Metrolink 657, a Hyundai Rotem cab car, pulls into Santa Clarita Station on July 14, 2018,

which was the day of the Los Angeles Union Station's Summer Train Fest. Photo by John Cornett.

(Copyright © 2023 John Cornett, All Rights Reserved)


Metrolink logo.


Metrolink (reporting mark SCAX) is a commuter rail system in Southern California, serving Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties, as well as to Oceanside in San Diego County. The system consists of eight lines and 67 stations operating on 547 miles (880 km) of track. Arrow is operated under a contract with the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA).

In 2022, the system had a ridership of 4,134,500, or about 15,400 per weekday as of the first quarter of 2023.

Metrolink connects with Los Angeles County's Metro Rail and Metro Busway systems, San Diego County's Coaster commuter rail and Sprinter hybrid rail services, and with Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner, Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, and Texas Eagle intercity rail services. Metrolink owns several hundred miles of track; however, it also shares track with freight railroads.

The system, founded in 1991 as the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) and adopting "Metrolink" as its moniker, started operation in 1992. Average weekday ridership was 42,928 as of 2017. It is operated by Amtrak under contract with the SCRRA.


Metrolink System Map.

(Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



In addition to suburban communities and cities, Metrolink also serves several points of interest such as Downtown Los Angeles, Downtown San Bernardino, Burbank, Hollywood Burbank Airport, California State University, Los Angeles, Angel Stadium of Anaheim, and the San Clemente Pier. Special service has also been extended to the Pomona Fairplex, the Ventura County Fairgrounds, and the Auto Club Speedway for certain events.


The system currently consists of eight lines. Click HERE to see lines served and other information.


Metrolink ticket vending machines. Machines also sell tickets for Amtrak trains and the FlyAway Bus to Los Angeles International Airport.

(Ricky Courtney, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)



Metrolink's fare structure is based on a flat fee for boarding the train and an additional cost for distance with fares being calculated in 25-cent increments between stations.

Metrolink tickets are valid fare for most connecting buses and trains; certain Metrolink tickets are valid on certain Amtrak routes.

Fare increases normally occur annually in July, to coincide with increased fuel and labor expenses, and have generally averaged between 3.5% and 5% per year (although restructuring caused a larger jump in rates). The oil price increases since 2003 are partly to blame for consistently increasing fares, as Metrolink trains are powered by diesel fuel.

In late 2018, Metrolink announced that San Bernardino Line ticket prices would be reduced by 25% at least through 2019 in an attempt to increase ridership. Similar discounts have been introduced to other lines since 2016.


Metrolink trains approaching and leaving Union Station during the evening rush hour in 2008.

(Downtowngal, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)



Early history

Inter-city rail service around Los Angeles persisted through the formation of Amtrak in 1971. However, rail operations suitable for commuters remained elusive throughout the 1980s. On October 18, 1982, CalTrain, LA's first commuter rail service, began on the existing Ventura County Line, but only lasted a few months before termination, on March 1, 1983.

The Orange County Transportation Commission initiated the Amtrak-operated Orange County Commuter in early 1990, running between Los Angeles and San Juan Capistrano, but a more comprehensive approach was deemed necessary. Senate Bill 1402 was signed into law on May 25, 1990, which directed local transportation authorities to establish a regional plan for commuter rail by the year's end.

In October 1990, the member agencies of the SCRRA had announced the purchase of 175 miles (282 km) of track, maintenance yards, and stations and other property from Southern Pacific for $450 million in 1990 ($1.01 billion adjusted for inflation). The rights to use Los Angeles Union Station were purchased from Union Pacific, the station's owner at the time, for $17 million in the same year ($38.1 million adjusted for inflation) (Union Station has since been purchased by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority). Freight operations would continue on some corridors under coordination with passenger services. The joint powers authority was formally founded in 1991.


Cab Car 624 at Sonora Street.

(Kwickie, CC BY 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Contemporary history

Services commenced on October 26, 1992, under contracted operation by Amtrak with the Ventura, Santa Clarita (now the Antelope Valley), and San Bernardino Lines. In 1993, service was expanded to include the Riverside Line and the following year the Orange County Line was conveyed from Amtrak branding to Metrolink. The 1994 Northridge Earthquake saw the closure of Interstate 5 and other regional freeways, bringing widespread attention on Metrolink alternatives. Metrolink experimented with expanded service to Camarillo and Oxnard, and it extended the Antelope Valley line ten years ahead of schedule, rapidly adding six stations in six weeks. The Inland Empire-Orange County Line opened in 1995, and more trains on the Orange County service were funded. The 91 Line opened in 2002.

From July 2004, Metrolink fares were changed from zone based to one based on distance. In 2005, a five-year operational contract was awarded to Connex Railroad/Veolia Transport. That same year, the Orange County Transportation Authority approved a plan to increase frequencies to 76 trains daily on the Orange County and Inland Empire-Orange County Lines by 2009, and funding for increased Metrolink service was included in the renewal of the Measure M sales tax for transportation approved by voters in November 2006. A proposed station in Yorba Linda was canceled after the city rejected it due to local opposition on March 16, 2004.

