LA TRANSPO - What the three new Regional Connector Stations in Downtown Los Angeles-DTLA-can do is tremendous in the ability to connect riders to various, highly used places in DTLA, and regions outside with the elimination of transfers. The light rail lines affected are the L-Gold line, which is eliminated, and taken over by the E Expo Line, and the A Line.
The Regional Connector opened June 16, 2023. The $1.8-billion project was three years behind schedule and $335-million over budget. While not easy change, for this transit rider the costs and wait are worthwhile.
A series of underground rail lines will carry the A Line and Expo Lines through what are probably the most used sections of DTLA for business, commerce, government agencies, arts and entertainment and tourists-locals and out-of-towners.
The Regional Connector eliminates the additional, time wasting transfer between the A and E Lines upstairs to the Red or Purple Line subways downstairs at the 7th Street Metro Center Station. If needed, the transit rider can still exit at the busy 7th Street Metro Station, or very importantly, just stay in their seat and pass the station to other designations.
Until the Regional Connector - R.C. - to get to most of the DTLA designations by transit I would need to get off at the 7th Street Station, and then hurriedly go downstairs, after using my TAP card, to transfer to a Red or Purple Line subway. Most times I would be going to Walt Disney Concert Hall or the Music Center. Both R and Purple Lines share tracks and stations for 7th Street / Metro Center; Pershing Square; Grand Park / Civic Center; and Union Station.
To get to Disney Hall I would transfer from the E Expo Line to either the Red or Purple Line to get to the Civic Center Station from where I would walk to Disney Hall, The Colburn School, the Broad Museum and elsewhere.
Any transfer between trains, buses, or bus to trains are a time sensitive endeavor. Transit riders knows the sinking feeling of arriving at a light rail or subway station, or bus stop, and have the train or bus pull out. Depending on the time of day or night, the wait can be a few minutes to nearly an hour late at night. Many times I have walked quickly down the hill from Disney Hall to the First Street Civic Center Station, scurry down the escalators, or the long flight of stairs when an escalator is out of service, quickly pay with the TAP card, scurry down a shorter flight of stairs, and then at the platform have the subway I need back to the 7th Street Station pull out of the station.
At night this wait can be up to around twenty minutes. Then, at the 7th Street Station, disembark from the subway, furtively look for the signs for the correct platform for the Expo Line, scurry up stairs and look for the Expo Line. As has happened more than once, there was that sinking feeling when at arriving at the platform the Expo Line is pulling away. This can lead to another wait of up to twenty minutes if there is maintenance. All moving vehicles require maintenance to the trains and tracks (monorails included).
Conceivably, at night after attending a concert, or visiting friends for dinner, or whatnot, in riding the Red or Purple Lines subways to the 7th Street Metro Center Station for the Expo Line, just waiting for the a subway and then light rail train could take thirty to forty minutes in the most extreme cases.
Then, there is the time on the E Expo Line to get to either the K Crenshaw Line for a transfer, or to either the La Cienga, Culver City or Sepulveda Stations to get to my car.
I have driven to DTLA during the evening commute from around the LAX area, and taking into consideration the gridlock and parking, the time is nearly equivalent to taking the Crenshaw and Expo Light Rail lines to either the Red or Purple Lines subway and walking to Disney Hall.
But, after a concert or visit with friends, those evening waits for transfers to return home drag out the time.
Now with the new R.C. the E Expo Line and the A Blue Line pass through the 7th Street Metro Station to three new R.C. Stations:
- Grand Ave Arts / Bunker Hill Station
- Historic Broadway Station
- Little Tokyo / Arts District.
After the Little Tokyo / Arts District Station their routes change, so caution is needed to choose the right train line to continue.
With the R.C. I can easily cut thirty minutes off my transit time when attending a concert or event, in DTLA. This is tremendous. This is life changing. This is what makes for reasonable transit riding.
Over the weekend of the grand opening of the Regional Connector I rode the K Crenshaw Line to the E Expo Line to DTLA, and waved to the 7th Street Metro Station as the train pulled away from the platform to continue its route. No more running downstairs to try to catch a subway.
On my personal tour of the new stations I exited first at the Grand Ave Arts / Bunker Hill Station, and with the train platforms 100 feet below surface level, this is the deepest Metro Rail Station. To emerge from the underground the transit rider first goes up a level of a few stairs, and then enters a station lobby with six high speed elevators, three on each side. This lobby is dazzling with artist Pearl C. Hsiung’s glass mosaic which towers over 60 feet between the banks of elevators.
