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Los Angeles to Pasadena Metro Gold Line Gold Line Grand Opening 7/26/2003

by Chris Guenzler

Rail service came to Pasadena with the coming of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley Railroad on September 17, 1885. The Santa Fe Railroad acquired the line a few years later which became it's 2nd District of the Los Angeles Division. Santa Fe's classic passenger trains ran across the line such as the Super Chief, El Capitan, Scout, Chief and California Limited. Amtrak took over passenger service in the United States on May 1, 1971 leaving only the Super Chief on this route. Service on the Super Chief under Amtrak didn't live up to the Santa Fe Railroad's High Standards so they disallowed the use of the Chief name so the renamed the train the Southwest Limited and when service improved with the new Superliner, Santa Fe let Amtrak use the Chief name again and it became the Southwest Chief. On May 21, 1976 the Las Vegas Limited was operated over this route for a summer season. The Desert Wind started its Los Angeles to Ogden, Utah service on October 28, 1979 until April 27, 1986 when it was rerouted via Fullerton to better serve Orange County. In December 1993, the eastbound Southwest Chief started running via Fullerton while the westbounds still went via Pasadena. On January 14, 1994 the last Southwest Chief ever ran through Pasadena then all service was rerouted through Fullerton as well. Freight service ended just a few days before the bridge over the Los Angeles River was damaged by the Northridge Earthquake on January 17, 1994 and was later removed. The MTA bought the line to become the future Pasadena Blue Line. A new concrete bridge was built over the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco Bridge was removed to rid it of asbestos. The MTA was later banned of all future rail construction projects and the route sat waiting for a change in the wind.

The Pasadena Gold Line was construction by the Los Angeles to Pasadena Metro Construction Authority. The Authority was created by State Legislation (SB1847) effective January 1, 1999. Once completed MTA will operate the light rail system. Route Union Station/Los Angeles to Pasadena Length in Miles 13.7 miles Scheduled to Open July 26,2003 Number of Stations 13 The line was built with a single contractor Thrope on budget at 740 Million Dollars and on time, a new way of building rail line in California.

The Metro Gold Line was constructed by the Los Angeles to Pasadena Metro Blue Line Construction Authority. Testing of the system was turned over to the MTA in mid-April. MTA conducted extensive pre-revenue testing up to the public opening on July 26. Early next year they hope to break ground extending the Gold Line from Union Station to East Los Angeles.

In the first year of operation, the Metro Gold Line is expected to carry between 26,000 and 32,000 average weekday boarding passengers. Cost of the system including rail cars and various improvements to the line is estimated at $859 million. The Gold Line is a vital link in the County's multi-modal transportation system efficiently serving the needs of commuters in Los Angeles, Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, South Pasadena and Pasadena. The 13.7-mile Metro Gold Line has 13 stations and will operate every 10 minutes on weekdays during peak morning and afternoon rush hours. Trains will then operate every 12 minutes during the mid-day and every 20 minutes during the late night hours. On the weekends, early morning and late night trains will operate every 20 minutes. Midday service until approximately 7 P.M. will operate every 12 minutes. The hours of operation will be from 3:35 A.M. to 2 A.M. seven days a week.

Commuters using the Metro Gold Line can expect to get from East Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles and vice versa in approximately 36 minutes without the traffic hassles of the Pasadena and 210 Freeways. The Metro Gold Line will use 26 state-of-the-art rail cars. Each rail car costs $3.75 million. Each train car seats 76 passengers. During rush hours, the scheduled capacity for each car is a total of 144 passengers including standees. When service starts, MTA expects to utilize 39 full-time train operators and two part-time operators. MTA plans to operate two car trains on the Metro Gold Line. Fares for the Metro Gold line will be the same as all MTA operated Metro Bus and Metro Rail trains costing just $1.35 one-way (cash) or 90 cents using a prepurchased discount token. Monthly passes good for unlimited travel are $42. At Union Station a quick transfer to Amtrak, Metrolink or to the Metro Red Line subway where a passenger could reach Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Universal City or North Hollywood. At 7th and Flower a connection to the Metro Blue Line will take you to the Staples Center, Watts Towers, or downtown Long Beach for a visit to the Queen Mary, Aquarium of the Pacific, or Rosa Parks transfer to the Metro Green Line to LAX, Norwalk, or Redondo Beach.

