The Industry Line: The Missing Link in the Los Angeles Metro Rail System
A proposal to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for a north-south light rail or bus rapid transit line connecting the San Gabriel Valley and Gateway Cities.
Southeast Los Angeles County has been largely absent from plans to extend the Metro Rail and Busway System. This article sets out a proposal for a light rail or bus rapid transit (BRT) line, hereafter referred to as the ‘Industry Line’, connecting the cities of Azusa, West Covina, Industry, Whittier, and Norwalk (among others), along California State Route 39, Los Angeles County Route N8, and other major roadways. The proposal is based on an analysis of the gaps and shortcomings of the existing Metro and Metrolink systems, as well as planned extensions to these systems, and should be taken in conjunction with economic, environmental, and engineering assessments of such a proposal.
Map views showing the ‘Industry Line’ and its connections to other Metro and Metrolink lines are provided throughout this article. An interactive Google Map is available here.
From north to south, the ‘Industry Line’ would pass through the following cities and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County:
- Azusa, pop. 46,361
- Vincent, pop. 15,922
- Covina, pop. 47,796
- West Covina, pop. 106,098
- Valinda, pop. 22,822
- South San Jose Hills, pop. 20,551
- La Puente, pop. 39,816
- Industry, pop. 219 (daytime pop. over 67,000 )
- Hacienda Heights, pop. 54,038
- Whittier, pop. 85,331
- South Whittier, pop. 57,156
- Santa Fe Springs, pop. 16,223
- Norwalk, pop. 107,096
Additionally, the line would run adjacent to the following cities and unincorporated areas:
- Citrus, pop. 10,866
- Rowland Heights, pop. 48,993
- La Habra Heights, pop. 5,325
- La Mirada, pop. 48,527
In total, the proposed transit corridor would serve 732,921 people, excluding the City of Industry, based on 2010 US Census data , equivalent to 7.5% of the population of Los Angeles County .
The Need for the ‘Industry Line’
Since 1990, the primary stage of the development of the Metro Rail and Busway System has been the construction of a ‘hub and spoke’ network model — light rail, heavy rail, and BRT lines running outwards from Downtown Los Angeles, in an effort to enable workers to commute in from far-off areas of Los Angeles County; these include the Blue and Silver Lines running south, the Expo and Purple Lines running West, the Gold Line running east, and the Red Line running north, with the Orange Line being, in practical terms, a westward extension of the Red Line. Besides the Green Line, which connects the Silver and Blue Lines, and was completed early-on in Metro Rail’s development, these existing Metro lines only connect with each other in Downtown Los Angeles. Similarly, the Metrolink Commuter Rail System largely conforms to a ‘hub and spoke’ network model.
Thus, the secondary stage of the development of the Metro Rail and Busway System is the connection of these existing lines: the Crenshaw/LAX Line will link the Green and Expo Lines; the North Hollywood to Pasadena Transit Corridor will link the Orange, Red, and Gold Lines; the Sepulveda Transit Corridor will link the Orange, Purple, and Expo Lines.
As a whole, these secondary connections create a circular transit corridor around Downtown Los Angeles, enabling passengers to travel between the north, west, and south of the Metro Rail and Busway System (albeit with a few transfers) without needing to pass through Downtown Los Angeles. This leaves southeast Los Angeles County as the only remaining region where rail lines running outwards from Downtown Los Angeles are not connected; no line connects the Gold, Green, San Bernardino, and Riverside Lines.
Completing this secondary stage, with the proposed ‘Industry Line’ would enable passengers in the San Gabriel Valley to travel to the Gateway Cities and beyond, without needing to travel through Downtown Los Angeles. Subject to planned extensions to the Metro Rail System, starting one’s journey in East Los Angeles County, it would be possible to travel, using this completed circular corridor, to the San Fernando Valley in the north, Long Beach in the south, and LAX and Santa Monica in the west, without travelling through Downtown Los Angeles, thereby easing congestion on Downtown-centric lines.
