Riding the Metro Green Line, the "Line of Almosts"
It's afternoon on a weekday and I'm standing on a Green Line platform at the Rosa Parks Station. It's windy and it's hard to hear anything more than the roar of the 105 as freeway traffic slows and speeds up again. The crowd swells as we wait for a train. If it's late, I wouldn't know. There were no announcements about delays. At least, I didn't hear anything over the zoom of the cars that are sandwiching us. The train schedules that are displayed at Metro platforms aren't available here. It looks like the screens are broken. I check Metro's Twitter feed only to find no news. Still, we wait as two westbound trains collect riders loaded down with suitcases. Another group of people heads upstairs to our platform, enough to make the next train ride very uncomfortable. Fortunately for us, though, when the train finally does arrive, after more than 20 minutes of waiting, enough people exit to give us some space.
I think of the Green Line as a forgotten Metro ride. It runs for 12 stops from the South Bay to Norwalk. If you don't live in this part of Los Angeles County and you have a car, there's not much need to take it. With all the transfers involved — maybe Gold or Orange, probably Red or Purple or Expo, definitely Blue — and including the buses that you'll likely have to take after exiting the train, driving will seem more convenient.
The Green Line represents the frustration that comes with a public transportation system that's still being built. Unlike Red or Purple, even Gold now, it's not day-tripper friendly, as most of the major points of interest here will still be either a bus or bike ride away. It's absolutely a commuter ride; if you live in Norwalk or Downey and work at LAX or the corporate headquarters that dot the South Bay, you probably know this route well. It also provides access to the Blue Line, which can take you to either downtown or Long Beach with many stops in between, and multiple buses that head toward the center of Los Angeles. Below, we've noted the frustrations, and some highlights, of riding the Green Line.
Close to the airport, but not quite there
1. It's a line of almosts.
The Green Line almost gets you to LAX, but you'll have to take a shuttle to finish the trip. Still, that doesn't seem to hinder ridership. Even in the midafternoon, there are a lot of people on this train and many of them are wearing LAX name tags. Others are wheeling their baggage onto the train. If you live somewhere near the Green Line, this is probably a good way to get to the airport. For the rest of us, though, our nearest airport shuttle will be more convenient.
Also, the Green Line almost gets you to several beaches. If you bring your bike, it's doable. If you don't ride a bike, there are bus routes that will get you most of the way to the Manhattan, Redondo and Hermosa Beach piers. Still, it's a bummer that a rail whose western terminus is named Redondo Beach (actually on Marine Avenue, near Redondo Beach Avenue in Hawthorne) doesn't get you close enough to the ocean.
If you want a parking spot at the Norwalk station, get there early.
2. Park-and-ride is only the way to go ... when there's enough parking.
On a weekday afternoon at the Norwalk stop, I saw a guy exit an Uber before heading upstairs to catch the train. While that seems counterintuitive, it's also a really smart decision. The previous morning, I'd aborted plans to ride the Green Line after being unable to find parking spots at either the Lakewood or Norwalk stations. The Norwalk station, by the way, has a massive parking lot, but it was packed when I got there around 11 a.m.
Maybe you've noticed the Green Line park-and-ride signs while stuck in traffic on the 105 and thought that public transportation might be a better option. It could be, but with the Green Line, the people with early-morning commutes are the ones who get the parking spots.
3. For some commuters, the Green Line is a very good ride.
There's no doubt that the Green Line is designed specifically to get people to work. In addition to its proximity to LAX, the light rail has stops near a few of the South Bay's corporate neighborhoods. SpaceX, Sanrio, Lockheed-Martin and more are located within walking distance of Green Line exits. For those who land jobs here, commuting by Metro is likely easiest if you live near a Green or Blue Line stop.
4. If you're looking for destination shopping, head to Long Beach Boulevard.
When you ride the Red Line or the Gold Line, stops often come with announcements of the nearest destinations, whether schools, hospitals or shopping centers. That's not standard on the Green Line. You're on your own when riding this rail.
