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Subway Innovations: Riding the Rails toward Equity
Publication Date
October 30th 2023

Purple Line Extension in Downtown Los Angeles

In the 1920s, public transportation was the choice of travel in Los Angeles, CA. The streetcar network, known as the "Red Car" system, was one of the world's most extensive electric railway systems and played a significant role in shaping the development of the city and its surrounding areas.


The streetcar network influenced the density and land use patterns of the city. Encouraging transit-oriented development, with business and residential areas built close to line stops.


By the 1960s, the downfall of the famed LA streetcar network began. Ridership drastically decreased due to access to personal vehicles and suburbanization, and changes to urban planning led to a shift in transportation preferences.

Today, transportation is the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. According to the Global Traffic Scorecard by INRIX, LA is ranked the sixth most congested city in the country, with motorists, on average, losing up to 62 hours in traffic annually. As congestion continues to grow throughout LA, the Westside Purple (D Line) Extension Transit Project will be a welcome alternative.


In an endeavor to bring public transit back to LA, LA Metro is undertaking the Westside Purple (D Line) Extension Transit Project. The Westside is one of LA's busiest areas and the region's second-largest job center. The transit project aims to reduce the number of cars on roadways and improve regional travel. The extension will reduce travel times from East to West from 1 hour by driving to less than a 25-minute train ride.


The new line will provide a reliable, high-speed connection between downtown LA and the Westside, costing over $10 billion. It includes nine miles of new subway tunnels and seven new stations, extending from its current terminus of Wilshire/Western to Beverly Hills, Century City, and Westwood neighborhoods.


The project is being constructed in three sections:

  • Section 1: Wilshire/La Brea Station, Wilshire/Fairfax Station, and Wilshire/La Cienega Station; slated to open in 2025.
    • Cost: $3.665 billion
  • Section 2: Wilshire/Rodeo Station and Century City/Constellation Station; slated to open in 2025.
    • Cost: $2.633 billion
  • Section 3: Westwood/UCLA Station and Westwood/VA Hospital Station; slated to open in 2027.
    • Cost: $3.599 billion

The extension is no small feat. It has been in the making for over twenty years. Since its conception, Urban Engineers has played an integral role in helping to make the project a reality. Services provided include program management overseeing the project for LA Metro and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Management includes frequent project updates on regular findings and recommendations and monitoring work scope, costs, and schedule status. Urban has a team of six individuals directly overseeing the project and staff across the country providing support, including senior project managers and experts in rail and transportation.


Andrew Royston, Regional Manager for Urban's Western region and project lead, provided a status update and a tour of the new La Brea Station box.

Section 1 construction is currently underway and making progress towards completion. The section consists of a four-mile-long tunnel segment from Koreatown through Miracle Mile and three new stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax, and Wilshire/La Cienega.


Andrew shared that it took almost two years to mine the new tunnels from Wilshire/Western to La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. German tunnel-boring machines were used to excavate the tunnels. This type of mining limits the disturbance to the surrounding ground and produces a smooth tunnel wall.

With the tunnels in place, the station construction began. The La Brea Station box is a 1,000 ft long and 70 ft deep underground structure. The structure has been fully closed with concrete, and the final rooms are under construction, including platforms, track work, passenger areas, elevators, and escalators.


The last time Andrew was underground at the La Brea structure was before the pandemic when soil excavating was still occurring. "It's great to see the station coming along. I have worked on this project for over eight years, and it has been in the making for over twenty. It's exciting to be a part of such a transformative project," said Andrew. "There is nothing like building such a mega project with the same group of people for so long. It doesn't get much bigger than this. It makes you realize that you're just one person on a project of thousands working to positively impact a community. It takes countless people to put something like this together."


The Westside Purple Line Transit Extension is a transformative mega project that will positively affect the region and future generations. Investing in public transit systems like this creates equity by granting people who do not own a car, are unable, or choose not to drive (due to age, disability, or other reasons) access to affordable modes of transportation.

Through fewer greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile compared to private vehicles, these systems contribute to reduced air pollution and a smaller carbon footprint, resulting in improved climate and public health.

Behind every Urban project, the goal is to enhance the quality of life for a community. The Westside Purple Line Transit Extension project perfectly exemplifies Urban values and dedication toward this goal.

For additional project information, click here.