Getting to my first ride 7/26/2003

Having a plan in order to beat the Opening Day Free Riders found me down at the Santa Ana Amtrak Station before dawn waiting for an Amtrak Thruway Bus to Los Angeles for an early morning connection to the Pasadena Gold Line. The 5:50 AM bus to Bakersfield arrived 9 minutes late which is funny as it originates here and left at 6:02 AM. As we turned off the 91 Freeway off in front of us on Lemon Street I saw an eastbound BNSF Stack train speeding east. We picked up eight passengers at Fullerton before heading to Los Angeles Union Station. We pulled into the parking lot at 6:49 AM and when the driver did not have a place to park he let me out to catch my train. I made a mad dash into the station, through the tunnel then up the stairs to the platform finding a "Discover the Gold Line Banner" displayed before I caught the Gold Line 6:51 AM Train to Sierra Madre.

We left on time and climbed up onto the viaduct over the LAUPT Private Car Tracks then out over the streets curving to the China Town Station with the unique Chinese design. We returned to the ground as we ran through the former Southern Pacific Bull Ring Yard site before passing the junction to the shops. We climbed over the Los Angeles River with a great view of the Gold Line Shops before we descended to reach the former Santa Fe right away. We crossed over Interstate 5 before we arrived at the Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park Station. We ran between the light industry prior to crossing the Pasadena Freeway for the first time. The entire line is double track as we pass a train heading towards Union Station. We arrived at Heritage Square/Arroyo Station where in the parking lot as at all the stations they were busy setting up booths and the like for the Opening Day of the Pasadena Gold Line. We descended into a tunnel under the busy Figueroa Street before we returned to the surface passing through the residential neighborhoods. We ran along Marmion Way to the Southwest Museum. The stone work along the line is really impressive. There is a fence between the tracks but the MTA Workers touring the line like me for the first time and were concerned that the outside of the tracks are not fenced. Will the center fence keep people from being hit by the Gold Line Trains? We stopped at the Highland Park Station before crossing high above Arroyo Seco over the Pasadena Freeway once more to enter South Pasadena. We made what seemed to be an emergency stop and our train stopped quick and smoothly. A MTA maintainer had to board to reset a control in the center cabinet in our car so we took a ten minute delay. The cars themselves run smooth and quiet. We arrived at the Mission Station where I saw "No Bells, No Horns" banners. We next crossed the Pasadena Freeway one last time before we passed under the famous Arch Bridge seen in so many Santa Fe pictures before we entered Pasadena prior to reaching the Fillmore Station. That was followed a few blocks later with the Del Mar Station. We next descended into a tunnel under Colorado Boulevard and downtown to reach the Memorial Park Station in an open concrete canyon. We stayed in the trench then turned east into our last tunnel to reach the middle of the 210 Freeway where we headed east to the Lake, Allen and our final station at Sierra Madre Villa. This brought us to the present eastern end of the Pasadena Gold Line and in the future the line should reach Claremont. This brings us to our end of our Opening Day Tour of the Pasadena Gold Line.

All I had to do was take a relaxing Gold Line Train back to Union Station. The car had more problems on its return trip at the Southwest Museum and the same maintainer boarded again to help solve the problem. We arrived at Union Station at 8:15 AM and I walked over to the waiting Surfliner 566 which I boarded. I saw and talked with Ken Ruben the official caller of Lets Talk Trains who had been up all night to ride the first Gold Line Train out of Union Station at 3:56 AM and was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times. 566 left LAUPT on time and when we passed the Amtrak Shed I saw the Coast Starlight whose rear unit today was Cascade Service 469 in that attractive green and brown paint scheme. As we had just started the Del Mar Race Season the train started to fill up at Fullerton. We arrived at Santa Ana on time ending this opening day trip to the Pasadena Gold Line.