Metro Red Line

The Metro Red Line is a subway line in the Los Angeles County Metro Rail System operated by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

It follows a route connecting Downtown Los Angeles to North Hollywood.

The Red Line is one of Los Angeles’ two rapid transit lines (along with the Metro Purple Line), and also the busiest of the five Metro Rail lines (the other three are light rail, largely surface lines).

Unlike LACMTA’s other rail lines, the Red-Purple Line subway tunnels run entirely within the city of Los Angeles.

Although they separate in different directions west of downtown Los Angeles, the two subway lines (Purple and Red) were until recently considered two branches of one line, and are still marked this way in most stations, on schedules, and on older rail maps.

As of October 2008, the combined Red and Purple lines averaged over 154,000 daily weekday boardings.



The Red Line opened in several segments known as Minimal Operating Segments (MOS).

The first segment (MOS-1), from Union Station to MacArthur Park, opened in 1993. A western extension into Koreatown at Wilshire/Western opened in 1996, along the alignment later designated the Purple Line. In 1999, the second branch (MOS-2) was extended from Wilshire/Vermont to Hollywood/Vine station, and in 2000, to North Hollywood.

The line was originally intended to run along the Wilshire Corridor to Santa Monica.  A methane gas explosion at a Ross Dress For Less store near 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue on March 24, 1985 resulted in Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) legislation for a ban on Federal money being used for tunneling under Wilshire Boulevard in his district.

This was due to methane gas safety concerns and anti-subway sentiment by developers and neighborhood associations along the proposed route. Metro had always maintained that technological advances would allow it to tunnel safely.

Following a 2005 peer review panel of independent tunneling experts which concluded that tunneling could be done safely using new technology, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Waxman-sponsored legislation repealing the original law on February 7, 2007.

In 1995, during construction of the subway, a sinkhole appeared on Hollywood Boulevard, barely missing several workers and causing damage to buildings on the street. Subway construction was halted until the situation was resolved and a replacement contractor, Tutor Saliba, was hired.

A 1998 Los Angeles County initiative introduced by Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was passed by the voters, which banned the use of existing sales tax revenues for subway construction (which has been linked to voters perceptions of problems with Red Line construction and costs).

In 2000, an urban art group known as Heavy Trash placed “Coming soon” signs advertising the “Aqua Line,” extending the Red Line to the ocean, with ten prospective station stops. It was a hoax, but showed the frustrations surrounding the lack of a subway connecting Santa Monica and the Westside with Downtown Los Angeles. The Aqua Line name was repurposed as the proposed name for the Expo Line.

In late October 2005, the new Orange Line Transitway with train-like two-cabin articulated bus bodies went into service. It links up with the Red line at the North Hollywood station in 13 stops over a 14-mile (23 km) exclusive use corridor to Warner Center in the far west San Fernando Valley. The busway had been constructed instead of a further Red Line rail extension in the Valley at a relatively low cost. Within days, the traffic was doubling predicted levels and most “bus-trains” were running full.

Fossils Found

Construction of the city’s subway system turned up more than 2,000 fossils, including 64 extinct species of fish, the tusk of an Ice Age elephant and the bones of an ancient longhorn bison, a report funded by the MTA found. The report was authored by paleontologist Bruce Lander of Paleo Environmental Associates in Irvine. Lander worked with a team of 28 scientists during construction of the Metro Rail Red Line.

Fossil evidence showed that tens of thousands of years ago, ground sloths, horses, elephants and camels roamed among redwood trees in what is now Los Angeles, according to an MTA summary of the 300-page report. The scientists also found evidence of a great flood in the San Fernando Valley 9,000 years ago that swept away trees.

Among the 64 extinct species of marine fish 39 were never before discovered, the report said. The scientists found bones of an American mastodon, a western camel and a Harlan’s ground sloth. They found wood and pollen of land plants including incense cedar and coast redwood trees and bones of birds, shrews, cottontail rabbits, gophers, mice and kangaroo rats. Some of the fossils are as much as 16.5 million years old.