In July 2008, it was announced that ridership had risen 16% over the previous year. Following the 2008 Chatsworth train collision in which, sadly, 25 people died and 135 were injured a number of safety measures were taken; in the fall of 2009, inward-facing video cameras were installed in locomotives in order to ensure that staff were complying with regulations, in particular a ban on use of mobile phones. In 2010, the first of 117 energy absorbing passenger carriages (which lessen the toll on passengers in the case of an accident) were received by the operator. Amtrak regained the contract to operate Metrolink beginning in July 2010. Average weekday ridership for the fourth quarter of 2009 was 38,400.

In 2010, to save money in the face of funding cuts, the Metrolink board voted to reduce mid-day service on the Inland Empire–Orange County Line, as well as weekend service on both the Orange County and Inland Empire–Orange County lines.

Average weekday ridership was 41,000 during May 2011. A survey found that 90% of users during a typical weekday in 2009 would have previously driven alone or carpooled and that the system replaced an estimated 25,000 vehicle trips. During a weekend closure of Interstate 405 in July 2011, the system recorded its highest-ever weekend ridership of 20,000 riders which was 50% higher than the same weekend in 2010 and 10% higher than the previous weekend ridership record which occurred during U2 360° Tour in June 2011. Ridership continued to rise in 2012 (up 2%), when average weekday ridership reached 42,265. Although 2013 annual riders were almost 12.07 million, ridership dropped to 11.74 million by fall 2014 which was contrary to projections. Blaming the decrease on the worst recession since World War II, Metrolink said it found itself caught between cutting service and boosting fares, both of which would likely further decrease ridership.

Metrolink began offering mobile ticketing in early 2016.

The Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) extended the 91 Line southeast 24 miles (39 km) to Perris, using the existing San Jacinto Branch Line, which it purchased in 1993. Initial plans were for construction/renovation of the line to begin in 2012, but these were delayed by a lawsuit filed by homeowners in the affected area, who challenged the RCTC's environmental report. The lawsuit was settled in late July 2013. Construction on the $248.3 million extension began in October 2013; service was originally planned to begin in December 2015, and then in February 2016. In mid-February 2016, the extension's opening was planned in March of that year. The extension officially opened in June 2016.


COVID-19 and Arrow

When COVID-19 impacted Los Angeles and its communities in March 2020, Metrolink ridership fell by 90%. Metrolink increased cleaning measures, added COVID safety protocols, and reduced service. On March 26, 2020, the agency ran on a temporarily reduced schedule, removing most trains.

On April 4, 2022, Metrolink restored its 24 trains and added 2 new trains to the schedule. Metrolink and Amtrak also entered into a code-sharing agreement on the Ventura County Line, with Pacific Surfliner trains A761, A770, A777, and A784 accepting valid Metrolink tickets between stations served by the Ventura County Line and Ventura station. Metrolink also announced that Metrolink service to Ventura station on the Ventura County Line is planned.

Arrow, formerly the Redlands Passenger Rail Project, opened on October 24, 2022. The 9-mile (14 km) eastward rail extension from San Bernardino to Redlands was planned by the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG). The association considered whether to extend commuter rail along the corridor or to install either bus rapid transit or light rail lines, but in December 2015, SANBAG officials said they planned to extend Metrolink service only to the San Bernardino Transit Center and use diesel multiple units operated by Omnitrans in lieu of Metrolink locomotive-hauled coaches on the rest of the route. In late 2019, Metrolink assumed the operating rights and carried out construction after Omnitrans was dismissed due to restructuring of that organization. Groundbreaking for Arrow's construction took place on July 19, 2019. Arrow began operation on October 24, 2022.



Metrolink operates several maintenance facilities across its service area. Its Keller Yard Central Maintenance Facility (CMF) is located on the east bank of the Los Angeles River near the intersection of the 5 and 110 Freeways, just south of the location of the former Southern Pacific Taylor Yard. The facility is operated by Metrolink's equipment maintenance contractor: Bombardier Transportation. The Eastern Maintenance Facility is located in San Bernardino. Metrolink trains are also serviced at Coaster's Stuart Mesa Facility, which is located between San Clemente Pier and Oceanside at the southwest end of Camp Pendleton. This yard is owned by the North County Transit District.

Metrolink's operations center is located in Pomona, near the Pomona (North) station.


Metrolink F125 No. 905 at Los Angeles Union Station in July 2016.

(Andrew, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Rolling stock

The core Metrolink fleet consists of 52 locomotives (EMD F125, EMD F59PH, and MPI MP36PH-3C), 137 active Bombardier Bi-level Coaches (Sentinel Fleet), and 137 Hyundai Rotem Bi-level cars (Guardian Fleet).

Since Arrow’s opening in October 2022, its fleet consists of 3 Stadler FLIRT trains.


