Los Angeles, California, Metro Green Line: Why Are People Riding the Line to Nowhere?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, land use - planning, mode - rail, mode - tram/light rail, mode - subway/metro


Transportation planning, Transportation corridors, Traffic corridors, Ridership, Rapid transit extensions, Patronage (Transit ridership), Metro Rail (Los Angeles County, California), Los Angeles (California), Line extensions (Rail transit), Light rail transit, Green Line (Los Angeles County Metro Rail), Corridors (Transportation), Blue Line (Los Angeles County Metro Rail)


The Los Angeles, California, Metro Green Line opened for service in 1995 and was immediately branded by critics as the “line to nowhere” because it did not directly serve the central business district or any other major activity center. It was located close to the Los Angeles International Airport but did not quite reach it. The line was located close to the principal Amtrak north–south rail corridor between Los Angeles and San Diego, California, but did not quite reach that. In fact, the line was so controversial in 1995 that the television program "60 Minutes" did an exposé of the Los Angeles Metro System and specifically identified the project as an example of poor planning and management. Despite these criticisms, the Metro Green Line has been surprisingly successful in attracting relatively high ridership during its first decade of operation. Average weekday boardings on the Green Line have grown from 13,600 to more than 37,000 per day. Many Green Line riders use the line as a feeder route to the heavily used Metro Blue Line, which directly serves downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. This connection seems to have benefited both lines, and during the past decade, Blue Line ridership has more than doubled from 39,600 to 80,400. Further extensions of the Green Line are now being considered as a part of Los Angeles transit plans. Perceived failures of the original project are reviewed and some of the reasons for the relatively high levels of ridership growth on the line are explored. The overall theme of the paper concerns light rail transit projects that serve nontraditional markets.