approximately $5M) could be obtained and local support is present. Many acknowledged the importance of this station, citing its convenient accessibility by the USC students/employees and Exposition Park guests. Moreover the station would be crucial for a future NFL venue in place of the current Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, as well as for future Olympic Games. The Exposition Park/Coliseum authority has taken a strong position in support of this station. Recently the USC Student Senate [http://senate.usc.edu/] has passed a . On the other hand, USC President Steven Sample [http://www.usc.edu/president/] remained the sole opposer. Expo (Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority) worked to secure the funds for this important station and to negotiate its design. A remaining issue that the construction authority needed to resolve was USC’s request for special architecture for all stations serving the campus.

On September 19, 2007, the board of Metro approved the funds ($7M) for the USC/Exposition Park Station [http://metro.net/board/Agendas/2007/09_september/20070919AP&P.pdf] . Therefore, this station will open with the rest of the line in 2010 or earlier. USC has not made any contributions to the cost of the station. Expo has also abandoned the considerations for special architecture requested by USC for the three USC stations and ceased the communications with USC in this regard.

Phase 2 expansion

The expansion to Santa Monica for the Expo line is known as Phase 2 or the Westside segment. Phase 1 (or the Mid-City segment) to the Culver Junction (Venice/Robertson Boulevards) in Culver City is planned to begin operations in 2009–2010 and Phase 2 in 2013–2015.

Route options for Phase 2

The alignment between the Home Junction (Exposition/Sepulveda Boulevards) in the Westside and the intersection of Olympic Blvd and the Exposition right-of-way in Santa Monica is generally agreed on to follow the original Pacific Electric right-of-way along Exposition Blvd. However, between the current terminus at the Culver Junction in Culver City and the Home Junction in the Westside, the Expo Line could follow either of two alignment options, and to the west of Olympic Blvd/Exposition right-of-way in Santa Monica, there are three possible alignment options. See also the alternatives map by the construction authority [http://buildexpo.org/images/Expo%20Phase%202%20Alternatives%20Map.pdf] .

Culver Junction (Venice/Robertson) to Home Junction (Sepulveda/Exposition)

The first option would be to use the original Pacific Electric right-of-way between the Culver Junction (Venice/Robertson) and the Home Junction (Sepulveda/Exposition) through northern Palms and Rancho Park. The second alignment option would divert the line from the right-of-way into the median of Venice Blvd, which separates Palms from Culver City, then turn north on Sepulveda Blvd, before rejoining the original Pacific Electric right-of-way, just south of Pico Blvd/Sepulveda Blvd at the Home Junction.

Right-of-way alignment

Route

The right-of-way alignment passes through the densely populated Palms, and then passes through Rancho Park, just south of the highly populated area of the Pico Blvd vicinity. Part of this alignment is in a quiet, affluent suburban neighborhood, where the right-of-way borders Cheviot Hills and then goes through Rancho Park.

The Palms/Rancho Park right-of-way alignment is shorter and also allows higher speeds without impeding the street traffic since the exclusive railroad right-of-way already exists. There are three crossings in this alignment that already have grade separation, i.e., an underpass or overpass:

National Blvd and Motor Ave: Existing railroad bridges will be rebuilt to accommodate dual tracks and the bicycle/pedestrian paths.

I-10 (Santa Monica Freeway) underpass: Currently this is a narrow tunnel under a short freeway bridge, called Palms Overhead. The existing tunnel, designed for a single track, is only 25-ft-wide, which is probably not wide enough to allow dual tracks. To ensure safety, such as of any pedestrians who could wander into the tunnel, in emergency situations, etc., the tunnel will likely have to be widened. Moreover, it is necessary to widen the tunnel to about 60 ft to accommodate the bicycle/pedestrian paths next to the tracks. The bicycle/pedestrian paths would also help discourage graffiti around the tunnel and help reduce the noise echoed out of the tunnel. The tunnel could be gradually widened from one or both ends toward the opposite end, without affecting the traffic on the Santa Monica Freeway above.

The remaining crossings are:

Bagley Ave: would likely have the Venice Blvd/Robertson Blvd overpass extended over,

Overland Ave: grade separation likely necessary since a major north–south arterial,

Westwood Blvd and Military Ave: grade separation optional, Military Ave crossing could be eliminated,

Sepulveda Blvd: grade separation likely necessary since a major north–south arterial.

ome design suggestions by right-of-way neighbors

A possible design for the Expo Line would be the continuation of a grade-separated transit parkway (see the adjacent picture). Between the freeway underpass and Overland Ave, the line goes in a natural soil trench, next to Northvale Rd (formerly, Exposition Blvd), surrounded by dense trees and plants. In this design the dual tracks sit in the middle of the 100-ft-wide right-of-way, separated by fences. On either side of the right-of-way, there is a paved two-way bicycle/pedestrian path. The parkway sits in a natural soil-lined trench, with its slopes covered with trees and plants. There are no concrete retaining walls, which could be considered as not being aesthetic. The grade-separated transit parkway design also avoids the use of visually displeasing overpasses.

