It was the culmination of a dream. A decade and a half after construction began, the $4.7-billion Metro Rail subway system to the San Fernando Valley was finished.
The last three stations--North Hollywood, Universal City and Hollywood/Highland--opened in late June, and the service proved popular with passengers right off the bat. A shortage of parking to accommodate commuters’ cars immediately became a problem at the two Valley stations.
The sleek subway trains run at 70 mph in twin tunnels carved through the Santa Monica Mountains. The final 6.3 miles of rail line, from the Hollywood/Vine station to the Valley, was completed within budget and ahead of the federal deadline, a first for the long and troubled Red Line project.
Ridership took a big jump when the last leg of the 17.4-mile system opened. But the number of passengers dropped sharply in November after the longest Los Angeles transit strike in more than two decades shut down most MTA bus and rail service for 32 days, from mid-September to mid-October.
The most recent data show that the average number of weekday boardings on the subway fell 20.2%, from a high of 119,150 in July to 95,075 in November, far more than the seasonal drop that MTA officials say usually occurs in the fall.
The opening of the subway to North Hollywood coincided with the start of the MTA’s Metro Rapid bus service across the Valley and from the Westside to the Eastside through downtown Los Angeles. The distinctive red and white Rapid buses feature fewer stops and use high-tech devices to keep traffic lights green to speed their movement.