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The Gold Line: Metro Rail

When Los Angeles' vast street car system was systematically dismantled in the 1940s and 50s, the city lost one of the largest networks of its kind. The end of streetcar began a drift towards a more disconnected, automobile-centric city, one where the business and population density resulting from transit oriented development was slowly destroyed in favor of a vast network of surface parking lots connected by freeways.

In Highland Park, the building of the Arroyo Seco Parkway and the closure of the street cars dealt a blow to the character and prosperity of the neighborhood. In the 1980s, though, plans were hatched to re-connect Downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena with a light rail system that would follow the same route as the city's first street car line at the turn of the last century.

Initially conceived as an extension of the Long Beach Blue line, right of way for the route had been purchased by the Metro Transit Authority in 1993 when Amtrak ceased operations on what was formerly the Atchinson, Topka, and Santa Fe Railway's main link from San Bernadino to Los Angeles. After the MTA restored and retrofitted the historic 1896 Santa Fe Rail Bridge over the Arroyo Seco Parkway, it would became the first leg of the line to be constructed.

Construction began in 1994 (with 0.5 % of its budget set aside for public art projects along the route) but massive cost overruns halted the project in 1995. A State Senate bill led to the creation of the independent Pasadena Blue Line Authority, dedicated solely to the completion of the light rail line. With PBLA at the helm, the project moved along at a brisk pace, only briefly halting when local critics voiced concerns regarding the safety of at-grade crossings - not to mention a bit of unspoken worry over their property values. One Mt. Washington resident called it a matter of "life and death," citing the safety of children.

The Gold Line, as it was now called, finished on time and under budget, with artists contributing site-specific designs and installations for the stations, including John Valadez's "The First Artists in Southern California" at Pasadena's Memorial Park station. MTA began operations in July 2003. During the first 6 months of operation, ridership was estimated to be between 12,000 and 18,000 trips per day. In mid-2011, now including the Eastside Extension, it hit a record high at over 42,000 riders per day.

Now connecting the areas between East L.A. and Pasadena, the Gold Line has created a shared experience among the residents of varied areas, emphasizing the need for residents to coexist in public spaces, regardless of income or race. With plans for the Foothill Extension underway, the Gold Line will connect the city more than ever.

 

Journey of the Gold Line
Councilman Ed Reyes describes the creation of the Gold Line in Northeast Los Angeles and how it connected Highland Park to the rest of the city.

 

Spine of Communication
Councilman Ed Reyes discusses the effects of the Gold Line on the Highland Park neighborhood.

 

Pulling Community Together
The presence of the Gold Line has allowed Highland Park's residents to use public transportation more than their cars and explore their community anew with more freedom.

 

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The Santa Fe Bridge in the Arroyo Seco gets a new set of tracks for the Metro Gold Line. | Image by Flickr user Salaam Allah West Coast Transitphotography King used under permission.
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Metro Gold Line construction adjacent to Marmion Way in 2000. | Image by Flickr user Salaam Allah West Coast Transitphotography King used under permission.
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The Southwest Museum Station, with the museum’s iconic tower in the background, under construction. | Image by Flickr user Salaam Allah West Coast Transitphotography King used under permission.
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Construction under historic Oaklawn Bridge in South Pasadena. | Image by Flickr user Salaam Allah West Coast Transitphotography King used under permission.
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Future thoroughfare for the Metro Gold Line in Highland Park. | Image by Flickr user Salaam Allah West Coast Transitphotography King used under permission.
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Construction beside residential homes along Marmion Way. | Image by Flickr user Salaam Allah West Coast Transitphotography King used under permission.
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Image from promotional website for the Gold Line.
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Gold Line streaks across the historic Santa Fe Bridge over the Arroyo Seco. | Image by Flickr user waltarrrrr used under a Creative Commons license.
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Another view of the Santa Fe Bridge, originally constructed in 1896. | Image by Flickr user waltarrrrr used under a Creative Commons license.
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Speed is reduced when going through residential areas of Highland Park.
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A flashing sign cautions pedestrians of an approaching train in Highland Park. Safety issues was a concern for many during the planning stages of the Gold Line.
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The Gold Line intersects the many avenues in Highland Park.
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Ridership has seen a steady increase since the beginning of operations in 2003.
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The Gold Line's at-grade crossings were a concern for few residents, though accidents have been few.