Note that there is an approximately twelve-feet-deep, twelve-feet-wide storm drain under the western sidewalk of Overland Ave where the Expo Line crosses. In order to build an underpass at this intersection, the “inverted siphon” (also called depressed sewer) method could be used to pass the storm drain under the light-rail line [http://www.lmnoeng.com/Channels/InvertedSiphon.htm] . It has also been suggested to divert this and another storm drain nearby (both feeding into the partly open Westwood Channel further downstream) to along the north side of the right-of-way between Overland and Military Avenues and then to daylight it as a creek. The water would be cleaned along the way, therefore reducing the pollution runoff into the ocean. This method could be used in conjunction with the inverted siphon, the latter serving as a backup during heavy storms. Note that recently there is a lot of activity with regard to daylighting the lost streams in Los Angeles, in order to reduce the contaminant runoff into the Santa Monica Bay. (See Save all of Ballona [http://restore-ballona.blogspot.com/2006/08/river-restoration-is-least-expensive.html] , City of Los Angeles Integrated Resources Program [http://www.lacity-irp.org/] , and the LA Weekly article “The lost streams of Los Angeles” [http://laweekly.com/general/features/the-lost-streams-of-los-angeles/14973/] .) This water-cleaning program is mandated by the federal Clean Water Act.

tations

There are two possible stations along this alignment. The first one would be between Motor Ave and Palms/National/Exposition Boulevards, perhaps behind the currently existing PRICE self-storage facility [http://priceselfstorage.com] , which would serve the extremely densely populated Palms. The second one would be between Westwood Blvd and Overland Ave midway between the two streets, which would serve the densely populated Pico Blvd vicinity and the extremely congested Century City and Westwood. The Palms station would require acquisition of several parcels within the station area to create adequate space for the station, as well as to provide convenient access and parking accommodations. The Pico Blvd vicinity/Century City/Westwood station area between Westwood Blvd and Overland Ave is already available within the 200-ft-wide right-of-way. This station would need to be carefully designed so that it would blend with its suburban surroundings. The parking structures and lots in the nearby Westside Pavilion shopping mall [http://www.westsidepavilion.com/] are currently lightly used and could serve as a park-and-ride opportunity for this station.

The figure on the right shows the location of historic Pacific Electric Railroad Palms Depot (Palms Station) [http://www.cheviothills.org/history.htm] in a 1951-parcel-map overlay, as well as the possible future Metro Expo Line Palms Station location (aqua rectangle).

Alternatives for grade separation

A key question for the right-of-way alignment is whether the tracks would go at-grade as they have in some other sections of the line or if they would be above-grade (raised) or below-grade (underground or in a sunken ditch). Issues of cost, noise, safety, and traffic congestion are related to the choice to do grade separation or not.

Metro issued a grade-crossing policy for light-rail [http://www.mta.net/about_us/library/Grade%20Crossing%20for%20Light%20Rail%20Transit.pdf] in 2003. This policy only considers grade-separation issues at specific crossings rather than for entire neighborhoods. The policy defines how to decide which rail crossings would be at-grade (traffic flow controlled by signals and/or gates) and which would have grade separation (an underpass or overpass). Grade separation ensures safety and speed and eliminates the use of horns or bells and possible traffic backup. On the other hand, each grade separation can cost $10 million or more per crossing.

While Metro has built tracks at-grade in other residential neighborhoods, this decision has created controversy. An LA Times article by Douglas P. Shut dated 2/22/2000 [http://www.mtwashington.org/projects/blue-line/latimes-boost-crossing-safety.htm] featured an interview with Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, County Supervisor and head of Metro, in which she expressed anxiety about crossing the Blue Line tracks. Among the concerns was the accident rate (as of 2000 there had been 53 deaths attributed to the Blue Line). Metro explored a proposal to rebuild the Blue Line to put it below grade. The cost for such a project once the rail line has been built was estimated at $1.6 billion—much too high to make it feasible. “… the best chance of paying for grade separations comes during construction; because once a system is built, the costs become prohibitive.” [http://www.mtwashington.org/projects/blue-line/latimes-boost-crossing-safety.htm]

There are key differences between the Metro Blue Line and the Expo Line. The former was built two decades ago with much different standards and long before the 2003 Metro grade-crossing policy for light-rail. The Gold Line, which opened in 2003, provides a more recent comparison. Since it has started operations, the Gold Line has only had two, nonfatal injury accidents, both caused by gross negligence and reckless behavior by a light-truck driver [http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-gold22sep22,1,77350.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california] [http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-train12sep12,1,2548197.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california] , and it maintains a higher average speed on its full route than the Blue Line. But proximity to housing and the many at-grade street crossings led to the state Public Utilities Commission restricted the speed of Gold Line trains in parts of South Pasadena and Highland Park (LA Times article dated 8/11/2007 By Rong-Gong Lin II and Jeffrey L. Rabin [http://www.latimes.com/news/local/wheel/la-me-expoline11aug11,1,4185483,full.story?ctrack=2&cset=true] ). The Expo Line is being built by the same CEO, Rick Thorpe, and project manager, Joel Sandberg, who built the Gold Line. Metro has also established a program of [http://www.mta.net/news_info/archives/2003/04_April/mta_054.htm rail safety education] .

