Metro Regional Connector: History and Resources

Metro’s Regional Connector opens on June 16, 2023.

This project makes it easier to ride across Los Angeles County as passengers can now travel between Azusa and Long Beach, and between East Los Angeles and Santa Monica, without transferring lines.

It improves connections, bringing together the Metro L (Gold), A (Blue), E (Expo), B (Red) and D (Purple) Lines at the 7th Street/Metro Center Station, and increases opportunities for jobs, education and essential services.

Regional Connector Transit Project Map

Early Historical Context

Mobility challenges in downtown Los Angeles are hardly new.

A Los Angeles Times columnist pointed out in 1937 that founding father Felipe de Neve should have led Los Angeles’ eleven first families six miles further west — near the La Brea Tar Pits — to prevent future downtown congestion, since the city center was “cramped on two sides by hills and on the third by a river.”

But we need to go back further to understand that downtown has long vexxed planners trying to move people under the center of Los Angeles.

On September 1, 1911, Southern Pacific created a new “Pacific Electric Railway Company” comprised of several constituent railroads with all electrical operations under a new name. This inter-urban rail network complimented Los Angeles Railway‘s more localized streetcar system that had been operating since 1895.

Just a few weeks after this 1911 “Great Merger,” a supplement in The California Outlook reported on “the transportation problem of Los Angeles,” including the need for a “union station” to consolidate the passenger and freight heavy rail traffic coming into downtown. It details the challenges arising from the city’s rapid growth, the impact of at-grade streetcars competing with explosive private automobile use (the number of cars quadrupled between 1914 and 1922), and even the potential for continued rapid urbanization once the Panama Canal project is completed.

This 1911 report is the earliest known proposal for subways in Los Angeles.

By the 1920s, congestion in downtown led to Pacific Electric planning, constructing, and operating the city’s first subway. The Pacific Electric tunnel opened on November 30, 1925 at the behest the California Railroad Commission’s order calling for a subway to allow passengers to bypass downtown’s congested streets altogether.

The tunnel reduced travel time by as much as 12 minutes when traveling from downtown to Glendale and Burbank. However, the advent of the freeways and the decline of streetcar system led to the subway being shuttered in 1955.

Just the year before, a 1954 study called for a network of express buses in subways. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Traffic Association put forth a proposal to build an underground road network for buses bringing commuters into downtown for work. This report is notable for its interesting, prescient, and downright stunning suggestions.

Perhaps most importantly, the plan called for entrances to downtown from the north, south, east and west. Sound familiar?

Map detail from 1954 Supplemental Study of Mass Transportation, pp. 32-34 of pdf.

While many transit plans from the past were never realized, it is worth noting that this 1954 study proposed integration of existing and new transit projects — just as the 2023 Regional Connector does.


Project History

Like many transit projects, the Regional Connector’s history is complex.

We have synthesized numerous reports and other documents to chronicle the conception, planning, construction, and opening of the Regional Connector.

The Regional Connector was first known as the “Downtown Connector,” and later as “Regional Connector” from circa 2005 to the present.

Planning for a simplified alignment of rail projects through downtown can be traced to the 1983 draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for the Metro Blue Line between downtown Los Angeles and downtown Long Beach.

In the section discussing “Possible Future Extensions in Downtown Los Angeles,” it is noted that:

The extension of the Flower Street Subway (LA-2) in downtown Los Angeles from 7th and Flower Streets northerly to Union Station would be a considerably more complex construction process and could take up to 24 months longer to complete than the initial phase of LA-2.

Four additional underground stations and 1.7 miles of tunnel would be required. The stations and areas of minimal depth (less than 30 feet) would be constructed using cut-and-cover methods as described for the initial phase of LA-2; however, the majority of the tunnel operation could be conducted by using tunneling machines. Tunneling has less effect on surrounding areas than the cut-and-cover method since the street surface and utilities are not significantly disturbed and there is less dust, noise, and traffic disruption.


Map of possible future extensions for downtown Los Angeles rail alignments, in 1984.

1992 Long Range Plan and 30 years of planning and construction

The “Blue Line Downtown Connector” was one of eight “Candidate Corridors” in the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission’s 30-Year Integrated Transportation Plan produced in 1992.

Several other long-planned projects from that 1992 list have also come to fruition, including the Expo Line and Gold Line into the San Gabriel Valley.