Westward Expansion

The westward extension has been for decades mired in political and socioeconomic debate with politicians giving vent to anti-subway sentiments and NIMBY isolationism. An initiative in 1968 that would have built a subway to West Los Angeles was rejected by voters. The Bus Rapid Transit Line that currently operates along Wilshire Blvd. runs at capacity. Los Angeles mayor and MTA head Antonio Villaraigosa has declared an extension of a subway line to downtown Santa Monica a major priority and is offering visionary slogans such as “subway to the sea” and “…the most utilized subway in the nation, maybe the world,” and “…the most cost-effective public-transportation project in America.”

With present density and traffic gridlock, many people (the residents and government of the city of Beverly Hills included) have done a complete turnaround on the idea of a Wilshire Boulevard subway. Congressman Henry Waxman, who sponsored the tunneling ban in 1985, championed its reversal upon a committee’s assertion that tunneling through the methane zone was safe. In August 2006, the LACMTA voted to designate the Wilshire/Western branch of the Red Line as the Purple Line. Currently, LACMTA is considering two alternate routes for the Westside extension of the subway. One contemplates continuing along Wilshire Boulevard while the other contemplates a spur from the Hollywood/Highland station, down Santa Monica Boulevard through West Hollywood.

As part of Metro’s 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan, the Phase 1 extension of the line to Fairfax is expected to open by 2019.


West Valley Service

The new Orange Line transitway service is feeding about 15,000 new boardings into the Red Line at the North Hollywood terminus. Currently, little chance exists for further underground Red Line extension at its northern terminus, though Mayor Villaraigosa has mentioned extending the Red Line along Lankershim Boulevard to the northeastern San Fernando Valley, with a terminus in Sylmar.

One long-term possibility might be an underground extension of another mile or two to a future high-rise housing district, or to a multi-modal transportation hub at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, a distance of approximately four miles. It would possibly go under Vineland Avenue and Vanowen Street. In 2006 a large number of housing units, including a high-rise tower was completed very near the North Hollywood (NoHo Arts District) station. A master planned multi high-rise complex further to the north could justify a future short extension, and also allow more commuter parking to be developed. No plan of this sort has been formally proposed, though some transit advocates have suggested that the Orange Line may be extended along the same route as mentioned above.


Eastward Plans

Although plans of extending the Red Line to the Eastside have been set aside, the Metro Gold Line East extension to that region now serves the transit needs of these parts. As a replacement for the abandoned subway segment, 1.8 miles of the Gold Line Eastside Extension have been built as a subway underneath the densely-built low-income neighborhood of Boyle Heights. Although there are no plans to do such, it is conceivable that plans for a future eastward extension could involve the San Gabriel Valley rather than the Eastside. Some citizen proposals have included the conversion of the El Monte Busway to heavy rail, although this would disrupt the existing bus and Metrolink service along that corridor. Other rights-of-way that could host a Red Line extension, whether subway or at-grade, include the Union Pacific’s Alhambra Trench, the former Pacific Electric two-track right of way extending through the City Terrace area to El Monte and Covina, and the median of Huntington Drive, which also held a two-track Pacific Electric line extending as far as Azusa, until the 1950s, when it was removed.


Hours Of Operation

Trains run between approximately 4:30 am and 1:00 am the following morning. First and last train times are as follows:

To/From North Hollywood


  • First Train to Union Station: 4:31 am
  • Last Train to Union Station: 12:54 am


  • First Train to North Hollywood: 4:30 am
  • Last Train to North Hollywood: 12:17 am

Rolling Stock

The Red Line uses Ansaldobreda A650 75-foot electric multiple unit cars built by Ansaldobreda in Italy. Trains usually run in six-car consists. The acceleration for cars #530 and up is similar to that of cars used by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority because they both use General Electric traction motors. The cars are maintained in a yard on Santa Fe Drive near 4th Street alongside the Los Angeles River in downtown Los Angeles.