Explicit rail crossings for the right-of-way segment

Metro has currently committed for grade separation (an underpass or overpass) at the following crossings in this segment: Venice Blvd, Palms/National Boulevards, Motor Ave, Santa Monica Freeway, and Sepulveda Blvd. As noted above three of the five grade separations currently exist and need to be modernized; Palms/National, Motor and Santa Monica Freeway. The four remaining crossings are discussed below:

Bagley Avenue: Since the tracks are next to a freeway overpass at this crossing, there is zero visibility coming from the freeway side of Bagley Avenue. In addition the crossing is in between two overpass inclines (National and Venice/Robertson) where the train would have little room to slow down or stop for an oncoming vehicle stuck in the gates. Therefore, this crossing seems to meet the criteria in the Metro grade-crossing policy for light-rail [http://www.mta.net/about_us/library/Grade%20Crossing%20for%20Light%20Rail%20Transit.pdf] .

Overland Avenue: Metro staff has indicated that there would very likely be grade separation at Overland Ave; although, they have declined to commit to this before they have done the draft environmental study. Current traffic volume on Overland Ave, which is a major arterial connecting the surrounding area of the Westside to the Santa Monica Freeway, exceeds the criteria in the Metro grade-crossing policy for light-rail [http://www.mta.net/about_us/library/Grade%20Crossing%20for%20Light%20Rail%20Transit.pdf] . Moreover, the map at the construction authority Web site currently indicates grade separation at Overland Ave with a blue cross [http://buildexpo.org/images/Expo%20Phase%202%20Alternatives%20Map.pdf] .

Westwood Boulevard: Westwood Boulevard is also a major arterial helping Westwood, Century City, and Rancho Park connect to the Santa Monica Freeway. Given the traffic congestion in the Westside, grade separation at this crossing is highly desirable.

Military Avenue: The volume of traffic on this section of Military Avenue is extremely low. It had originally been closed at the right-of-way but was opened to traffic in more recent decades. If grade separation is not possible at Military Avenue, an option would be to eliminate this crossing.

There are no other crossings in this section of the right-of-way.

upport by the board of the Palms Neighborhood Council

The right-of-way alignment passes through a large section of the very densely populated Palms [http://palms-california.us/Maps.html] . On March 7, 2007, the general assembly of the Palms Neighborhood Council [http://palms-california.us/] passed a motion supporting the routing of Phase 2 of the Expo Line along the Exposition right-of-way. On April 4, 2007, another motion passed, stating, "We request the project to study locating a station in Palms behind the current location of the PRICE self-storage facility [http://priceselfstorage.com/] on National Blvd between Palms Blvd and Motor Ave. This location would serve Big Blue Bus No. 12 and Culver CityBus No. 3 [http://palmsvillagesun.info/Front0703.html] ."

upport by the board of the South Robertson Neighborhood Council

The Exposition right-of-way route borders densely populated South Robertson from the south [http://www.soronc.org/soronew/files/soromap.pdf] . On July 11, 2007, the South Robertson Neighborhood Council [http://soronc.org/] passed a motion supporting the routing of Phase 2 of the Expo Line along the Exposition right-of-way.

upport by the board of the Mar Vista Neighborhood Council

On June 8, 2004, the Mar Vista Neighborhood Council supporting the Expo Line built on the existing Pacific Electric Exposition railroad right-of-way. The Mar Vista Neighborhood Council on October 3, 2007, supporting the permanent elevated Venice/Robertson Boulevards Station instead of the interim Washington/National Boulevards (Wesley St) station. A similar motion was also passed by the Del Rey Neighborhood Council. On November 29, 2007, the Metro board ruled in favor of building the permanent Venice/Robertson Station instead of the temporary Washington/National Station [http://metro.net/board/Agendas/2007/11_november/20071129ARBM.pdf] [http://buildexpo.org/images/PRESENTATIONS%2012.06.07%20Expo%20CA%20Board.pdf] . The right-of-way route passes the edge of Mar Vista, while the Venice/Sepulveda route cuts directly through it.

Opposition by the board of the Cheviot Hills Homeowners' Association

Even though the Expo Line does not actually go through but only borders Cheviot Hills, which is a quiet, affluent neighborhood with an older median age, there has been a great deal of opposition by its residents ever since the early ideas of using the Expo Line for public transit.

During the initial-planning phase of Metro Rail in the 1980s, when Metro planners had advocated the Expo Line, lobbying by the Cheviot Hills Homeowners’ Association [http://cheviothills.org/] ultimately forced the abandonment of the Expo Line until its late-1990s revival. Recently there is a group of residents in Cheviot Hills and Rancho Park supporting the Exposition line going by their neighborhood [http://lightrailforcheviot.org/] . showed that now about a third of the Cheviot Hills residents preferred the Expo Line going by their neighborhood—a huge increase from less than 5% support in the past. Despite the increasing popularity of the line, the Cheviot Hills Homeowners’ Association recently chose to oppose the Expo Line [http://cheviothills.org/Against%20Expo.htm] , in sharp contrast with the increasing support trend among the Cheviot Hills residents [http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-me-expo17mar17,0,6081387.story?coll=la-home-headlines] . In fact, to make the vote on the Expo Line seem unanimous, the homeowners’-board members in support of the line were discouraged to use their votes [http://lightrailforcheviot.org/coppermine/displayimage.php?pid=99&fullsize=1] .

