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A guide to the Crenshaw Line

December 4 – Test trains are running on the Crenshaw/LAX Line, signaling progress for the brand-new rail line, expected to open next year.

The $2.1 billion train line will pass through parts of South LA and the South Bay, providing a link between the existing E (formerly Expo) and Green lines. It will also bring riders to within a short shuttle ride of LAX.

Here’s what to know about the 8.5-mile train line.

Where does it go?

Eventually, the train line is slated to travel as far north as Hollywood, likely winding through Mid-Wilshire and West Hollywood along the way. But that portion of the project will be constructed in a separate phase.

For now, the train’s northernmost stop will be at the intersection of Crenshaw and Exposition boulevards, where riders can transfer to and from the E Line. From there, the train will proceed down Crenshaw, making stops at Martin Luther King Boulevard, Leimert Park Village, and Slauson Avenue. It hooks west for stops near Florence Avenue and West Boulevard, Florence and La Brea, and Florence and Manchester. The train then rolls on to Aviation and Century boulevards before meeting up with the Green Line’s Aviation station south of LAX.

Neighborhoods served by the train include Leimert ParkBaldwin HillsHyde Park, and Westchester, along with the city of Inglewood.

When does it open?

The Crenshaw/LAX Line was once scheduled to be up and running by this year, but construction delays have pushed back its arrival to 2020. According to a recent project status report, construction is 93 percent complete and the train line is on track for a summer or fall opening.

Does it go to LAX?

Not exactly. The project was partially conceived as a long-awaited transit link to LA’s busiest airport, but it won’t actually bring airline passengers to their terminals. Instead, riders can board or exit the train at a planned stop at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard. That station is scheduled to be complete in 2023, when a new people mover tram system is expected to be up-and-running at the airport.

From the new station, riders will be able to transfer to the people mover—which connects to the terminal area and a rental car facility. While those projects are under construction, riders can board free bus shuttles that will connect to the airport from the Aviation/Century station.

Is this a subway?

The train will run underground for its first three stops before emerging onto Crenshaw south of Vernon Avenue. Parts of the line’s southern portion run along elevated platforms, but much of the track has been laid at street level—similar to the Expo and Blue lines.

Early plans for the light rail line called for the train to run entirely at street-level along Crenshaw. Community activists, however, argued that this would disrupt local businesses and endanger pedestrians. Eventually, Metro agreed to dig two mile-long tunnels connecting the Expo/Crenshaw and Martin Luther King stations.

Will it always be called the Crenshaw/LAX Line?

No. In fact, the Crenshaw/LAX Line is really only a working title (and not exactly one that rolls off the tongue). Metro hasn’t yet confirmed what name the line will operate under, but a recent memo delivered to the agency’s Board of Directors suggests it will likely be the K Line, in keeping with Metro’s new letter-based naming system.

Will there be a stop at the new NFL stadium?

While the new train line does have a Downtown Inglewood station, it conspicuously bypasses the city’s rapidly developing sports and entertainment district, where the Rams and Chargers will play home games in 2020.

That’s partly because plans for the enormous new stadium weren’t finalized when Metro began construction on the new line and partly because the southern tracks follow an old railroad right-of-way that the agency already owned prior to the project’s conception.

Inglewood Mayor James Butts, who currently chairs Metro’s Board of Directors, has pushed for a people mover-style transit connection to the stadium and the nearby Forum, but it’s not clear yet how it would be funded.

How will the train affect the neighborhoods it passes through?

Once up and running, the new line will be a very visible presence, particularly along Crenshaw Boulevard. As major developments get underway in the area, like the massive residential and retail complex planned at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, communities along the rail line could change further.

To preserve Crenshaw’s identity as the main street of black Los Angeles, community leaders are planning a large open-air museum called Destination Crenshaw running along the street-level tracks between 48th and 60th streets. Metro will kick in at least $15 million to fund construction of a small park at the intersection of Crenshaw and Leimert boulevards, which will be incorporated into the project.

When will the northern segment open?

Right now, the second phase of the project isn’t scheduled to break ground until 2041—and open six years after that.

Fortunately for those who might want to ride sometime in the next quarter century, Metro is working on speeding up that timeline. The agency is now analyzing potential routes for the train line so that work can get under way as soon as finances become available.

The project would primarily be funded through Measure M, the sales tax measure approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2016. The city of West Hollywood, eager for a train line that serves the city, has proposed kicking in up to $1 billion to ensure the project arrives ahead of schedule.

How many people will ride?

The train will only carry about 32,400 daily riders by 2035, according to Metro projections. That’s a little more than half the number served by the E Line on an average weekday in 2018. But the number of passengers should could nearly triple once the project’s second phase is complete, and Metro officials earlier this year suggested it could eventually be the nation’s busiest light rail corridor.

Elijah Chiland | LA Curbed