Long envisioned as a subway serving LA’s bustling Wilshire corridor, Metro’s Purple Line right now only brings riders as far west as Koreatown, running along the busier Red Line for all but two stops.
But construction is underway on a major expansion of the rail line that will bring it nine miles farther west than it travels today. And with a new influx of money from grants and voter-approved sales tax initiatives, the Purple Line extension is on track to open within the next decade.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most important things to know about what promises to be a key part of the city’s growing transit network.
Where will it go?
The extended Purple Line will initially proceed along Wilshire Boulevard on its westward journey, with stations at La Brea Avenue, Fairfax Avenue, La Cienega Boulevard, and Rodeo Drive.
The train will then dip down to Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars before rising back up to Wilshire, with two final stops at UCLA and the Veterans Affairs Hospital at the border of Westwood and Brentwood.
Wasn’t this supposed to be a “subway to the sea?”
It’s true that LA officials once touted the project as a “subway to the sea,” but Metro ultimately balked at the costly and complicated prospect of tunneling all the way to the coast. Now it’s more of a subway to the Westside. Not quite as catchy, but still practical.
When will you be able to ride it?
The first phase of construction on the project began in 2014 and this part of the route should be open to riders by 2023 at the latest. It travels from the line’s current terminus at Wilshire/Western to the intersection of Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevard.
Major construction began in February on the second phase, which runs to Century City. Metro won a $1.6 billion federal grant last year to accelerate this part of the project, which is otherwise funded by money raised through Measure R, a sales tax hike approved by voters in 2008.
The project’s third phase will complete the train’s journey to the VA. Originally scheduled to wrap up in 2035, the final leg of the project is being accelerated now that voters have signed off on Measure M, another sales tax increase.
The last two segments of the extension are among the 28 projects that Metro aims to complete in time for the 2028 Olympics. The entire line is expected to open by 2026.
How long will the ride take?
A trip along the entire nine-mile extension is projected to take about 15 minutes. Add that onto the 13 minutes that a ride on the existing line lasts, and that’s a trip from Union Station to the west side of the 405 in less than 30 minutes. Not too shabby.
How often will the trains come?
As construction moves forward on the three segments of the Purple Line extension, Metro is also working on a separate project that will allow Red and Purple Line trains to move in and out of Union Station more efficiently.
A new turnback facility bordering the Arts District would allow 30 trains to pass through the station every hour, greatly diminishing wait times for riders. During peak hours, Purple Line trains could arrive every four minutes. Metro expects trains to run every 10 minutes during less busy parts of the day.
What will it look like?
Since it’s a subway, the extended Purple Line will be an all but invisible addition to the city for those who don’t ride it. But the station entrances will be above ground, and Metro has released renderings of all seven new stations on the project website.
Seen above is the Wilshire/Fairfax station, which Metro originally planned for the northwest corner of the intersection, close to Johnnie’s Coffee Shop. After some lobbying from LACMA, however, the station entrance has been moved to the south side of Wilshire at the corner of Orange Grove Avenue—across the street from the museum. LACMA has also agreed to finance a second entrance on its side of the street.
What other lines will connect to it?
The Purple Line already links up with the Blue, Expo, Gold, and Red lines, so transferring to the extended route should be easy to do. Once Metro’s Regional Connector project wraps up in 2021, the Blue, Expo, and Gold lines will merge. They’ll connect to the Purple Line at Union Station and the 7th Street/Metro Center station in Downtown’s Financial District.
In the future, the Purple Line could also intersect with the under-construction Crenshaw/LAX Line and a proposed transit route through the Sepulveda Pass.
Metro also aims to have the latter project done by 2028, though it’s still very much in the planning stages. Extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line north of the Expo Line, where it will initially end, will take a little longer. That project has a projected 2047 completion date, but West Hollywood officials are pushing to move the project forward sooner.