Most Cheviot Hills residents who are against the Expo Line are primarily worried about their property values and not being able to preserve their neighborhood as the way it is, once the light-rail is built [http://cheviothills.org/CHHA%20Final%20Scoping%20Document.htm] . They are worried about the possibility of increased high-density development in the vicinity of Cheviot Hills fueled by light-rail. There was a strong reaction from the public when a former president of the homeowners’ association was quoted saying [http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-me-expo17mar17,0,6081387.story?coll=la-home-headlines] [http://www.kcet.org/lifeandtimes/blog/index.php?p=166&kcet_speed=hi&kcet_play=1] , "Do you think the people who live in Cheviot Hills are going to take this bloody train. No, they are going to get in their cars. The people who are going to use this are the people who work in the hotels in Santa Monica, and they are going to come from the Hispanic areas nearer downtown. Now they take the bus."

Another argument brought forward by some Cheviot Hills residents pertains to the potential impacts on Overland Avenue Elementary School [http://overlandschool.org/] , located at the northeast corner of Exposition Blvd and Overland Ave. Concerns are raised about grade crossing at Overland Ave and noise. The currently planned grade separation at Overland Ave would address these concerns due to the heavy traffic coming and going to the 10 freeway Overland Avenue entrance/exit.

Nevertheless, since the line already goes through similar residential sections in East Culver City and Mid-City, any preferential treatment for Cheviot Hills would have severe implications of social and racial discrimination. For this reason it is highly unlikely that the position of the Cheviot Hills Homeowners' Association board would have any effect on the determination of the route for the Expo Line. (See, e.g., the links [http://www.lawyerscommittee.org/2005website/projects/environmentaljustice/environmental.html] and [http://www.ejhu.org/justice.html] for information regarding the environmental justice law.) Meanwhile, the strong opposition of the Cheviot Hills Homeowners' Association board to the Expo Line was strongly criticized by the Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez in his recent article "Something’s wrong with unused right-of-way" [http://www.latimes.com/news/columnists/la-me-lopez28jan28,1,4372719.column?coll=la-news-columns] .

Venice/Sepulveda Boulevards diversion

Route

While the Venice/Sepulveda Boulevards diversion would pass through a commercial corridor, the high volume of traffic carried by Venice Blvd would most likely necessitate the elevation of the line along the entire Robertson–Sepulveda segment, due to the need for no less than four grade separations (Venice Blvd, Motor Ave, Overland Ave, and Sepulveda Blvd). The Sepulveda Blvd would be especially problematic, where the traffic is stop-and-go at rush hour and the street is only 100-ft-wide (two lanes in each direction). The combination of the LRT and automobile traffic on Sepulveda Blvd could slow down the line tremendously. The Metro Gold Line suffers from similar speed problems due to its street-running segments in Highland Park. In the case of the Exposition line, the speed problem would be severe, considering the extremely congested traffic on Sepulveda Blvd, grade separations will have to be considered on this detour.

Some residents living near the right-of-way in Cheviot Hills and Rancho Park, in particular some board members of the Cheviot Hills Homeowners’ Association and Westside Neighborhood Council [http://wncla.org/] , made the claim that the Venice/Sepulveda Boulevards diversion serves a significantly more populated area than the right-of-way alignment, therefore, should be favored for the Expo Line [http://cheviothills.org/Against%20Expo.htm] . However, the most populated area in this region is Palms, which is served by either alignment option. The right-of-way alignment serves Palms from the north through the Motor Ave–Palms/National/Exposition Boulevards station; whereas, the Venice/Sepulveda diversion serves Palms from the south through the Overland Ave/Venice Blvd station (see the adjacent map). The same holds true for Westside Village, which is served by either alignment option. The Venice/Sepulveda Boulevards diversion option does serve Culver City better, but the densely populated areas of the Pico Blvd vicinity, Century City, and Westwood are served much better by the right-of-way alignment through the Westwood Blvd–Overland Ave/Exposition Blvd station (see, again, the map). Moreover, the section of the original Pacific Electric railroad right-of-way between the Culver Junction (Exposition/Venice Boulevards) and the Home Junction (Exposition/Sepulveda Boulevards) has a long history of past use and future modernization plans [http://metro.net/about_us/library/mrtpcm.htm] .

A group called Neighbors for Smart Rail (see below) have recently suggested to continue the line along Venice Blvd to Venice instead and then along Lincoln Blvd to Santa Monica [http://neighborsforsmartrail.org/] . However, one of the primary destinations of the Expo Line is West Los Angeles, which will be served through Bundy/Exposition and Pico–Sawtelle/Exposition stations. Since a full Venice Line would entirely divert around West Los Angeles, it is not considered within the general scope of the Expo Line project (see Page 8 in [http://metro.net/projects_programs/exposition/pdf/2005_feis/Executive%20Summary.pdf] ). Nevertheless, such a future Venice Line serving Culver City, Mar Vista, Marina del Rey, and Venice would be very popular (seep Page 7 in [http://buildexpo.org/images/Expo%20Phase%202%20Scoping%20Report.pdf] ) in addition to the Expo Line serving West Los Angeles through the Exposition right-of-way.

tations

The three possible stations along this alignment are Overland Ave/Venice Blvd, Sepulveda Blvd/Venice Blvd, and National Blvd/Sepulveda Blvd.