However, you can see the peaks of Plaza Mexico from the train near Long Beach Boulevard. This Lynwood shopping center is similar to places like the Grove or even Paris Las Vegas in that it's designed to make you feel as if you're somewhere else, but it's much more interesting. Plaza Mexico is based specifically on Monte Alban, an archeological site in Mexico, and is filled with faux colonial architecture that's quite beautifully done. It's easy to spend so much time checking out the details here that you end up ignoring the shops. Come here on a Sunday and you'll notice that the ample parking lot is filled to its edges. The Green Line can save you the headache of looking for a place to park your car.
5. Unlike other Metro lines, the Green does not have stops near community colleges.
There are two sizable community colleges in the region served by the Green Line: Cerritos College in Norwalk and El Camino College in Torrance. Neither one is near a rail station. Yes, you can pick up a bus to finish the commute to school, but, in comparison with other Metro lines, this is weird. The Red Line has an exit for Los Angeles Community College. The Gold Line hits East Los Angeles College, Pasadena City College and Citrus College. The Orange Line stops at Los Angeles Valley College and Los Angeles Pierce College. Maybe it wasn't logistically possible; after all, the Green Line mostly follows the 105 freeway. Still, it does feel like the southern end of Los Angeles County is missing out on easy access to education facilities.
6. For young kids, there is an educational stop near the Green Line. (It's a bit of a walk.)
About a mile from the Lakewood Boulevard station, hidden beside the massive shopping center, is Columbia Memorial Space Center. This small museum pays homage to Downey's aerospace history while providing a kid-friendly environment to learn about space. I stopped by on a weekday morning, when the school buses were dropping off the field-trip crowd. However, if you want to bring your kids on your own, it's also open on Saturdays. (It does birthday parties too.) Check out the calendar for special events.
7. There's also a major park near the Green Line that will be expanding.
Located walking distance from the Green Line's Avalon Station, Earvin "Magic" Johnson Park is a large recreational area with places for fishing. According to a recent Los Angeles Times report, the county recently approved plans to bring in equestrian and aquatic centers, as well as dog and skate parks and public art.
8. If you're a fan of hockey or cars, you'll want to take the Green Line to Mariposa.
The Mariposa station in El Segundo is right next to Toyota Sports Center. This large complex is mostly a hockey hub, with programs for kids and adults and rinks that are available for birthday parties and private rentals. Oh yeah — it's also where the Kings practice.
Actually, this has been a practice space for the Lakers, too, but that will be changing after the basketball team got approval for its own training complex in El Segundo.
While you're here, make sure to check out the Automobile Driving Museum. It's about a half-mile walk from the station and is hidden amid the local buildings. (Use your map to help find it.) The museum houses gorgeous restored cars and, if you stop by on a Sunday, you can actually go for a ride in some of these beauties.
9. If you're a music nerd, you'll find a couple points of interest off the Green Line.
The actual childhood home of the Wilson brothers (who went on to become the Beach Boys) was demolished in favor of the 105, but there's a monument at the site where they once lived. It's a California Registered Historical Landmark and you can get there via the Green Line's Crenshaw exit. This will take a bit of walking and there are a few side streets involved, so map your trip.
Once you hit the Redondo Beach end of the Green Line, you're about a mile from Polliwog Park. This quiet, unassuming park is also the site of an infamous Black Flag show. Stop by and pay homage to a band that could aggravate suburban families better than the rest of us ever will.
10. Will the Green Line help Angelenos get to Rams games?
In much the same way that the Green Line almost gets you to LAX and the beach, it almost gets you to the former Hollywood Park racetrack. If you exit at the Lennox/Hawthorne stop, you'll need to catch a bus to finish the trip.
While the racetrack is now closed, this is the future site of City of Champions Stadium, which will be home to the Rams. When that happens, Metro will need to consider all the ways that it can get fans to the stadium. There's already talk of shuttles from the coming LAX/Crenshaw line, but I think it would be wise to consider shuttles from the Green Line as well. After all, there are multiple Hollywood Bowl shuttles.
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