By Ray Richardson
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A new travel experience and more access between South Los Angeles communities are among the expected benefits for transit riders when the K Line light rail line makes its debut on Oct. 7.
Highlighting the 8.5-mile route is a stretch through the Crenshaw Corridor that eventually will connect riders and commuters to cultural sites and entertainment venues such as SoFi Stadium and the Kia Forum. Construction on the long-awaited transit project began in 2014.
“We have waited a long time for this rail line to come to our part of town,” said county Supevisor Holly Mitchell, who also serves on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “Communities in South Los Angeles and Inglewood are going to reap the benefits of [this] investments for generations to come.”
In celebration of the K Line launch, the MTA will offer free rides on all of its buses, trains and ride-sharing services Oct. 7-9.
The K Line, which had a $2.4 billion budget, is the MTA’s first new rail service in 10 years. The Oct. 7 launch will give the MTA seven rail lines throughout the county. Of the seven, the K Line appears to be generating more excitement and anticipation because of the impact on communities needing an upgrade in transportation services.
The new line will provide easier access to residents of the Crenshaw District, Baldwin Hills, Hyde Park, Jefferson Park, West Adams and Westchester communities.
“The opening of the K Line fulfills a promise made long ago to the people of South Los Angeles and Inglewood,” MTA CEO Stephanie Wiggins said in a statement. “The K Line provides better access to jobs and community amenities for this region of the county. I couldn’t be prouder of the [MTA] team for delivering this incredible piece of infrastructure to our community.”
Seven stations are on the initial K Line route, starting on the north end at the Exposition Park/Crenshaw area and finishing in the south region at Westchester/Veterans Hospital, near the corner of Florence and Hindry avenues in Inglewood. Three of the stations are in Inglewood along Florence.
“Little by little, we are becoming the world’s center of sports and entertainment, thanks in part to the K Line coming to our city,” Inglewood Mayor James Butts said in a statement.
The MTA plans to open an eighth station at 2023 at Aviation and Century boulevards. That station will eventually connect riders to a people mover that will take transport people to Los Angeles International Airport. An LAX Transit Center is under construction and is scheduled to open in 2024.
According to the MTA, more than 60% of construction workers hired by prime contractors to work on the K Line project were from economically disadvantaged areas. At least 23% were hired as apprentices to start their careers in construction and 10% included workers with social barriers that made it hard for them to find employment.
During construction on Crenshaw, the MTA created the Business Interruption Fund to assist small businesses that were affected by the construction and had difficulty serving customers. The fund awarded more than $20.1 million to approximately 230 small or family-owned businesses to help them stay afloat.
Many of those businesses have reopened after completion of the project.
“The K line is integral to Los Angeles’ transportation future,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “In a few days, it will open doors of opportunity for riders across our region and help make Los Angeles a more accessible, sustainable,and inclusive city.”
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin said the new stations on the K Line will “change the lives of residents and future generations of Angelenos” commuting between Los Angeles, the Westside and South Bay.
The K Line has two underground stretches below Crenshaw Boulevard. Electric-powered trains will run on the surface in the middle of Crenshaw between 60th Street and 48th Street.
MTA officials are advising motorists to pay more attention to new traffic systems along Crenshaw that were designed to allow trains to proceed safely through intersections. Train operators will have signals and regulations to honor standard traffic lights, but motorists in the Crenshaw area will be monitored when trains approach.
The MTA and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have developed a photo enforcement program with the hope of deterring motorists from taking risks with approaching trains. At least 10 intersections on the Crenshaw portion of the K Line route will have cameras to monitor drivers, who could face $100 fines and more penalties if captured violating traffic signals with trains approaching.
Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at email@example.com.