upport by Neighbors for Smart Rail

The group Neighbors for Smart Rail was formed by some Westside residents in the Rancho Park area, who prefer the Venice/Sepulveda Boulevards alignment, which detours Palms/Rancho Park, over the right-of-way alignment that goes through their Rancho Park neighborhood. Neighbors for Smart Rail describe their official position as follows: "Neighbors for Smart Rail (NFSR) [http://smartrail.org/] is an organization of neighborhoods and residents of Los Angeles advocating for long-term transit planning vs. short-term transit planning focused on cost savings and ease. NFSR advocates for careful analysis of all options for Expo Line Phase 2, including both the right-of-way alignment and the Venice/Sepulveda alignment. NFSR is supported by the following neighborhood associations affected by the proposed Expo Phase 2 extension: Westwood Gardens Civic Association [http://www.westwoodgardens.net/] , West of Westwood Homeowners' Association, and Track 7260, in addition to the Cheviot Hills Homeowners' Association." Note that NFSR’s support for careful analysis of all possible routes for the Expo extension is similar to the position of Friends 4 Expo Transit [http://friends4expo.org] , but it is different in the way that Friends 4 Expo Transit doesn’t support any alternatives other than the right-of-way and Venice/Sepulveda alignments.

Most members of Neighbors for Smart Rail are strong opponents of the right-of-way alignment. See the recent LA Times article "Cheviot Hills residents differ on light-rail" [http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-me-expo17mar17,0,6081387.story?coll=la-home-headlines] as well as the PBS Life & Times feature on the Expo Line "Derailing light-rail?" [http://www.kcet.org/lifeandtimes/blog/index.php?p=166&kcet_speed=hi&kcet_play=1] .

Home Junction (Sepulveda/Exposition) to Olympic Blvd/Exposition right-of-way

Between the Home Junction(Sepulveda/Exposition) in the Westside and the intersection of Olympic Blvd and the Exposition right-of-way in Santa Monica (near the Watergarden and Bergamot Station), the Pacific Electric Exposition right-of-way will be used.

tations

Possible stations along the Exposition right-of-way include Pico–Sawtelle/Exposition Boulevards, Bundy Dr/Exposition Blvd, and Cloverfield/Olympic Boulevards. The Pico-Sawtelle and Bundy Drive stops based on previous studies will be grade separated due to the severe congestion due to their locations to nearby freeway on/off ramps.

Olympic Blvd/Exposition right-of-way to the Downtown Santa Monica terminus

The Exposition right-of-way purchased by Metro ends at 17th St in Santa Monica. The possible alignment options to the Downtown Santa Monica terminus are described below:

Colorado Ave median or right-of-way repurchase between 14th St and the Downtown Santa Monica terminus

Southern Pacific sold the Pacific Electric Exposition right-of-way west of Fisher Lumber on 14th St to various entities in the 1960s. Fisher Lumber was recently purchased by City of Santa Monica for redevelopment [http://www.surfsantamonica.com/ssm_site/the_lookout/news/News-2005/Feb-2005/02_04_05_Fisher_Boards_Up.htm] . Therefore, the right-of-way effectively has been extended from 17th St to 14th St; although, there is a single building just west of 17th St.

On October 25, 2007, at the Santa Monica Industrial Lands Workshop [http://shapethefuture2025.net/] , City of Santa Monica suggested to acquire the single building, a media business, just west of 17th St and use the existing right-of-way to 14th St. In this alignment the line would be built on the Pacific Electric Exposition right-of-way until 14th St and a station would be placed just east of 14th St. Then, the tracks would divert into the median of Colorado Ave and reach the Downtown Santa Monica terminus at 4th–5th Streets following the median.

This option requires reducing the traffic lanes on Colorado Ave to one lane in each direction to the west of 14th St. City of Santa Monica has given the Expo Authority $300,000 to carry out a study for this alignment. Moreover, City of Santa Monica is also considering turning the area between 17th St and 14th St into green space and transit-oriented development by enlarging Memorial Park and incorporating a new, mixed-use development.

The distance from 14th St to the Downtown Santa Monica terminus at 4th–5th Streets/Colorado Avenue is only 0.75 mile and there are only about half a dozen privately owned buildings in between. The acquisition of these buildings could easily be achieved, and the right-of-way could easily be extended to the Downtown Santa Monica terminus [http://buildexpo.org/images/Expo%20Phase%202%20Scoping%20Report.pdf] . This alignment option is desirable and would have much less impact on the automobile traffic, since the two lanes in each direction on Colorado Ave would be kept, and be faster but could be somewhat costlier than using the median of Colorado Ave or the Olympic Blvd option below.

ubway construction between 14th St and the Downtown Santa Monica terminus

Since the distance between 14th St and the Downtown Santa Monica terminus at 4th–5th Streets/Colorado Avenue is only 0.75 mile, a subway section here could also be reasonable, as proposed by some transit advocates [http://boards.eesite.com/board.cgi?boardset=ExpoLine&boardid=ExpoLine&thread=28&spec=6133771] , but it would increase the overall cost of the line.

