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The Gold Line is Here (La Línea de Oro Está Aquí)!

November 16, 2009

La Cucaracha gold line

La Cucaracha by Lalo Alcaraz

Despite all anticipation, the hoopla, the ceremony, the spectacle, there is apparently good reason to be disappointed in the new Gold Line. Damien Newton of Streetsblog fame has issued a station-by-station roast of the new line. Browne Molyneux of The Bus Bench will probably do likewise tomorrow. Metro Rider LA, a site who whose founder has jumped ship and now relies on the thorough but infrequent posting of Wad, remains guardedly optimistic. Would a positive blog about the Gold Line opening make me a naïve sellout to Metro’s evil pedestrian-crushing agenda?

Consider me a naïve sellout.

I’ll admit I have my doubts about parts of the line. The turn onto First St. in Little Tokyo is potentially a bottleneck. Some of the crossings are a bit dubious. But I think the Gold Line will ultimately be a blessing for Eastside communities and the Metro system as a whole. And the opening day celebration was stunning; it was one of those events that makes you think, “Oh yeah, that’s why I live here.”

subway volunteers

I didn’t make it to Union until 2 in the afternoon, by which time the trains were completely swamped. But I took a moment to chat with some of the friendly Gold Line volunteers in the Red Line station. They proudly displayed their t-shirts, and we chatted about the new train. These guys were very optimistic about the changes the new Gold Line would bring to the east, and they were also hopeful for the other upcoming train lines throughout the area. They were a bit worried about the price tag of the new line, but we all agreed that it was much better than building a freeway through the area – the Eastside has enough freeways as it is.

line 2

The line to ride the Gold Line stretched from the center of Union Station to the bus terminal. Frustrated Amtrak baggage carts honked desperately in an attempt to move the crowds. I didn’t ask how long a wait, I didn’t want to find out. Instead, I opted to walk south to the Little Tokyo Station.

train overpass 1

little tokyo sign

After picking up some discarded literature, including Metro’s new “Works” leaflet, I caught the next eastbound train – without having to wait five hours! As the doors were about to close, a short Latino man rushed in, carrying a small yellow lawn chair – the only empty seat in the train. “Siéntase”, he offered.

lawn chair

Alas, I only had time to go as far as Mariachi Plaza. But the station there was impressive, to me it seemed enough to make Gloria Molina shut up about the line only being a “measly light rail”.

m plaza platform

m plaza station

Like the rest of LA, the Eastside loves a party. By the time I got there, Boyle Heights was in full fiesta mode. There were booths, carnival rides, food and drink, politicians giving speeches, enthusiastic crowds, and of course, mariachi. Mariachi Plaza has been a mecca for LA’s mariachis for decades, and while the train construction was hurtful to them at first, it now promises to make the plaza even more popular.



guy w case

girl guitar

I stopped to talk with some of the booth owners, who included artists, activists, and community organization representatives. For anyone on the Eastside interested in learning film, there’s the East LA Society of Film and Arts. They’re also accepting applications for volunteers.

film program

Johanna Aguilar, a local artist, attracted plenty of visitors with her eye catching life size skeleton band, accompanied by smaller figurines. She made them to honor her grandmother who recently passed away, and they have been shown at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Dia de los Muertos celebration. I asked her if she had a studio or gallery in the neighborhood. She told me, “No, I just work in my living room.” So modest! I wouldn’t be surprised to see great things coming from this talented young chica.

artist mug 1

While Johanna beamed over the compliments she was receiving, I had a chat with her family, Luis and Rosario. Rosario told me she was very happy to see the train open, she could remember the days when the streetcars used to run through the Eastside. Luis reminisced about his younger days, surfing in Huntington Beach and hanging out at the Long Beach pike.


On the western stage, an all-female band prepared to play. The announcer spoke in Spanish; as best as I could tell, the group were called Las Reinas de Mariachi: the queens of mariachi. They played, and while I couldn’t understand the lyrics, their passion needed no language.

mariachi girl

Near the station’s entrance, another group of queens were assembled: beauty queens. The two most recent Miss Boyle Heightses were there, conversing among themselves, but also clearly pleased with the attention their ornately assembled hair was garnering from passers by.

beauty queens

The line to reboard the train at Mariachi was a bit too gnarly, so I decided to hike it west to Pico-Aliso. I was glad I did, as I was awarded this dramatic vista of the skyline with a train in the foreground. Altogether, an awesome afternoon.

train skyline

Gold Line critics are right to make valid points about its safety, utility, etc. But let’s not forget that the line was built for the people of the Eastside. And as far as I could tell, Eastsiders were thrilled to welcome the Gold Line to their community. ¡Viva la Línea de Oro!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2009 11:54 pm

    Great photos and write-up! From the looks of it, we got many of the same photos, too:

    Too bad about the reports I’ve been hearing about dismal ridership…though, I’d imagine it takes time to solidify a real presence and woo long-time bus riders from their respective lines.

  2. Drew permalink*
    December 3, 2009 11:51 pm

    Oh, you and your fancy-pantsy depth of field! Just kidding, nice work. I dig the shots you have of MacArthur Park.

    I didn’t see the reports on low ridership but I think its a bit premature to be drawing conclusions on what ridership will ultimately amount to. The Blue Line had half the ridership it does now when it opened. Besides, the holiday weekends are probably throwing figures off as well. Cheers.

  3. November 24, 2010 2:58 pm

    the best beauty queens are coming from south america, i really love latinas ;-“

  4. August 26, 2011 3:28 pm

    Are you interested in having guest bloggers?

  5. September 14, 2011 9:09 pm

    Pretty part of content. I simply stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital to claim that I acquire actually enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing for your feeds or even I achievement you get entry to consistently rapidly.


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