Does Los Angeles Have A Subway?

As one of the most car-centric cities in the United States, Los Angeles might not seem like the type of place to have an extensive public transportation system. But while LA’s first subway lines didn’t open until the 1990s, the city now has a rapidly expanding metro rail network.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Yes, Los Angeles has a subway system, operated by LA Metro, which currently consists of 6 lines and over 105 miles of rail.

A Brief History of LA’s Subway System

Early Mass Transit Efforts

Believe it or not, Los Angeles does have a subway system! However, it wasn’t always this way. In the early years of the city’s development, mass transit efforts focused primarily on streetcars and buses.

The Pacific Electric Railway, also known as the “Red Car,” was the dominant mode of transportation in the early 20th century. It connected various neighborhoods and suburbs, allowing residents to travel across the city.

Unfortunately, the rise of the automobile and the expansion of the freeway system led to the decline of the Red Car and other streetcar lines. By the 1960s, most of the streetcar lines had been dismantled, and Los Angeles became notorious for its car-centric culture.

However, as the city’s population continued to grow, the need for a more efficient and sustainable transportation system became evident. Thus, the idea of building a subway system in Los Angeles began to gain traction.

Launch of the Red and Purple Lines

In 1993, after years of planning and construction, the Los Angeles Metro Rail opened its first subway line, the Red Line. This line initially ran from Union Station in downtown LA to MacArthur Park, and later extended to North Hollywood.

The Red Line was a game-changer for the city, providing a fast and reliable alternative to driving in congested traffic.

The success of the Red Line led to the expansion of the subway system. In 1996, the Purple Line was launched, connecting downtown LA to Koreatown and eventually extending to the Miracle Mile area. The Purple Line continues to expand, with plans to reach the Westside and eventually connect to the future Regional Connector.

The subway system in Los Angeles has proven to be a vital transportation option for residents and visitors alike. It offers a convenient way to navigate the city, avoiding traffic congestion and reducing carbon emissions.

The Metro Rail system, which includes both subway and light rail lines, has continued to grow over the years, with new lines and extensions in the works.

For more information on the Los Angeles subway system, visit the official Metro website.

Current LA Metro Rail Lines

The Red Line

The Red Line is one of the major subway lines in Los Angeles. It stretches from North Hollywood to Union Station, passing through downtown LA. This line is known for its iconic red trains and has become a convenient mode of transportation for thousands of commuters every day.

It covers a distance of approximately 16 miles and has 14 stations along its route.

The Purple Line

The Purple Line is an extension of the Red Line, connecting Union Station to the Westwood area. It is currently being expanded further west to provide better connectivity to the city. The Purple Line serves several important destinations, including MacArthur Park, Koreatown, and Wilshire/Western.

With its distinctive purple trains, this line offers a reliable and efficient way to travel through the city.

The Blue Line

The Blue Line is one of the oldest and busiest light rail lines in Los Angeles. It runs from Downtown LA to Long Beach, covering a distance of approximately 22 miles. This line is a popular choice for commuters traveling between these two areas.

The Blue Line has 22 stations, including stops at popular attractions such as the Staples Center and the Aquarium of the Pacific.

The Green Line

The Green Line is another light rail line that serves the southern part of Los Angeles County. It runs from Norwalk to Redondo Beach, with a total of 20 stations along its route. This line provides convenient access to major transit hubs, including the Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs station and the Aviation/LAX station, which offers connections to Los Angeles International Airport.

The Gold Line

The Gold Line is an important light rail line that connects East Los Angeles to Pasadena. It covers a distance of approximately 31 miles and has 27 stations along its route. This line is known for its scenic views, as it passes through neighborhoods such as Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and Old Pasadena.

The Gold Line offers a convenient way to explore the diverse cultural and historical sites in the area.

The Expo Line

The Expo Line is a light rail line that connects downtown LA to Santa Monica. It runs for about 15 miles and has 26 stations along its route. This line has been a game-changer for commuters traveling between the Westside and downtown LA, providing a faster and more convenient alternative to driving in heavy traffic.

