The first day of rail service on the Gold Line Eastside Extension found the new stations and cars crowded with the curious and future riders. Eastsider contributor Ana Facio Contreras went along for the ride earlier today, jumping on at Mariachi Station in Boyle Heights and riding to the final stop at the Atlantic Station in East Los Angeles. It has been nearly 50 years since the last trolleys – the Yellow Cars – rolled along the streets of Boyle Heights and East LA.
The $898 million rail line – dedicated to Edward R. Roybal, who in 1949 became the first Mexican-American elected to the city council – includes eight stations over six miles from the Little Tokyo/Arts District in downtown through Boyle Heights and East L.A.
Here is what Contreras heard and saw during her Gold Line ride:
After 1 p.m., the wait to get on the westbound train at the Atlantic Station – the final stop in East Los Angeles – was about 25 minutes. Impatient children waiting in line with their parents could be heard saying, “This is like waiting in line at Disneyland.”
Once on board, the passengers who filled the train seemed excited. From elevated platforms and their train seats, residents got a new view of neighborhood landmarks, ranging from Evergreen Cemetery to El Mercado de Los Angeles. “Look, that’s a very famous market,” Pedro Gonzalez said to his son, Marcos, 11, of El Mercado on First Street.
East Los Angeles resident Catalina Alanis, 44, and two of her four children were among the hundreds of people who showed up at the new Mariachi Plaza Station in Boyle Heights. Alanis will be back. She plans to ride the Gold Line instead of the bus to work at La Serenata restaurant across the street from the Mariachi Plaza Station.
“I don’t drive a car and so I have to take the bus,” Alanis said in Spanish. “And sometimes the bus is late or doesn’t even stop at the bus stop, and I end up getting to work an hour late. The train seems faster than the bus and more reliable, so I’ll be taking the train from now on.”
During a grand opening ceremony, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina thanked a long list of people involved in the line’s construction, including the many mariachis who were somewhat displaced during the construction of the Mariachi Plaza Station. Molina has been critical about the lack of barriers and other safety features along the line. But, today, Molina, who spoke in Spanish to a crowd at Mariachi Plaza Station, said everyone should be proud of the new rail line:
“We have a lot to celebrate … Take care of it, protect it. Don’t let anybody put graffiti on it. When a piece of paper falls to the ground, we’re going to pick it up ourselves. Why? Because we’re proud of what we have here in our community. And we’re going to protect it, and insist that other of these type of projects that are needed here, are brought to our community.”
* This story has been updated with new material.