At a January, 1995 Long Range Plan workshop, the Metro Board directed staff to model five additional rail lines, including the Downtown Connector. They were still under consideration “in the second decade” of the Plan if additional funds were to become available.

Metro’s 2003 Short Range Transportation Plan notes the need to explore the feasibility of a Downtown Light Rail connector linking the Metro Gold Line, Metro Blue Line, and Metro Expo Line through downtown Los Angeles, “allowing uninterrupted service across a variety of rail lines.”

In early 2004, Metro staff initiated a technical feasibility assessment for a potential regional connector:


This study focused on conceptual methods to provide a regional connector and to alleviate potential operational constraints at the 7th Street/Metro Center Station. The study analyzed low to moderate cost alternatives including partial “at-grade” and “street running” alignments. Since the study was limited to how additional capacity could be attained and how a connection could be made, no specific alignment was recommended. Instead, multiple opportunities were reviewed, each with advantages and disadvantages. The study focused on sixteen conceptual options including combinations of at-grade, partial subsurface and partial aerial alignments. Based on Metro’s historic subway costs added to the lack of available funding for a new subway, a fully underground alignment was not considered as practical in the alternatives.


At the July, 2005 Board meeting, the Chair requested a report on the potential ridership benefits, costs and implementation timeframes of the Metro Light Rail Regional Connector.

No ridership estimates had been calculated, but a 1993 review of linking the Metro Expo and Blue Lines to the Metro Gold Line and it’s Eastside Extension concluded that connecting them would significantly increase utilization of all rail lines and improve regional mobility.

The Expo and Blue Lines were merely 1.5 miles from Gold Line, but all trips through downtown required transfers via the Metro Red Line connection Union Station to 7th/Metro Station on the otherside of downtown.

In 2005, planning was projected to take up to 24 months, development of bid documents and procurement for construction and award was projected to be another 12 months, and construction was slated for 38 to 60 months. This meant the project would take six to eight years to complete.

In September, 2005, the Metro Board directed CEO Roger Snoble to report back by November/December on the impact of the regional connector, what an implementation timeline would look like, and to identify possible sources of funding.

Two months later, staff reported back that they were modeling ridership and operational consequences of a regional connector. They identified a second potential system benefit in that a regional connector would alleviate an operational constraint at the 7th Street/Metro Center Station. They also noted the plan, design, and construction timeline to be seven to nine years if funding were provided (estimated at $120 million to $250 million).

Metro issued a request for proposals (RFP) on January 29, 2007, soliciting firms to perform an alternatives analysis of the proposed project linking the Metro Blue, Expo and Green Line networks with the Metro Gold Line serving Pasadena and East Los Angeles.

In June, 2007, the Metro Board authorized a contract award and budget amendment for Fiscal Year 2008 in compliance with the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts requirements.

The Regional Connector’s Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report was ultimately approved by the Metro Board in April, 2012. The vote was unanimous, with one abstention.

The ground breaking ceremonies were held in Little Tokyo on September 30, 2014, with a planned opening for 2020. This event followed the groundbreaking for the Metro Crenshaw/LAX K Line eight months earlier.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx joins local officials for the ceremonial turning of the dirt at The Regional Connector groundbreaking ceremony, September 30, 2014.

At the time, the 1.9-mile underground light rail line was pegged at $1.42-billion dollars. It received funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by nearly 68% of Los Angeles County voters in November, 2008.

2014 Rendering for new Regional Connector “2nd/Broadway” Station, later renamed Historic Broadway Station

During the ground breaking ceremony, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated:

Transportation is about more than getting from one point to another — it’s about getting from where you are to a better life. Today’s milestone is one to celebrate, but we need to do more to deliver these projects more quickly and efficiently, and the one thousand combined federal, state and local permits to get the light rail from ground breaking to ribbon cutting is simply too much.



Metro’s June, 2022 Quarterly Project Status report for the Regional Connector states:

Passenger forecasts in 2035, as a result of the improved service, indicate 90,000 daily transit trips will occur through the 1.9-mile downtown trunk, including 17,000 new riders.

Several factors contributed to significant construction delays for completing the project. Complex and unexpected utility relocations were required, as preliminary studies did not identify a number of early history utility connections and 19th century infrastructure. The subterranean foundations for adjacent high-rise buildings also presented some unique engineering challenges.

The pandemic and train testing challenges also contributed to pushing the opening date to June 16, 2023.


Metro Regional Connector document files