Olympic Blvd alignment

The original alignment option by Metro was to run the Exposition light-rail line on Olympic Blvd west of the intersection of Olympic Blvd and the Exposition right-of-way [http://buildexpo.org/images/Phase%202%20Handout.pdf] . A concern for this alignment option is the necessity to preserve the historic trees in the median of Olympic Blvd. A disadvantage of this alignment option is that it would require removal of one lane in each direction on Olympic Blvd. The narrowness of Olympic Blvd may not allow such a removal. Another disadvantage of this alignment option is the necessity to build a long guideway over Lincoln Blvd and the freeway, which would be costly and have visual impacts.

tations

In any of the three alignment options, a station near 14th St would be needed for better connectivity to various parts of Santa Monica, as well as to Santa Monica College. The proposed location for the Downtown Santa Monica terminus is just south of Colorado Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets.

On June 13, 2006, the Santa Monica City Council authorized the acquisition of land at the property of the Sears store at the southeast corner of 4th St/Colorado Ave for the Downtown Santa Monica terminus of the Expo Line. Transit-oriented development is also envisioned around this station [http://santa-monica.org/cityclerk/council/wrapup/2006/20060613.htm] .

The process of the environmental-impact study for Phase 2 began with a brand-new draft environmental-impact study in November 2006, with Metro's award for the contract for the study.

Current status

See the construction-authority Web site for the most recent news [http://buildexpo.org/] . The [http://buildexpo.org/images/agendas/2008%20Expo%20Executive%20Board%20Agendas-Presentations/4_September/Expo%20CA%20Board%209-4-08.pdf latest monthly project-status update] gives a comprehensive account of the current status.

Phase 1 status

The initial Expo construction started near USC on May 14, 2007, with utility relocation [http://www.usc.edu/uscnews/stories/13764.html] . Heavy construction started on July 17, 2007, to build the Flower St/Exposition Blvd trench between Jefferson Blvd/Flower St and Pardee Way/Exposition Blvd.

Expo has started laying tracks as of June 28, 2008. (See the adjacent picture.)

The most complicated structure for the Expo Line, the Flower St/Exposition Blvd trench and tunnel, is immediately below the surface, with a depth of about 30 ft. Initially two shallow parallel trenches were dug, for the adjacently placed columns that formed the walls of the trench. Then approximately 3-ft-diameter holes were drilled in the trenches, and reinforced-concrete columns were cast in these holes, forming adjacently placed cast-in-drilled hole (CIDH) piles. Narrow and long strips of concrete crowns were cast over the adjacently placed piles. Once this process was completed, large precast reinforced-concrete girders were brought and placed across the piles. Wherever there is a street over the trench, the girders were adjacently placed and a concrete deck was cast over the girders and then pavement was poured over the concrete deck. Note that the steel cages and precast concrete girders were prepared at a makeshift casting yard in the right-of-way near Jefferson and La Cienega Boulevards. The next step is to excavate the earth under the girders, and then the tracks will be laid and the catenary wires will be hung. The construction for the CIDH piles took place at night and steel plates covered the trenches during the day, with minimal impact on traffic. The trench will be completed in late 2008 or early 2009.

On November 29, 2007, the Metro board ruled in favor of building the permanent Venice/Robertson Boulevards Station instead of the interim Washington/National Boulevards Station [http://metro.net/board/Agendas/2007/11_november/20071129ARBM.pdf] [http://buildexpo.org/images/PRESENTATIONS%2012.06.07%20Expo%20CA%20Board.pdf] . Funds are still to be identified.

On December 20, 2007, all Phase 1 railroad crossings were approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) except for the Farmdale Ave at-grade street and pedestrian crossing near the Dorsey High School and the Harvard Blvd below-grade pedestrian crossing for the [http://foshaylc.org/ Foshay Middle School] [http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/published/agenda/docs/3205_results.htm] . The remaining two crossings will be decided in the summer or fall of 2008.

On February 7, 2008, the board of the Expo Construction Authority unanimously voted to do an environmental-assessment study on all possible crossing alternatives, including but not limited to at-grade, above-grade, below-grade, pedestrian bridge, pedestrian underpass, street closure, or some combination, at Farmdale Ave [http://lacitybeat.com/cms/story/detail/derailing_l_a/6704/] . The study may take up to six months.

On February 13, 2008, the Expo Construction Authority requested CPUC to proceed with application process for the original Farmdale Ave gated at-grade-crossing design, in tandem with the environmental-assessment study by the authority for other alternatives.

With the CPUC approval of the Phase 1 railroad crossings, the construction in Mid-City has finally started with utility and tree relocation.

The project has now been delayed for at least fourteen months, due to the slowness of the design process, as well as unforeseen construction problems. The increase in cost so far has also been significant and the Expo construction authority is considering finding another contractor to build the rest of the line.

The construction of the La Brea and La Cienega railroad bridges is also getting started [http://buildexpo.org/images/agendas/2008%20Expo%20Executive%20Board%20Agendas-Presentations/5_June/Combine%206%20b.pdf] [http://buildexpo.org/images/agendas/2008%20Expo%20Executive%20Board%20Agendas-Presentations/3_July/6%20A%20-%20Combined.pdf] .

The original unofficial goal set by Expo was to open the line to service on February 10, 2010. The original official goal was June 2010 or earlier.