Unknown at the time because this was my first station visited, this lobby carries a theme of light found at all three R.C. stations. The elevators have glass front doors, and the shafts are lighted from skylights. There is a soft but generous amount of sunlight coming down to the elevator lobby from the elevator shafts and some skylights. As I progressed on my tour this sunlight theme increased.
Riding a a high speed elevator to the street level, across Hope Street, to the west end, cat-corner, was the backside of Disney Hall, with the Broad Museum was directly across Hope Street. I calculated the walking to Disney Hall. It is shorter and a little less hilly than the climb from the subway Civic Center Station I was using.
But, on a personal tour there is room to explore, and at the station’s street level are another bank of elevators which rise one story to a pedestrian walkway over Hope Street, with a fantastic view of the DTLA skyscrapers with the iconic, and beautifully old triangular tower of the Main Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library between them.
The pedestrian bridge leads to the southside of the Broad where there is a nice grass lawn with trees. Families were picnicking. It would be a short walk to the north, left, to Disney Hall, home of The Los Angeles Philharmonic. Unfortunately their winter season has just ended, so I need to wait until the fall to attend a concert of L.A. Phil at Disney Hall via the R.C. with an exit at the Grand Ave Arts / Bunker Hill Station.
Returning to this station, I waited for the next train to the Historic Broadway Station. This station is more modest than the Grand Ave Arts / Bunker Hill Station, and is not as deep, so the light from skylights was greater. Up more escalators, or stairs, this station gives the sense of the indeed historic part of Los Angeles on Broadway, and Spring Street one block away. The art work here has interesting light panels with notable portraits of Mexican and Hispanic influences on Los Angeles.
I have explored this part of town many times before. Some visits were to see movies through Los Angeles Conservancy’s Last Remaining Seats program in the historic movie theaters in DTLA. Other visits were more personal tours of old Los Angeles, which seems odd to contemplate with Los Angeles given the unfortunate, and not fully true, moniker of the city without history. This station should provide great logistics for those wishing to explore, eat, shop at these historic streets. Grand Central Market is a block away, however, I wanted Japanese food, and will save lunch at Grand Central Market for another day.
I don’t remember if I took the A Line or E Expo Line to the Little Tokyo / Arts District Station, but when I arrived at this station, the platform was bathed in sunlight, the greatest of the three R.C. Stations. Like the other stations, this one has its own art work. Some art is appropriately dedicated to the Japanese community. Other art work shows the cultural impact of Little Tokyo with panels on Sharp’s Club Playhouse honoring Black musicians, Al’s Bar, and the Atomic Cafe.
It was a short walk to the Little Tokyo pedestrian mall, which I have visited many times for meals and shopping. It was, however, a very pleasant surprise to see how crowded it was. It is a testament for the need for more pedestrian malls in Los Angeles/SoCal, and a beautiful testament to the incredible diversity of Los Angeles. Many stores and restaurants had queues of customers.
Of course there were Asians, not only Japanese Americans, but from what I heard were Chinese and Koreans, and who knows who else. There were couples of opposite sexes, and same sex. There were senior citizens, parents with little children and infants in strollers, young adults, teenagers, all of many ethnic backgrounds, walking, talking, shopping and eating. There was a rainbow of hair colors. Lots of tattoos. Body piercings. Lots of bearded men. There were young women in anime costumes. I heard Spanish, English, and other languages. I am a white man of German heritage and gladly embraced all. There were other white people there, and this was a powerful moment of inclusion, not exclusion.
It was a rich and beautiful mix of people, perhaps found nowhere else in Los Angeles, if not the nation with the regions’ rich influences of Asian culture.
Little Tokyo is an example of the positive mix of ethnicities in Los Angeles, and the wants and needs for more pedestrian only centers. Little Tokyo on that Saturday afternoon could have been the center of the Los Angeles universe.
The Regional Connector is a landmark achievement by Metro, done very well. Before the R.C., a trip to DTLA was a transfer ridden, timely slog between trains, subways and buses. Now, with the R.C. it is a breeze. There was the impression of transit completeness, and that transit riding in Los Angeles has made a great leap.
With the ongoing destructions of climate change, driven by global warming, driven by too much carbon gases into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, mostly driven by transportation-cars, trucks, SUVs, the improved conveniences of transit riding in Los Angeles through the Regional Connector can make its own impact in trying to slow the climate change. Now is the time to start riding buses, trains and subways.
(Matthew Hetz is a Los Angeles native, a composer whose works have been performed nationally, and some can be found here. He is the past President of the Culver City Symphony Orchestra and Marina del Rey Symphony. His dedication to transit issues is to help improve the transit riding experience for all, and to convince drivers to ride buses and trains to fight air pollution and global warming. He is an instructor at Emeritus/Santa Monica College and a regular contributor to CityWatchLA.)