Given the large number of businesses in the City of Industry  and the significant number of people employed there, a transit line bringing workers from the north and south into the city would be beneficial to the economy and would relieve congestion on local north-south roadways in the San Gabriel Valley, such as Sunset Avenue / Irwindale Avenue, Hacienda Boulevard / Glendora Avenue / Vincent Avenue, Azusa Avenue, and Grand Avenue.
Problems with Existing Public Transportation in the San Gabriel Valley
Although three rail lines currently pass through the San Gabriel Valley, all three lines run east-west and parallel to each other, meaning there is currently no way to transfer between them, other than bus services. Despite two Metrolink lines passing through the San Gabriel Valley, Metrolink does not provide convenient service in the region, as the lines are designed as express one-directional services which bring commuters into Downtown Los Angeles over long distances. The Metrolink San Bernardino Line has only two stations in the region — Covina Station and Baldwin Park Station; similarly the Metrolink Riverside Line has only one station in the region — Industry Station. This lack of stations means that unless passengers live near Covina, Baldwin Park, or Industry Stations, use of Metrolink services is only practical through ‘park and ride’, necessitating the ownership and use of a car. As two of these stations are in the east of the region, many passengers need to travel east by car in order to travel west on Metrolink trains.
The fact that the Metrolink Riverside Line and San Bernardino Line are one-directional adds to the Downtown-centric nature of public transportation in the region; Metrolink trains only travel west in the mornings to bring workers into Downtown Los Angeles and only travel east in the afternoons and evenings to bring workers home again. The nature of such services constrains economic activity and fails to reflect the reality of transportation needs in the region. As the availability of nearby public transportation boosts the local economy, the aim of LACMTA should be to enhance transit options throughout the County, rather than simply providing more routes to Downtown Los Angeles; LACMTA should thus consider absorbing Metrolink services within Los Angeles County, in order to provide services in both directions, outlined in detail below.
Although most areas of the region are served by Foothill Transit bus services, such services are not frequent or fast enough to provide a viable alternative to rail lines. Some services are as infrequent as one bus every 80 minutes, at certain times, on weekdays. The only recent improvement to bus services in the region has been Foothill Transit’s announced addition of double-decker buses , potentially along its 699 or Silver Streak routes . However, this yet again serves to only improve east-west Downtown-centric travel. The use of double-decker buses only increases capacity and does not increase speed.
Overall these problems highlight the need for a mode of transportation somewhere in-between faster, long-distance commuter rail and slower, short distance local buses. The construction of the ‘Industry Line’ would fill this gap in transportation options, providing faster services over longer distances in comparison to local buses, but serving more areas in comparison to commuter rail.
Existing Transportation Options Along the Proposed Route
Foothill Transit operates bus routes along the vast majority of the proposed ‘Industry Line’ route, however, services on these routes are infrequent, with as little as one bus every 60 minutes, at certain times, on weekdays.
- The Azusa Avenue section of the route, from Azusa Downtown Station (Azusa Intermodal Transit Center) to Puente Hills Mall, is identical to the route taken by the Route 280 Foothill Transit bus service and takes 52 minutes .
- The Colima Road section of the route, from Puente Hills Mall to the intersection of Colima Road and Hacienda Boulevard, is identical to the route taken by the Route 185 Foothill Transit bus service and takes 10 minutes .
- The Colima Road section of the route, from the intersection of Colima Road and Hacienda Boulevard to the intersection of Colima Road and Whittier Boulevard, is identical to the route taken by the Route 285 Foothill Transit bus service and takes 11 minutes .
- The Colima Road section of the route, from the intersection of Colima Road and Whittier Boulevard to the intersection of Colima Road and Leffingwell Road, is not served by any bus routes.
- The Leffingwell Road section of the route, from the intersection of Leffingwell Road and Colima Road to the intersection of Leffingwell Road and Imperial Highway, is not served by any bus routes.
- The Imperial Highway section of the route, from the intersection of Leffingwell Road and Imperial Highway to Norwalk Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station, is served by the Route 4 Norwalk Transit bus service and takes 12 minutes .
Despite the relatively short travel times for some segments of the route, the schedules of these bus services are not coordinated, meaning that the journey time using these bus services would be considerably longer than the time it takes to actually travel each segment.
