With a party in Leimert Park, Metro opens the new K Line along Crenshaw, serving South LA and Inglewood

Slowly, with headlights shining through the morning haze and bells clanging, the new K Line light-rail train on its maiden run smashed through a banner while traveling alongside Crenshaw Boulevard on Friday, Oct. 7, as press cameras clicked and a handful of onlookers cheered.

At noon, the 8.5-mile first phase of the K Line, known as the Crenshaw Line, began service from the E (Expo) Line’s shared Expo/Crenshaw station in Mid City, through South Los Angeles, Westchester and Inglewood — stopping at seven stations. People wanting to reach LAX will have to wait until 2024, when the line’s LAX/Metro Transit Center Station at Aviation and 96th streets will open, allowing riders to hop on the LAX Automated People Mover for service to and from airline terminals.

Breaking through a banner, the K Line or Crenshaw Line subway/light rail is officially open in Los Angeles on Friday, October 7, 2022. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at the grand opening of the K Line or Crenshaw Line subway/light rail in Los Angeles on Friday, October 7, 2022. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

The crowd reacts as Mayor Eric Garcetti sings at the grand opening of the K Line or Crenshaw Line subway/light rail in Los Angeles on Friday, October 7, 2022. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Jacquelyn “Jackie” Dupont-Walker, MSW, LCSW President. Ward Economic Development speaks at the grand opening of the K Line or Crenshaw Line subway/light rail in Los Angeles on Friday, October 7, 2022. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

A crowd gathered to document the officially opening of the K Line or Crenshaw Line subway/light rail, in Los Angeles on Friday, October 7, 2022. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

A crowd gathered to document the officially opening of the K Line or Crenshaw Line subway/light rail, in Los Angeles on Friday, October 7, 2022. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

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Many who watched the ceremonial banner-breaking or joined festivities a half-mile north at Leimert Park, said they are eager to ride Metro’s $2.2 billion rail line, which gives passengers connecting with the E Line a ride to job centers in Culver City and Santa Monica and east to downtown L.A. When transferring to the L (Gold) Line from Union Station, they can continue to Pasadena and the northern San Gabriel Valley.

“Yes, I am going to ride it because I need it to get where I want to go,” said Fernanda Flores, 62, who witnessed the new train push through the banner. The tradition started with the opening of the L.A.-to-Long Beach Blue Line, now the A Line, in 1990, said LA Metro spokesman Rick Jaeger. “I will use it to go to the doctor’s and to Olvera Street,” Flores added.

During a presentation at Leimert Park, LA Metro Board Chairman and Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian noted that the K Line was Metro’s seventh rail line to open in L.A. County. “They say seven is a lucky number,” Najarian said. “Seven has a connection with kindness and beauty, and it has been used since ancient times as a positive harbinger of things to come.”

Najarian also said a northerly extension to Hollywood, West Hollywood and possibly the Hollywood Bowl is being considered. An environmental study on that extension will be released next year, but the estimated opening is 2047.

Still, proponents say the near-term connection to LAX, and a longer-term link to Hollywood, prove that the line is the missing puzzle piece in a growing map of LA Metro subways, light-rail and bus rapid transit lines across the county.

Cynthia Gibson, who lives in Culver City, was looking at map on the Leimert Park Station platform, as others queued up to ride. She was thinking out loud about riding the E Line to the K Line and to Leimert Park where she does marketing for the African-American neighborhood and a nonprofit.

“But I am really so anxious for it to get to the airport,” Gibson said. “You know when people come in and you hear those seven deadly words: ‘Would you pick me up at LAX?’ That will be a game-changer for all of us.”

Elizabeth Williams, 47, of Mid City, was waiting to ride the K Line. She’s ridden many of Metro’s light-rail lines including the C (Green) Line and the A (Blue) Line. This is one she needed to try out in person with friends.

“I want to ride to get distracted. To get away from the house. It will be my own outing,” she said. “We are testing it out to see how far it goes.”

Metro is providing free rides on every train, bus and bike share station through Sunday, Oct. 9. Metro is hoping the new line and the promotion will boost rider participation, which remains below pre-pandemic levels. “We will see more people riding today when they get off work,” Dave Sotero, Metro spokesman, said  Friday afternoon.

Metro has also promoted riding to the USC football game on Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Coliseum and to the CicLAvia open-street bicycling event in downtown L.A. on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

People mulling over t-shirt, jewelry booths, food trucks and lemonade stands outplayed the speakers at the kickoff Friday, which was hosted by Grammy award-winning Jody Watley, known for her hit song “Looking For A New Love,” from 1987 on Geffen Records.

But some got into the party mode by singing, from the podium, about the new train line.

Second District County Supervisor and LA Metro Board Member Holly Mitchell, who grew up in the Crenshaw area, riffed on Watley’s hit:

“I am lookin’ for the K Line baby, the K Line baby. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!,” she sang “with apologies to Jody Watley.” She thanked previous county supervisors, Metro board members, L.A. city council members and legislators who pushed for a line in South Central as far back as 1992.

She also credited former County Supervisor Yvonne Braithwaite Burke for introducing the Crenshaw-Prairie Corridor Study in response to the 1992 civil uprising in South L.A., a study that started the conversation. The K Line is described by Metro as the biggest investment in Black and brown communities since the building of the A Line from Long Beach through South L.A., Watts, Willowbrook and Compton, and the C Line in the South Bay.

Metro Board Member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker said the construction of the K Line was done by contractors who hired 60% of its workers from economically disadvantaged areas, with Latino workers making up 63%, and Black workers making up 11%, of those hired.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti got into the act, singing: “People get ready there’s a train comin’. Don’t need no baggage, just get on board.” He urged residents of South L.A., Crenshaw, View Park, Hyde Park, Westchester and Inglewood to take ownership of the new line.

“This is your community. This is your line. Keep it safe. Keep it clean,” he said in concluding his speech.

Related links

K (Crenshaw) Line opens Friday in South LA and will connect to LAX someday
LA Metro will open the Crenshaw rail line, called the K Line, on Oct. 7
Metro Blue Line from downtown L.A. to Long Beach will reopen as the A Line on Nov. 2
LAX improvements racing along on road to 2028 Olympics
LA Metro takes Pete Buttigieg for a ride, hoping the feds offer up infrastructure dollars

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