The Expo Line passes through popular neighborhoods like Culver City and Westwood, making it a great option for both work and leisure travel.

Ongoing Expansion Plans

New Rail Lines Under Construction

Los Angeles has been making significant efforts to expand its public transportation system in recent years. As part of these efforts, several new rail lines are currently under construction. One of the most notable projects is the Purple Line Extension, which will extend the existing Purple Line subway from its current terminus in Koreatown to the Westwood area.

This extension is expected to alleviate traffic congestion along the highly congested Wilshire Boulevard corridor and provide a more efficient mode of transportation for residents and visitors alike.

Another new rail line that is currently being built is the Crenshaw/LAX Line. This line will connect the existing Metro Green Line to the Expo Line, providing a direct route between South Los Angeles and the Los Angeles International Airport.

This project aims to improve connectivity for residents in underserved communities and offer a convenient transportation option for travelers.

Additionally, the Regional Connector is another significant project that is currently underway. This underground light rail tunnel will connect the Metro Gold Line to the Expo Line and the Blue Line, creating a seamless transit connection through downtown Los Angeles.

This will greatly enhance the efficiency and convenience of traveling within the city, making it easier for commuters to reach their destinations.

Extensions Planned Through 2028

Los Angeles has ambitious plans to continue expanding its subway system through 2028. The city aims to complete several extensions to existing rail lines, further enhancing connectivity and accessibility for its residents.

One of the key projects in the pipeline is the extension of the Purple Line to the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center. This extension will provide a crucial transportation link for veterans and medical staff, facilitating their access to healthcare services.

Another planned extension is the completion of the Crenshaw/LAX Line, which will extend from the Expo Line to the South Bay area. This will create a direct rail connection between the airport and other parts of the county, offering a convenient option for air travelers and reducing the reliance on congested roadways.

Furthermore, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has proposed extending the Gold Line from its current terminus in Azusa to Claremont. This extension will improve connectivity between the San Gabriel Valley and the Inland Empire, benefiting both commuters and students attending the Claremont Colleges.

Impact on LA Transportation

The introduction of a subway system in Los Angeles has had a significant impact on the city’s transportation infrastructure. Prior to the construction of the subway, the primary mode of transportation in LA was the car.

The highways were congested, and commuting during peak hours could be a frustrating experience. The subway system has provided an alternative mode of transportation, reducing traffic congestion and easing the strain on the city’s road network.

Reduced Traffic Congestion

One of the major benefits of having a subway system in LA is the reduction in traffic congestion. With more people opting to use the subway, there are fewer cars on the road, leading to smoother traffic flow.

This not only benefits subway commuters but also improves the overall driving experience for those who still choose to travel by car. Studies have shown that cities with well-developed subway systems experience a decrease in traffic congestion by up to 30%.

LA is no exception to this, as the subway has played a significant role in easing traffic woes.

Improved Air Quality

The subway system in LA has also contributed to improving air quality in the city. With fewer cars on the road, there is a reduction in harmful emissions such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. This has a positive impact on the environment and the health of the residents.

Studies have shown that cities with efficient public transportation systems have lower levels of air pollution, leading to a decrease in respiratory diseases and an overall improvement in public health.

Enhanced Accessibility

The introduction of a subway system has enhanced accessibility within the city. The subway network connects different parts of LA, making it easier for residents to travel from one area to another. This has opened up opportunities for individuals who may not have access to a car or prefer not to drive.

Additionally, the subway system has improved connectivity with other modes of transportation, such as buses and light rail, creating a seamless transportation network for commuters.

Boost to the Economy

The subway system has also had a positive impact on the economy of Los Angeles. Improved transportation infrastructure attracts businesses and investors, as it provides easier access to different parts of the city.

It also increases the mobility of the workforce, allowing employees to commute more efficiently. This leads to increased productivity and economic growth. Additionally, the construction and maintenance of the subway system have created jobs and stimulated the local economy.


While Los Angeles built a reputation as a car-dependent city for decades, investment in public transit since the 1990s has created an expanding subway and light rail system. The development of LA Metro Rail provides more transportation options and connectivity across the region.

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