Beleaguered L.A. subway gets a boost

Oft-criticized, over budget, and behind schedule, Los Angeles's subway system keeps rolling on.

With much fanfare and large crowds, the 4.6-mile Hollywood extension of the city's subway opened Saturday, a major step for the controversial project.

More than 105,000 people rode at least a portion of the 11.1-mile Metro Rail Red Line route that includes the new segment, says Ed Scannell, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). For many, the experience of traveling under streets instead of on them was completely new.

"This is my first time on a subway," says Marcial San Pedro, a retiree riding with his wife, Aida, on a Metro Rail Red Line train rolling into a new station under the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. "This is my wife's first time too."

Rides on the Red Line were free all weekend, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority provided entertainment at each of the five new stations.

Until Saturday, the Red Line ran just a little more than six miles, from Union Station across downtown and a short distance to the west. Now linking two distinct destinations, the subway drew crowds that gave it the bustling appearance of other cities' subways.

Alfonso Rodriquez, MTA deputy executive officer and project manager of the Hollywood extension, says weekday Red Line passenger counts are expected to double now.

"Right now we have 39,000 people boarding daily," he says. "With this extension, we expect it to go to nearly 80,000."

The segment, along with a smaller addition that was already in service, cost $1.7 billion, about $288 million over budget. It was supposed to open last December.

Eventually, the Red Line will continue on from Hollywood to Universal City, then drop down into the San Fernando Valley.

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