Thousands of transit-curious Angelenos will be angling for a free ride on Los Angeles’s newest light rail line when it opens this Sunday. The Gold Line Eastside Extension is a $898 million, eight-station line more than 10 years in the making that will service a corridor from downtown’s Union Station, through Little Tokyo and Boyle Heights and into East L.A., and connect with the existing Gold Line that heads northeast into Pasadena. Fast Company got a preview ride this week (so keep in mind these photos were taken in motion).
The line is electric, powered with overhead catenary wires, and will be operated with Breda trains, which are manufactured in Italy. Trains will run every 7 to 8 minutes at peak times, up to ever 20 minutes at night. Projected ridership is 13,000 people per day, but keep this in mind: The last major line of service that L.A.’s Metro opened in 2005, the Orange Line through the San Fernando Valley, reached 23,000 daily boardings in 2007, a goal it was not expected to reach until 2020.
An s-bridge constructed over the 101 freeway, heading south out of Union Station (that’s Metro’s headquarters in the tall building to the left) was built without ever stopping traffic on the major artery. The Gold Line extension is also the only rail line with continuing service out of Union Station; all other rail lines terminate there.
The Gold Line also had to make another historic crossing, over the Los Angeles River on a 1920s bridge. The bridge had to be widened to accommodate the extra two lanes of traffic the line requires, and all the bridge’s historic elements were temporarily removed.
Although the train runs primarily above ground, traveling along existing right-of-ways left behind from old street car routes, it goes underground to service two stations in Boyle Heights. One of them, Mariachi Plaza, is a historic square named for the many mariachi musicians who work in Los Angeles and live in the nearby “Mariachi Hotel.” The patterns in the canopies here are inspired by the colorful accents on their costumes.
Each station design is unique, but most of the above ground stations follow this canopy formula using tensile teflon fabric and steel frames. Under the lead architects at Barrio Planners, a team of one architect and one artist were chosen for each station and created pieces to reflect the character of the different neighborhoods. Metro offers free art tours of the stations.
Besides the transit geeks sure to be on board Sunday, hard-core foodies will also be coming out in droves since the line carves a path through some of the most authentic Japanese and Mexican dishes in the city. The LA Times already published a comprehensive dining guide to the line. A full day of celebrations are planned for Sunday’s opening, with mariachis leading the first train into East L.A.