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Exploring the Metro Green Line: From Nowhere to Nowhere and All Points in Between

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On July 26, 2013 the Metro Gold Line celebrated its tenth birthday, an occasion that did not go unreported by much of the local media, who in some cases described the line as the Metro's "most lovable light rail line" as well as its "most picturesque." August 12 is the 18th birthday of the Metro Green Line, an event that I suspect will likely receive comparatively muted fanfare. The Green Line, when mentioned at all, is most often disparaged as "the train from nowhere to nowhere."

The Green Line was, until recently, the only Metro rail line of which I had not ridden the entire length. When I mentioned my intention to write about it most friends told me that they'd never been on it, and several even asked where it was. For those who are familiar with the Green Line, they likely know it as the rail that doesn't quite reach either the ocean or LAX. If they think about it further, they might realize that it's also the only Metro rail line that doesn't connect to Downtown Los Angeles.

It might come as a surprise then that according to Metro's most recent figures, more people ride the Green Line than the Gold. It's also the fastest of the light rail lines, due to its not intersecting with any streets. Finally, although it doesn't connect to anything that most would consider to be major tourist traps, it does carry commuters not just between home and work, but also to shopping and dining destinations, as well as lesser-known attractions.

The existence of the Green Line is indelibly tied to that of the 105 Freeway, a roadway whose march to the sea destroyed more than 8,000 homes and displaced more than 25,000. As a conciliatory gesture, the middle of the freeway was left open for some form of rapid transit. For most of its route, the Green Line thus passes between the lanes that connects the South Bay cities of Southwest Los Angeles County to the Gateway Cities of Southeast Los Angeles County, and neighborhoods of South Los Angeles between. Construction of the Green Line began in 1987 when those regions were home to a massive aerospace industry and much of its workforce. However, the end of the Cold War and the L.A. Riots radically altered the character of South Los Angeles and neighboring communities of Los Angeles County (although the aerospace industry still employs a massive, if reduced, workforce).

NORWALK STATION

The Green Line's eastern terminus is in the suburban city of Norwalk, in the Studebaker neighborhood, at the eastern terminus of the 105 Freeway where both the Green Line and freeway abruptly end. The freeway was originally designed to connect to the 5 Freeway but reports suggested that that freeway couldn't handle the additional traffic. On the other side of the freeway is Metrolink's Norwalk/Santa Fe train station, just over two and a half miles east from the Green Line's easternmost station, and frustratingly unconnected except by surface streets.

Norwalk Station seems oriented toward bus riders and motorists, but pedestrians schlep along the sidewalk-less landscape along the freeway on an improvised trail. Most of the rest of the lot serving the station is walled off from Norwalk, and the only official pedestrian exit is north on Hoxie Avenue toward a quiet neighborhood. Nearby to the west are the San Gabriel River Mid Trail and the cities of Downey and Bellflower.

Bee hive theme
Bee hive theme
Is this transit oriented development?
Is this transit oriented development?
Makeshift bridge and pedestrian path
Makeshift bridge and pedestrian path

Lakewood Boulevard Station

After crossing the San Gabriel River the Green Line reaches Lakewood Boulevard Station in Downey, near the cities of Bellflower and Paramount (traversed by the rail line but not home to any stops). Downey was the home of The Carpenters, and is also famed as the birthplace of Taco Bell. The area north of the station was formerly the home of a Rockwell plant, which assembled air and spacecraft until its closure in 1999. The property is now home to a hospital, a park, a shopping complex, and the Columbia Memorial Space Center, a learning center geared towards children. South of the station is the old Downey Cemetery.

Columbia Memorial Space Center
Columbia Memorial Space Center
Downey Wall of (Un)Fame
Downey Wall of (Un)Fame
Train leaving the station
Train leaving the station

Long Beach Boulevard Station

After crossing the Los Angeles River, the Green Line arrives in the city of Lynwood at Long Beach Boulevard. South of the station there's a small, circular park called Rose Park. North is a park of similar shape and size called Carnation Park. Both were originally landscaped with their eponymous flowers, but are currently dominated by grass and palm trees. The biggest attraction near the station is Plaza Mexico - a theme park version of a Mexican pueblo with loads of statues, shops, music and dining, including the charming, and delicious La Huasteca.

Plaza Mexico
Plaza Mexico
Mostly naked hot dog applying condiments
Mostly naked hot dog applying condiments
Olmec colossal head
Olmec colossal head

Willowbrook Station

Willowbrook Station (aka Willowbrook/Rosa Parks fka Imperial/Willmington) is located on the border between the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts and the unincorporated county community of Willowbrook. Willowbrook is probably best known locally for being home to the scandal-plagued King/Drew Medical Center, nicknamed "Killer King." Just south of the station are the Kenneth Hahn Plaza shopping center and the small Willowbrook Library. Just west of the station are the Nickerson Gardens, the largest housing projects in the west, designed by pioneering black architect, Paul Revere Williams, and completed in 1955. Just east are the older Imperial Courts, built in 1944. Watts's most iconic feature, Simon Rodia's Watts Towers, are located one stop north on the Blue Line, which shares service with the Green Line at Willowbrook.

Public Library
Public Library
Willowbrook Station
Willowbrook Station
Kenneth Hahn Plaza
Kenneth Hahn Plaza

Avalon Station

West of Compton Creek is Avalon Station, located in Harbor Gateway North, part of Los Angeles's 1906 shoestring strip annex that connected the city to the Harbor in the south with a narrow strip of land. Just north are Century Cove and Century Palms, two recently named neighborhoods of South Los Angeles. The area around the station is almost entirely residential, with the notable exception of a few schools, churches and restaurants, including the strikingly-painted Bernard's Burgers. A little bit further southeast is the pretty, 96-acre Earvin "Magic" Johnson Park, which was known as Willowbrook Park until 1994.

Bernard's Burgers
Bernard's Burgers