List of stations, from East to West


Station Connections Date Opened
Union Station Purple Line Gold Line Silver Line El Monte Busway
Metro Rapid: 704, 728, 740, 745, 770
Foothill Transit: Silver Streak
Amtrak Metrolink
January 30, 1993
Civic Center Purple Line Silver Line
Metro Rapid: 714, 728, 730, 740, 745, 770, 794
Foothill Transit: Silver Streak
January 30, 1993
Pershing Square Purple Line Silver Line
Metro Rapid: 714, 720, 728, 730, 740, 745, 753, 770, 794
Foothill Transit: Silver Streak
Angels Flight
January 30, 1993
7th St/Metro Center Purple Line Blue Line Silver Line Harbor Transitway
Metro Rapid: 714, 720, 753, 760, 770
Metro Express: 450X
Foothill Transit: Silver Streak
January 30, 1993
Westlake/MacArthur Park Purple Line
Metro Rapid: 720
January 30, 1993
Wilshire/Vermont Purple Line
Metro Rapid: 720, 754, 920
July 13, 1996
Vermont/Beverly Metro Rapid: 714, 754 June 12, 1999
Vermont/Santa Monica Metro Rapid: 704, 754 June 12, 1999
Vermont/Sunset Metro Rapid: 754 June 12, 1999
Hollywood/Western Metro Rapid: 757, 780 June 12, 1999
Hollywood/Vine Metro Rapid: 780 June 12, 1999
Hollywood/Highland Metro Rapid: 780 June 24, 2000
Universal City Metro Rapid: 750 June 24, 2000
North Hollywood Orange Line June 24, 2000

In fiction

  • In the videogame Grand Theft Auto:San Andreas Market Station in Los Santos is a fictional train station served by Brown Streak Railroad in the game is one of the stations based on the Metro Red Line, possibly the Civic Center station.
  • In Heroes, Hiro Nakamura rides the Red Line.
  • On the popular television series Alias, the CIA black ops unit Authorized Personnel Only is located behind a maintenance door at the Civic Center station near the Los Angeles City Hall.
  • In Season 6, hour 2 (7:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m.) of 24, Jack Bauer follows a suicide bomber to a red line station. After the terrorist boards a train bound for Union Station, Jack confronts the terrorist. A brief skirmish ensues, with Jack ejecting the terrorist through the back window of the train only seconds before the terrorist detonates the bomb.
  • Part of the movie Speed transpires on a Red Line train departing Pershing Square station and ultimately crashing through the street surface at the then-under construction Hollywood & Highland station.
  • Part of the movie Volcano takes place on the Wilshire branch of the Red Line where lava stops the train from operating and the passengers must be rescued in the tunnel. The movie also features a fictional protest from Beverly Hills residents against an extension of the subway into the neighborhood, responding that it will “bring Downtown’s problems west”. [3]
  • In The Italian Job, a heist takes place underneath the Hollywood/Highland station and through the Red Line tunnels until it reaches the Blue Line tunnel opening between 7th/Metro Center station and Pico station.
  • The Red Line is also featured in S.W.A.T. where police chase a fugitive from Pershing Square station to Wilshire/Normandie station. The “Pershing Square” exterior is 7th St/Metro Center, while the interior is Wilshire/Western.
  • In th P. T. Anderson-directed music video for “Fast as You Can” by Fiona Apple, much of the action takes place on a moving Red Line train, which originates at the Hollywood/Western station. Anderson directed another music video for Apple, “Paper Bag,” which was filmed at Union Station, but that was because of the Art Deco surroundings; the Red Line terminus was not featured.
  • In the music video for “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter, the Red Line Pershing Square Station and vicinity is used as part of the daily commute for two singles and eventually where they meet.
  • In the music video for “All for You” by Janet Jackson, Janet and company ride a subway to Venice (Beach), California, a trip which is not currently possible. While not explicitly shown to be the Red Line, it is an interesting nod to proposals to extend the subway from midtown to the beach.
  • In the music video for “Wait a Minute” by The Pussycat Dolls, the opening scenes take place in a Red Line subway station and aboard a train; also in the music video for “When I Grow Up“, they perform in front of the Hollywood/Vine portal that currently has construction activities occurring for the W Hotel