Phase 2 status

The Expo construction authority [http://buildexpo.org/] held an additional public meeting, this time in order to announce the final staff recommendations and gather public input for at-grade operation or grade separation at the remaining crossings on the Exposition right-of-way at Overland Ave, Westwood Blvd, Barrington Ave, and Centinela Ave, as well as on Sepulveda Blvd at Charnock Rd and Exposition Blvd for the diversion option [http://buildexpo.org/phase2/Expo%20Phase%202%20Meeting%20Notice%20GRADE%20CROSSINGS.pdf] . The meeting was held at 6:30–8:30 PM on Monday, June 9, 2008, at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services at 3200 Motor Ave in Cheviot Hills.

The Expo construction authority held the third and last round of public meetings, this time providing information and asking for public input on the proposed grade crossings, station and parking locations, bike routes, and more [http://buildexpo.org/images/Expo%20Phase%202%20Meeting%20Notice%20COMMUNITY%20WORKSHOPS.pdf] . The schedule for these three identical open-house-style community workshops was as follows: Wednesday, March 26, 2008, Webster Middle School at 11330 Graham Pl in Mar Vista, Tuesday, April 1, Crossroads School at 1714 21st St in Santa Monica, and Thursday, April 3, Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services at 3200 Motor Ave in Cheviot Hills.

The Expo construction authority held the second round of three public informational meetings in Fall 2007. These meetings were used to announce the results of the alternatives analysis, namely the selection of alternatives for further environmental study. The table below summarizes the presentation of the initial Phase 2 study [http://buildexpo.org/images/Expo%20Phase%202%20Informational%20Meetings%20PRESENTATION.pdf] . The alternatives under consideration have been reduced to four: light-rail (LRT) on the right-of-way alignment and light-rail on the Venice/Sepulveda Boulevards diversion, bus rapid transit [BRT] along the right-of-way, and not building anything. Note that the FTA cost-effectiveness rating in the last column is how the project is ranked by the Federal Transit Administration for qualification for federal funds.

The draft environmental study began with the open-comment period for Phase 2 with four public scoping meetings.

Metro [http://metro.net/] is working with FTA [http://www.fta.dot.gov/] to finish their ridership model for the Phase 2 draft environmental study. This has been delayed several months due to the complexity of the Los Angeles urban structure, public-transit system, and traffic patterns. The ridership model is a crucial part of the study for route and station selection as well as for achieving federal funding. The difficulties associated with the ridership model, traffic counts, etc. have delayed the Phase 2 draft environmental study by six months. The results of the study will now be released in the summer of 2008. This will likely move the expected completion date of Phase 2 to 2014 from 2013.

ummary of the preliminary results of the Expo Phase 2 conceptual engineering and draft environmental study

These results are also summarized in the two meeting presentations [http://buildexpo.org/phase2/03%20-%200408%20Community%20Workshops%20Presentation%20March-April%2008.pdf] and [http://buildexpo.org/phase2/Expo%20Phase%202%20Grade%20Crossing%20Determinations%20PRESENTATION%206.13.08%20REV.pdf] .

Ad hoc grade separations

Since the Expo Line doesn't have the necessary right-of-way to build a true grade-separated line, achieved by land grading of the right-of-way by trenches and embankments, ad hoc grade separations are used where necessary. Such ad hoc grade separations are very costly, typically $40 million per structure, substantially more if a station is on the structure. They have 4%-grade ramps supported by retaining walls at least 700-ft-long in either direction, creating visual pollution. The noise from the trains is also enhanced by elevation and change of the grade near the top and bottom of the ramps. Additionally, such ad hoc grade separations make future alterations on the light-rail line very difficult. Nevertheless, they are necessary if indicated by the 2003 Metro grade-crossing criteria for light-rail [http://metro.net/about_us/library/Grade%20Crossing%20for%20Light%20Rail%20Transit.pdf] , which evaluate traffic impacts, operation efficiency, and safety. Fortunately, since the Expo Line is a former railroad right-of-way, the number of existing at-grade (land-level) crossings is very limited.

According to the results of the ongoing draft environmental-impact study, Phase 2 will be built primarily at-grade, in the same way as Phase 1, with only a few ad hoc grade separations. Below are the details [http://buildexpo.org/phase2/Expo%20Phase%202%20Grade%20Crossing%20Determinations%20PRESENTATION%206.13.08%20REV.pdf] .

Sepulveda Blvd was already decided to be built at-grade, as well as adjacent Military Ave. Overland Ave and Westwood Blvd will also be built at-grade, with the study now having determined that the 100 year flood zone between Overland Ave and Westwood Blvd doesn't prohibit this. In this way the environmental-justice claims about Harvard Blvd/Western Ave and Farmdale Ave versus Overland Ave (Foshay School [http://foshaylc.org/] and Dorsey High School [http://dorseydons.org/] versus Overland Avenue Elementary School [http://overlandschool.org/] ) have automatically been resolved.

Also note that Barrington Ave and Centinela Ave will be built at-grade as well, with the study having determined that there is sufficient land to increase the number of lanes at these crossings in order to decrease the traffic counts.