Whereas one would currently need to use four separate buses (and walk) to travel from Azusa to Norwalk, one would need only one bus or train if the ‘Industry Line’ proposal is implemented. Currently, travelling from Azusa Downtown Station to Norwalk / Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station along the proposed route takes up to 110 minutes by car . The Metro Blue Line, which covers a distance similar to the ‘Industry Line’, takes just 58 minutes from end to end and is due to be reduced to just 48 minutes, subject to improvements being made to the line in 2019 . Given that the ‘Industry Line’ would have fewer stops than the Metro Blue Line, travel times could be reduced even further; such a short travel time would present an attractive alternative to car travel.
Using trains, Google Maps’ best recommendation for travelling south, from Azusa Downtown Station to Norwalk / Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station, to arrive by 9:00 AM is to take the Metro Gold Line west to Union Station and then take the Metrolink Orange County Line to Norwalk, a journey which takes 79 minutes and arrives at 8:20 AM, leaving passengers with 40 minutes to spare, due to the infrequent scheduling of Metrolink services. Travelling north using these same connections takes 88 minutes.
Using buses, Google Maps’ best recommendation for travelling south, from Azusa Downtown Station to Norwalk / Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station, to arrive by 9:00 AM is to take the Route 187 Foothill Transit bus, followed by the Route 266 and Route 62 Metro Local buses, a journey which takes 140 minutes. Travelling north, Google Maps’ recommendation is to take the Route 7 Norwalk Transit bus, followed by the Route 190 and Route 280 Foothill Transit buses, a journey which takes 159 minutes.
The Route of the ‘Industry Line’
The ‘Industry Line’ would be 34 kilometers in length, would stay within Los Angeles County, and would use existing roadways, thus, in principal, requiring no aerial or tunneled sections and posing a minimal environmental impact. However, the route would require level crossings to be placed at all intersections, or alternatively, to be placed only at major intersections, with smaller intersections converted into cul-de-sacs, as shown in Figure 6. The line would support as many as twelve potential stations, including up to six potential interchange stations. A simplified list of potential stations is provided at the end of this article. Figure 5 shows the locations of potential stations.
The line’s northern terminus would connect with the Metro Gold Line at Azusa Downtown Station and continue south along Azusa Avenue. Alignment with Azusa Avenue, rather than Citrus Avenue, Irwindale Avenue, or other north-south roadways, is advantageous because the avenue travels continuously from Azusa to Hacienda Heights and cuts through the center of the region. Azusa Avenue is the logical choice because it is the incomplete section of California State Route 39 — the route has already been planned as a major transportation corridor and is wide enough to accommodate a light rail or BRT line.
Continuing south on Azusa Avenue, the line would pass underneath Interstate 210; a station could be constructed between Interstate 210 and Cypress Street to serve the nearby unincorporated areas of Citrus and Vincent. Subsequently the line would intersect with the Metrolink San Bernardino Line between Cypress Street and Badillo Street; although the line would not intersect at a Metrolink station, an interchange station could be constructed here, subject to additional changes to the Metrolink network, outlined further below.
Continuing south, the line would pass underneath Interstate 10; a station could be constructed here to serve West Covina and to provide interchange with the Foothill Transit Silver Streak (and other express routes), subject to an adjustment of the Silver Streak route to enable this. As the line continues south, a station could be constructed between East Merced Avenue and Amar Road to serve the nearby unincorporated area of Valinda and south West Covina, as well as to provide access to Galster Wilderness Park.
Continuing south, the line would intersect with East Temple Avenue, where a station could be constructed to provide access to the Industry Hills Expo Center. The line would then intersect with the Metrolink Riverside Line; although the line would not intersect at a Metrolink station, an interchange station could be constructed here to provide access to the City of Industry, subject to additional changes to the Metrolink network, outlined further below.
