LA celebrates grand opening of long-awaited Metro Regional Connector with free rides all weekend

The project is expected to cut commuting time for Metro riders and provide them with a seamless one-seat ride across L.A. County.

Jaysha Patel Image
Friday, June 16, 2023
Metro's long-awaited Regional Connector opens; free rides all weekend
To celebrate the grand opening of Metro's new Regional Connector, you can ride for free all weekend. The three new stations with direct connections are expected to save riders about 20 minutes of commuting time.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The downtown Los Angeles train system got a major facelift Friday with the opening of Metro's Regional Connector, and the transportation agency is offering free rides all weekend to celebrate.

The project, which has taken roughly $1.8 billion and nearly a decade to complete, is expected to shave off a chunk of commuting time for Metro riders and provide them with a seamless one-seat ride.

"We're going to be combining three light rail lines into two light rail lines. What that is going to do is make it easier and more convenient for people to cross L.A. County on Metro rail," said Dave Sotero, MTA spokesman.

The new regional connector consists of three underground stations that will allow riders to travel between Azusa and Long Beach and between East L.A. and Santa Monica without transferring.

The long-awaited upgrade will eliminate the train-hopping previously required of riders who had to disembark inbound E (Expo) and A (Blue) line trains at the Seventh Street/Metro Center Station then board a subway train to reach Union Station, where they could then board an L (Gold) Line train to travel on to East Los Angeles or Azusa.

To make the transfer-free rides possible, three new stations opened Friday -- the Little Tokyo/Arts District Station, Historic Broadway Station, and the Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill Station. Those stations will allow A (Blue) Line and E (Expo) Lines trains to continue beyond their previous terminus at 7th Street/Metro Center Station and through the downtown area to Union Station and beyond.

When Metro's Regional Connector opens June 16, riders will be able to travel from Azusa to Long Beach, East L.A. to Santa Monica all on one train.

With the opening, there will no longer be an L (Gold) Line in the Metro system. That line's stretch from Union Station to Azusa will simply be part of the A (Blue) Line, while the portion from Union Station to East Los Angeles will be added to the E (Expo) Line.

Metro officials, state leaders and others gathered to celebrate the grand opening at a ceremony at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.

As part of the transit agency's celebration, Metro will offer free rides on all trains, buses, Metro Bike and Metro Micro through the weekend. Commuters will be able to take advantage until 3 a.m. Monday.

The history of the Regional Connector dates back to the 1990s when the original L Line was being planned, since the idea was for it to begin at Seventh/Metro and be a continuation of the A Line. At the time, that plan turned out to be infeasible due to funding issues, so the L Line's first segment was instead built from Union Station to Pasadena.

In 2008, the Metro Board of Directors included initial funding for the Regional Connector in the Measure R sales tax ballot measure, which was approved by L.A. County voters. The project was also funded by approximately $1 billion in federal grants and loans, as well as bonds from the state's high-speed rail project.

The project was originally envisioned as a street-level rail line but was moved underground by demand to ensure trains were faster, with less disruption to regular traffic. The project broke ground in October 2014.

According to Metro, its staff had to plan and create an entirely new subway under the existing streets and buildings of downtown L.A. -- which involved moving utilities and shoring up other existing infrastructure.

The regional connector's opening comes amid growing safety concerns following multiple stabbings this year on Metro lines. The MTA says they're implementing measures to help keep the transit system safe.

"We're going to have law enforcement, we're going to have ambassadors, transit security officers, cleaning crews and homeless outreach all working together to continue to make the system as safe as possible," Sotero added.

City News Service contributed to this report.