The proposed ad hoc grade separations are (in addition to the existing true, topological grade separations at the Palms/National Boulevards/I-10 and Motor Ave/I-10 bridges and I-10 tunnel): Pico/Sawtelle Boulevards (both streets together), Bundy Dr, and Cloverfield/Olympic Boulevards (both streets together).

Note that Bagley Ave will be left at-grade.

On the Venice/Sepulveda diversion option, there are numerous ad hoc grade separations required, increasing the cost greatly, already being higher because of the extra mile for the diversion. Given the results of the study that the diversion will also have a lower ridership (primarily due to increased trip time and also lack of connection to Westwood/Century City), it is unlikely to be adopted.

Stations

Palms Station may be built immediately west of the Palms/National bridge, possibly with parking under it. A possibility is to build it slightly further west, behind the storage facility and acquire the storage facility. This would bring the station closer to Motor Ave, as well as being closer to Palms/National, providing a convenient walking distance from both major streets.

Westwood/Century City station is being planned immediately east of Westwood, between Westwood Blvd and Overland Ave. Surface parking in the northern section of the 200-ft-wide right-of-way at this location is also being planned.

The other major station that would connect to Westwood as well as the commercial district in the eastern West Los Angeles is being planned just west of Sepulveda Blvd, in front of the cement factory, which is already sold to be a transit-oriented development site. There will also be parking at this location. Although, the station could also be built at Pico/Sawtelle Boulevards instead, which is very close to the business center immediately to the north. Also, Pico/Sawtelle Boulevards would provide better station spacing.

West Los Angeles station located at Bundy Dr (adjacent to Olympic Blvd) will be elevated with parking.

Bergamot Station, a future transit-oriented development zone, is being planned just east of 26th St.

The optional mid Santa Monica Station is now being planned at 17th St, instead of previously proposed 14th St.

Finally, the Santa Monica Station could be built just east of 2nd St on Colorado Ave, which would close the street in one direction. The other alternative is to build it on the Sears Automotive facility lot east of 4th St in a diagonal manner pointing toward Venice, for a future Green Line connection through Venice/Marina Del Rey/Inglewood.

Land use and maintenance facilities

The construction authority is currently very concerned about land acquisition because the cost of land in the Westside and especially Santa Monica is very high. But land acquisition is crucial in order to build a better line.

Possible locations for the maintenance facilities are the Albertson's shopping area in the Culver Junction, the area north of Pico/Sawtelle Boulevards, or just east of the Bergamot Station (just west of Centinela Ave).

Bicycle and pedestrian path

Bike route has been a problem. It's possible that the existing 25-ft-wide single-track I-10 tunnel will be used for double tracks, which will probably also slow the trains due to the narrowness of the tunnel. Since the bike path can't go through the tunnel, one suggestion is to route it through the restricted-use easement on the northern edge of the freeway, which has plenty of space and is well-situated for a scenic trail. But currently there is no bike bath between Palms/National Boulevards and Overland Ave, a distance of more than a mile. Also, the authority hasn't planned a bike path between Sawtelle Blvd and north of Pico Blvd, another large gap. To circumvent this the bike path could be included on the grade-separation bridge—only a thin deck, such as on the Rosecrans Ave/Aviation Blvd Green Line bridge, is needed, which has very low cost.

Optional stream daylighting

Regarding stream daylighting between Overland and Military, it seems less likely that the existing storm drains will not be modified, but water out of them could be pumped into a decorative creek if possible.

Critics focus on issues of grade separation

Safety and traffic congestion concerns regarding both Phase 1 and Phase 2 have focused on grade-separation issues. Public outcry over the at-grade crossing near Dorsey High School has delayed some decisions on Phase 1 ( [http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-expo21oct21,1,366702.story LA Times article from October 21] ). The large volume of foot traffic after school might make this crossing dangerous even though it does not meet the Metro guidelines for grade separation. A public hearing on November 5 was heavily opposed to the current plan ( [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rChdTbk88H4 video of Fox 11 report] ).

See the February 14, 2008, Los Angeles CityBeat [http://lacitybeat.com/site_images_upload/commons/popup-image/2008/02/13/21/07Popup.gifcover] story, [http://lacitybeat.com/cms/story/detail/derailing_l_a/6704/ "Derailing L.A.,"] for the latest detailed news and information on the controversy surrounding the opposition groups and Dorsey High School issues.

External links

* [http://buildexpo.org/ Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority] —official Web site of the Expo Line
* [http://friends4expo.org/ Friends 4 Expo Transit] —grassroots group in support of the Expo Line and careful analysis of both the right-of-way and Venice/Sepulveda alternatives
* [http://lightrailforcheviot.org/ Light-Rail for Cheviot] —Cheviot Hills homeowners in support of the right-of-way alignment
* [http://expogreenway.org/ Expo Greenway] —park with stream-daylighting concept envisioned for integration with the Expo Line in Rancho Park, advocated for by a neighbor
* [http://smartrail.org/ Neighbors for Smart Rail] —Rancho Park area residents in support of the Venice/Sepulveda Boulevards alignment and careful analysis of all possible alternatives
* [http://expocommunities.com/ Expo Communities United] —opposition group voicing a need for below-grade (subway) alignment in Mid-City
* [http://fixexpo.org/ Citizens' Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line] —opposition group voicing a need for below-grade (subway) alignment in Mid-City


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