Subsequently, the line would pass over California State Route 60 and intersect with Colima Road, where a station could be constructed to serve Rowland Heights and to provide access to Schabarum Regional Park and Puente Hills Mall. As Azusa Avenue continues into residential zones and terminates within two blocks, the line would continue west along Colima Road; Colima Road is another logical choice as the road forms part of the Los Angeles County Route N8 and is thus already designated as a major transportation corridor. Continuing west, a station could be constructed at the intersection of Colima Road and Hacienda Boulevard to serve Hacienda Heights and to provide access to the Hsi Lai Temple, one of the largest Buddhist temples in the Western hemisphere . The line would then continue southwest on Colima Road, over the Puente Hills, and into Whittier. Where the line would intersect with Whittier Boulevard, a station could be constructed to serve to Whittier.
Continuing south on Colima Road, the line would intersect with Leffingwell Road, where a station could be constructed to serve South Whittier and La Mirada. The line would then continue southwest along Leffingwell Road until it reaches Imperial Highway, and would then briefly continue west on Imperial Highway until it reaches its southern terminus at Norwalk / Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station, connecting with the Metrolink Orange County Line and Metrolink 91 / Perris Valley Line, as well as the Metro Green Line, subject to extensions outlined below. The connection would enable passengers to travel from the San Gabriel Valley to Orange County (and vice versa). The connection would provide added convenience if the segments of these Metrolink lines were absorbed by LACMTA, or if LACMTA were to operate parallel services along these segments, as it would enable more frequent and regular travel in both directions. Passengers would be able to commute to Orange County from the San Gabriel Valley and workers in Orange County would be able to commute to Industry.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) vs. Light Rail
If BRT were implemented, instead of light rail, efforts should be made to ensure that the line is a ‘true’ busway, by ensuring that buses have full signal priority at intersections and that service is frequent and reliable, with fewer stops compared to existing bus routes. Lack of signal priority degrades the quality of BRT lines, making them akin to rail lines in name only.
First/Last Mile Transportation
The ‘Industry Line’ would be enhanced by the implementation of first/last mile services at major stations. This has been demonstrated by the partnership between LACMTA and Via , whereby ridesharing services to and from stations such as El Monte and Artesia are available to passengers within a certain radius of the station. Such services would be particularly beneficial at stations serving the City of Industry, as they would enable workers to easily complete the final leg of their commute.
Integrations with Proposed Extensions to the Metro Rail System
Metro Gold Line Extension to Montclair
The Gold Line Extension to Montclair is a proposed eastward extension of the Gold Line , from its terminus at APU / Citrus College Station, to Montclair at the eastern edge of Los Angeles County. Such an extension would see the Gold Line cover even greater distances, but would add to the east-west Downtown-centric nature of Metro Rail lines. The extension would not provide any connections to other rail lines — Union Station would remain the closest Gold Line station with connections to other lines. Therefore, a connection with the ‘Industry Line’ would add value-for-money to this extension and the other extensions which have been made to the Gold Line over the years. The connection would enable passengers from both the eastern and western ends of the Gold Line to commute to the City of Industry and beyond.
Metro Green Line Extension to Norwalk / Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station
Approved by Measure M, the Green Line Extension to Norwalk / Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station (shown in Figure 7) is a proposed eastward extension of the Green Line , from its terminus at Norwalk Metro Station, to the Norwalk / Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station, in order to provide interchange with the Metrolink Orange County Line and 91 / Perris Valley Line. The extension is an essential component in the overall design of the ‘Industry Line’.
As the Metro Green Line has been criticized as a “line to nowhere” , connection with the ‘Industry Line’ would provide the Green line with increased connections and add value-for-money for passengers. The connection would enable passengers in the San Gabriel Valley and Gateway Cities to travel to LAX (and vice-versa), without needing to pass through Downtown Los Angeles. Although construction of the extension is scheduled to be completed by 2052 , this date should be brought forward, given the overall importance of the extension with respect to the Metro and Metrolink systems as a whole. Moreover, entire Metro lines have been constructed in less time — a one station extension should not take decades to be completed.
Eastside Transit Corridor Phase Two (ETC2)
ETC2 (shown in Figures 8 and 9) is a series of proposed light-rail lines extending the Metro Gold Line, from its terminus at Atlantic Station, east into southeast Los Angeles County . The proposals include extending the Gold Line along either California State Route 60 or Washington Boulevard, or both.
