Tomorrow – Saturday June 30 – is switchover day for Metro’s eight-month rehabilitation of the Blue Line. Starting tomorrow, southern Blue Line stations from Compton to downtown Long Beach will reopen. Northern stations from Watts to downtown L.A. will close. Rosa Parks Station, at the Green Line, will remain closed.
The Blue Line is Metro’s oldest. It opened in 1990. While it has been aging fairly gracefully, Metro made plans for major upgrades for the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station, and then decided it was time go ahead and bring the entire line into a state of good repair. The $350 million “New Blue” project does not include lots of fancy bells and whistles, but is billed as “modernization” designed to “enhance safety, increase reliability, and improve the customer experience.”
The New Blue closures got underway in late January. Closed stretches are served by bus service – including local, select, and express lines.
Tomorrow though late September, the shuttle bus service shifts to the north end. Local and select lines will run between downtown L.A. and Compton. The 860 end-to-end express service will remain more-or-less the same.
Downtown L.A.’s 7th Street and Pico stations are shared by both Blue and Expo lines, so the New Blue northern closures will also impact Metro Expo Line service. Tomorrow, the Expo Line service remains unchanged, but starting on Saturday June 22, the Expo Line will be closed north of L.A. Trade Tech station, with similar alternative bus services available.
With more buses carrying more people through downtown L.A., Metro and the city of L.A. teamed up to implement a southbound bus-only lane on Flower Street from 3-7 p.m. on weekdays. The bus lane runs nearly two miles from 7th Street to just south of L.A. Trade Tech. The Flower bus lane had been announced to start on May 20, but was delayed and should have opened at 3 p.m. today. Northbound buses have a bus-only lane on MyFigueroa. Hopefully, scofflaw drivers will not continue to undermine the effectiveness of this bus lane couplet.
Construction appears complete on the southern end of the line. Metro has already been running test trains.
Riders will notice some differences. With eight lines open and more on the way, Metro has run out of straightforward color designations, and is switching to letters.
The Blue Line will re-open as “Line A” – though it will retain its legacy Blue Line name informally with A appearing on a blue circle.
Riders will also see new electronic signage displaying system information, alerts, and advertising.
Below Willow Station through the city of Long Beach, Blue Line travel times will improve with new signal prioritization at 23 intersections. Early predictions anticipated that this could cut up to ten minutes off travel time.
Much of the improvements will be invisible to the average rider. New switches, new signal systems, overhead wire refurbishment, new rails, and power system upgrades are not immediately visible, but will ensure trains run reliably in the decades ahead.
The most dramatic New Blue changes will be major upgrades to Watts’ Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station. Improvements there include new bus bays, a new plaza, a bike hub, easier transfer between the Blue and Green Lines, a Metro customer service center, and better walking connections between the station and the surrounding neighborhoods. Construction at the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station is well under way, and anticipated to complete in September
Two new Metro buildings are under construction at the northeast end of Kenneth Hahn Plaza.
The Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Blue Line station is closed, but the Green Line station remains open – with connections to the Blue Line replacement bus service.
Overall, Metro construction staff report that the Rosa Parks and the whole New Blue are proceeding well and, so far, sticking to their tight schedule.
Many riders, including this ABC7 reporter, report that the downtown Long Beach to downtown L.A. express bus service is very satisfactory, even peaceful. With about a half dozen stops, running in the express lanes on the 110 Freeway, it has been able to keep to maintain a consistent schedule rivaling that of the Blue Line itself.
— Robert Garcia (@RobertGarciaLB) May 24, 2019
Several riders, including many in the LA Metro Blue Line Riders Facebook group, are pushing for Metro to keep the express bus service running after the Blue Line reopens. Long Beach Mayor and Metro boardmember Robert Garcia has expressed his support for keeping the express shuttle, but Metro has not yet approved ongoing DTLB-DTLA express bus service.