Here’s what commuters need to know about the Blue Line closure starting Saturday, Jan. 26
The Long Beach Press Telegram
The next eight months are likely to bring challenges to the Metro Blue Line’s 63,000 daily riders when it closes Saturday, Jan. 26, for major construction and improvements.
Beginning at 4 a.m. Saturday, work will begin on all stations south of 103rd St./Watts Towers, with closures expected to last until late May. But, Metro, Los Angeles County and Long Beach officials at a press conference at the Willow Station on Tuesday, Jan. 22, said that the closures will be worth it.
“Our residents here are really going to feel the effects,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said. “And I’ll say we know this project is an impact, but we also know it is necessary.”
The $350 million project focuses on safety and reliability for the Blue Line, officials said, with new features including four additional crossover tracks to reduce interruptions, upgrading control signal systems and replacing certain segments of the tracks.
After work on the southern half of the line is completed in May, every station south of Willowbrook/Rosa Parks will reopen. At that point, every station north of Willowbrook/Rosa Parks will close until September.
Once all the work is done, the Blue Line will be renamed to the A Line as part of a move to rename every line in the Metro system.
Unlike every other station, the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station north of Compton will be closed for the entire eight months as it undergoes a complete renovation that will include a dedicated drop-off location, more bus bays, a new plaza, a Metro bike hub and a customer service and security center.
During the closures, riders will be able to choose from three shuttle bus options. Here’s what those options are for the south section:
Local 862: This free shuttle will stop at every station south of 103rd St./Watts Towers. This shuttle will operate 4:30 to 1:30 a.m. Sunday to Thursday, and from 4:30 a.m. Friday to 2:30 a.m. Saturday. It runs every six minutes during peak hours (5:30 to 9 a.m., 3 to 7 p.m.) and every 12 minutes during off-peak hours.
Select 861: This shuttle is $1.75 or free transfer with TAP. It will stop at every station south of 103rd St./Watts Towers – except for Compton, Artesia and Del Amo. It will run every 12 minutes, from 5:30 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Express 860. This shuttle is also $1.75 or free transfer with TAP. It will stop at every station south of Wardlow with a direct route to downtown Los Angeles – at the Grand/LATTC station to 7th St./Metro Center. It will also run every 12 minutes, 5:30 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Depending on traffic, the shuttles options — at their furthest stops — will take approximately one hour, said Tim Lindholm, Metro Executive Officer for Capital Projects.
“No one likes these kinds of closures,” Lindholm said. “But the primary goal of this work is to rip off the bandaid and get the work done over the next eight months, instead of it taking several years with sporadic closures, impacting our customers even more.”
But for some Long Beach residents who spoke during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the real issue on the Blue Line is security.
“I am a rider of Blue Line, and I feel really unsafe there,” Long Beach resident Fernando Gerardo said. “I see people being harassed — people from the LGBT community being harassed. I see women being harassed. … No one should be getting harassed on the train.”
Councilwomen Lena Gonzalez and Jeannine Pearce both empathized with those concerns.
“I, for three years, rode the Blue Line from Long Beach to downtown L.A. three times a week, and I know how uncomfortable sometimes it can be,” Pearce said.
Lindholm said that the recent decision to charge the Long Beach Police Department, rather than the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, with policing its own Metro stations is already helping make the line safer.
As far as the construction goes, Lindholm said more cameras, better lighting and a new security center at Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station will all improve security. But, he added, the police department will still be the agency to call if and when passengers feel unsafe.
In response to a comment from Councilman Roberto Uranga in which he predicted that “people are going to be very disappointed” with the replacement service because he expects the shuttles will take longer than an hour due to freeway traffic, Lindholm said Metro will change the services as necessary.
“We’re going to watch it every day and see how it’s working,” Lindholm said. “We’re going to make adjustments on the fly to make sure we’re providing the right level of service.”