If the Washington Boulevard alignment were selected, the ‘Industry Line’ would very nearly connect with this extension; while the proposed Washington Boulevard alignment would terminate in Whittier, at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Lambert Road, the line could be extended eastward, by approximately 4.5 kilometers, along either Whittier Boulevard or Lambert Road, to intersect with the ‘Industry Line’ at Colima Road, where an interchange station could be constructed. Extension along Lambert Road would provide convenient access to the eastern end of the Whittier Greenway Trail and would be particularly advantageous because rail track is already present along the block between Mills Avenue and Colima Road. This track continues further eastward, initially along Lambert Road, and eventually terminates in Brea. The presence of this existing rail track would enable further extension (potentially “ETC3”) to East Whittier, La Habra, and Brea in the future, however this would become a matter for Orange County. Although some of this track has been earmarked for the eastward extension of the Whittier Greenway Trail, use of this track for light rail or BRT would offer better value-for-money and stimulate the local economy to a greater extent than conversion to pedestrian and bike pathways.
The California State Route 60 alignment of ETC2 would terminate in South El Monte at the intersection of Peck Road and State Route 60. If LACMTA were to absorb the Metrolink Riverside Line or operate services parallel to it, ETC2 could be extended eastward, by approximately 1.9 kilometers, to connect with the Metrolink Riverside Line near Workman Mill Road, where an interchange station could be constructed. From here, assuming LACMTA operates regular Metro services along this section of the line Riverside Line, the Gold Line could continue further east and connect with the ‘Industry Line’, near the intersection of Azusa Avenue and Gale Avenue. With these connections in place, the ‘Industry Line’ would link between the northern and southern ends of the Gold Line, creating a “Gold Loop”.
West Santa Ana Branch (WSAB) Transit Corridor
WSAB (shown in Figure 7) is a proposed light-rail line connecting Downtown Los Angeles to Artesia in southeast Los Angeles County . While the ‘Industry Line’ would not connect directly with WSAB, ‘Industry Line’ passengers would be able to transfer to WSAB within two stops. As the ‘Industry Line’ would terminate at the Norwalk / Santa Fe Springs Station, passengers would firstly transfer to the Metro Green Line (assuming the Green Line is extended eastward, as is currently proposed), ride two stops to a new station on the Green Line between Garfield Avenue and Paramount Boulevard (where WSAB intersects the Green Line), and from here transfer to WSAB, travelling either north to Downtown Los Angeles or south to Artesia. The construction of the ‘Industry Line’ adds value-for-money to WSAB.
Further Enhancements: Absorption of Metrolink Lines by LACMTA
The ‘Industry Line’, and public transportation in the San Gabriel Valley generally, would be enhanced by the acquisition of Metrolink’s Riverside and San Bernardino Lines by LACMTA, and the subsequent addition of more stations along these lines. Alternatively, if a study of the two Metrolink lines reveals that there is sufficient space to operate Metro services alongside Metrolink, transportation options would be enhanced even further; Metrolink could provide express services with minimal stops over long distances and Metro could provide more frequent two-way services with stops at every station.
As the slow accelerations speeds of Metrolink’s diesel trains prevent frequent stops within short distances, the addition of more stations along these lines would not be feasible without electrification of the network. Figure 10 shows locations for potential stations to be added along these Metrolink lines.
Along the path taken by the Riverside line, additional stations at 7th Avenue, Hacienda Boulevard, and Nogales Street, would improve transportation options within the City of Industry, providing commuters with a more direct route to work. Further east, stations could be added at Grand Avenue and Temple Avenue to provide proximate access to Mt. San Antonio College and Cal Poly Pomona respectively, as well as serve Walnut and Diamond Bar.
Along the path taken by the San Bernardino Line, additional stations could be added; at Amar Road to serve the unincorporated areas of Bassett, West Puente Valley, and Avocado Heights, and to provide access to the Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park Medical Center; between Grand Avenue and Valley Center Avenue to serve Charter Oak; and between Lone Hill Avenue and San Dimas Avenue to serve San Dimas.
