On Saturday, the Metro Gold Line will be celebrating its latest extension at several new train stations from Arcadia to Azusa. The events kick off at the City of Hope Station, 1777 E Duarte Road, in Duarte, beginning with an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. 

There hasn’t been a transportation party this cool since Sept. 16, 1885. That was when train service between the city of Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley prompted a celebration. On that day, according to train historian Donald Duke, “[Old] No. 2 … pulled into Pasadena all decorated in streamers, bunting and American flags.”

The Los Angeles & San Gabriel Valley Railroad provided train service between LA and the burgeoning valley. A land boom in 1887 led to the line extending into Mud Springs (now San Dimas). Through a series of mergers and sales, the line became part of the famous Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad.

The Hotel Green, completed in 1894, abutted the Santa Fe Depot and was a major tourist destination. Duke described the hotel as “[O]ne of Pasadena’s finest caravansaries.” With all things nostalgic, however, the heyday must come to a close. 

With the advent of the automobile, train travel declined, as did the hotel. Add to that the Great Depression and the population growth that subsumed the agricultural lands in the San Gabriel Valley and it is easy to see why train travel fell off and eventually ceased 

And then the population grew and grew and grew. But the freeways didn’t. And people got caught in perpetual gridlock. Suddenly, trains started to sound like a good idea again.

According to Trainhistory.net, on May 10, 1866 the meeting of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads created a 3,000-mile-long route spanning the continent and revolutionizing passenger and freight cargo. Prior to that date, it could take weeks or months to travel from New York to California. 

Sometimes, traversing the San Gabriel Valley can feel like a bad week on a wagon train. I often ask myself, “Are we there yet?” and the answer is most often “No.” The resurgence of passenger train travel and the inclusion of the valley in the Gold Line’s expansion will go a long way toward reducing congestion on the freeways and surface street travel routes. As fewer road miles are traveled by passenger vehicles, the sometimes questionable air quality should also enjoy some improvement. 

Trains are one of the most eco-friendly modes of travel, but are expensive to build and maintain. I imagine there are going to be many types of fee structures for the Gold Line, and some may find the cost prohibitive. However, when considering a cost-benefit ratio we must factor in the price of maintaining our vehicles, the benefits of eco-friendly travel, and the value of our time.

If you want to give the train a test-spin, travel on the Gold Line will be absolutely free on opening day. Give it a try and judge for yourself if the Gold Line can serve some or all of your transportation needs.

From 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, the Gold Line will be running for free.  Between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. there will be local vendors, live music and food, as well as special activities for the whole family at each of the five new stations east of Pasadena 

They are:

Arcadia Station 

201 N. First Ave., Arcadia

Monrovia Station 

1651 S. Primrose Ave, Monrovia

Duarte/City of Hope Station 

1777 E. Duarte Road, Duarte

Irwindale Station 

16017 Avenida Padilla, Irwindale

Azusa Downtown Station 

780 N Alameda Ave., Azusa n