Overall, the construction of a north-south transit line connecting the San Gabriel Valley and Gateway Cities would boost the economy of the City of Industry and other cities, reduce air pollution and relieve traffic congestion on local roads by significantly expanding transportation options within the region, and provide new routes to LAX and other areas of the County, eliminating the need to travel through Downtown Los Angeles. If the transit line is connected to other proposed extensions to the Metro Rail System over the coming years, such connections will add value-for-money for passengers and the taxpayers who have funded these extensions.
Jointly submitted to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, and the Gateway Cities Council of Governments.
Zacharias Topley Rubinstein holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California at Los Angeles. The author declares no conflicts of interest.
Potential ‘Industry Line’ Stations from North to South
- Azusa Downtown (Northern Terminus) – Metro Gold Line Interchange
- Citrus / Vincent
- Covina – Metrolink San Bernardino Line Interchange
- West Covina – Foothill Transit Silver Streak Interchange
- Valinda / Galster Wilderness Park
- Industry Hills Expo Center
- Industry – Metrolink Riverside Line Interchange
- Rowland Heights / Schabarum Park / Puente Hills Mall
- Hacienda Heights / Hsi Lai Temple
- South Whittier / La Mirada
- Norwalk / Santa Fe Springs (Southern Terminus) – Metro Green Line, Metrolink Orange County Line, 91 / Perris Valley Line Interchange
 Employment Base, City of Industry website, https://www.cityofindustry.org/about-industry/population
 QuickFacts, Census April 1st 2010, United States Census Bureau, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/POP010210
 We’re Bringing All-Electric Double Decker Buses To The SGV!, Footnotes, Foothill Transit website, 2018, http://foothilltransit.org/all-electric-double-decker-bus-foothill-transit/
 Double-decker buses are coming back to LA, and this time they’re electric, Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 2018, https://www.sgvtribune.com/2018/07/13/double-decker-buses-are-coming-back-to-la-and-this-time-theyre-electric/
 280: Azusa — Puente Hills Mall via Azusa Ave, Foothill Transit website, http://foothilltransit.org/line/280/
 185: Azusa — West Covina — Hacienda Hts. via Irwindale, Foothill Transit website, http://foothilltransit.org/line/185/
 285: Puente Hills Mall — Whittier Hospital — La Habra, Foothill Transit website, http://foothilltransit.org/line/285/
 Route 4 Schedule and Map, Norwalk Transit System, City of Norwalk website, https://www.norwalk.org/home/showdocument?id=20881
 Based on calculation with Google Maps, arriving by 9:00 AM on weekdays.
 What to know about the Blue Line shutdown, Chandler and Chiland, Curbed Los Angeles, 2019, https://la.curbed.com/2018/12/17/18145084/blue-line-shut-down-dates-bus-schedule
 About Hsi Lai, Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple website, http://www.hsilai.org/en/hlt/
 Metro launches partnership with Via for on-demand rides at three stations, Hymon, The Source, 2019, https://thesource.metro.net/2019/01/28/metro-launches-partnership-with-via-for-on-demand-rides-at-three-stations/
 Background, Glendora to Montclair, Foothill Gold Line website, https://foothillgoldline.org/dual_content_with_ph/glendora-montclair-background/
 Project Fact Sheet, Norwalk Green Line Extension Study, Southern California Association of Governments, http://www.scag.ca.gov/programs/Documents/Greenline/FSNorwalkGreenLineStudy.pdf
 Is New Green Line a Road to Nowhere? : The rail line opens today, touted as an investment in the future. But budget woes, infighting and bypassing of LAX have already given it a bumpy ride, Simon, Los Angeles Times, 1995, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1995-08-12-mn-34202-story.html
 SCAG holding open house Wednesday for study of Green Line extension to Norwalk Metrolink station, Hymon, The Source, 2017, https://thesource.metro.net/2017/01/10/scag-holding-open-house-wednesday-for-study-of-green-line-extension-to-norwalk-metrolink-station/
 Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2, Metro website, https://www.metro.net/projects/eastside_phase2/
 West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor, Metro website, https://www.metro.net/projects/west-santa-ana/