The first order for rolling stock for Metrolink was purchased even before the agency was fully operational. In November 1990, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission approved the $51 million purchase of 40 bi-level passenger train cars from the Urban Transportation Development Corporation (later known as Bombardier Transportation). The cars would be based on the design developed for the GO Transit commuter rail system in Ontario, Canada. The order would later be expanded to include 63 trailer cars and 31 cab cars. Additionally, 23 EMD F59PH locomotives would be purchased from General Motors' Electro-Motive Division (EMD). Metrolink claimed that they offered the cleanest burning, low-emission diesel engines in the nation at the time. The first of the original fleet was delivered in May of 1992.

An order for an additional 20 Rotem cars was placed after Metrolink obtained a loan from the LACMTA, although this still leaves Metrolink 34 cars short of its goal to completely replace the entire Bombardier fleet. From 2008-2011, due to an increase in ridership, Metrolink leased 10 cars from the Utah Transit Authority's commuter train FrontRunner. All leased Frontrunner passenger cars were returned once the newer Hyundai Rotem bilevel cars (Guardian Fleet) went into service.

With a sufficient number of Guardian Fleet cars on hand, former CEO John Fenton introduced new on-board services. All weekday trains now include at least one Quiet Car (designated as the second car back from the locomotive). 35 older Sentinel Fleet coaches were converted to Bicycle Cars by having their seats removed from the lower level. If demand for bicycle cars rise, more cars would be retrofitted. Only the Sentinel Cars are retrofitted due to the Guardian Fleet seats serving as an integral part of the cars’ safety features and therefore the seats cannot be removed. In Summer 2017, Metrolink fitted their Bicycle cars with surf board carriers. Each Bicycle car can now carry up to 5 surfboards for transportation to beaches in between San Clemente and Oceanside.

The extra equipment has also allowed Metrolink to add express service, which reduces travel times up to 45 minutes on the Antelope Valley and San Bernardino Lines as pilot programs. If successful, Metrolink will make the expresses permanent and test express service on other routes.

About 10-30 surplus Sentinel cars are stored close to Union Station on tracks laying parallel to the Los Angeles River. Metrolink's long-term plans for these cars is uncertain as Metrolink's original goal was to replace all of the Sentinel Fleet coaches with the Guardian Fleet coaches, but this is not possible until additional Guardian Fleet orders are placed. The decision of which Sentinel Fleet cars to keep or scrap is complicated. The Sentinel Fleet passenger coaches carry little to no debt, but require major rehabilitation as they are close to the end of their service life. In addition to rehabilitation, the Sentinel Coaches would also require safety features that the Hyundai Rotem Coaches have, such as enhanced seating and break-away tables, but reinforcement of the aluminum alloy body structure isn't needed. (Sentinel Fleet cars lack impact-absorbing horizontal steel side beams and crumple zones.)

On September 3, 2015, Metrolink announced the addition of a second locomotive (leased from BNSF Railway) to each train set to be coupled in front of the Rotem cab car while they undergo a review of their safety features following the 2015 Oxnard train derailment. The cab cars remained in service as passenger coaches. The investigation examined the plow-like attachment under the front of the cab cars that failed to prevent the derailment by allowing wreckage to get under the wheels. On November 1, 2016, the leased BNSF locomotives were returned, as repairs and enhancements to the Rotem cab cars' plows were completed.

Metrolink has contracted with Talgo and Systra to rebuild 50 of its 121 Bombardier Bi-level cars. The $64 million dollar contract, will focus on rebuilding the oldest Generation 1 cars which were delivered in 1992 and never received a manufacturer recommended mid-life overhaul (normally to take place after 15 years of service). The rebuild will replace and upgrade mechanical components of the cars, modernize interiors and will repaint the exterior into a new livery. Metrolink has an option to rebuild the 71 other cars, but does not currently have the funding.


Metrolink MP36PH-3C locomotive No. 888 at Los Angeles Union Station in 2008.

(The Port of Authority at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



Until recently, most Metrolink-owned units were painted in a white livery with blue stripes that was introduced in the late 1990s as a replacement for a similar scheme that had been in use since the agency's launch. Beginning in 2007, the agency began the process of switching to a new blue and green "ribbons" design; the Guardian Fleet and EMD F125 locomotives already arrive from the factory in the new colors.



Locale: Southern California
Transit type: Commuter rail
Number of lines: 8
Number of stations: 67
Daily ridership: 15,400 (weekdays, Q1 2023)
Annual ridership: 4,134,500 (2022)
Chief executive: Darren Kettle
Headquarters: Wilshire Grand Center, Los Angeles, California
Began operation: October 26, 1992
Operator: Amtrak (under contract)
Reporting marks: SCAX
Infrastructure managers: SCAX, BNSF Railway, North County Transit District, Union Pacific Railroad
Number of vehicles: 52 locomotives, 260 rail cars, 3 DMU vehicles (Arrow)
System length: 547 mi (880 km)
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Top speed: 79 mph (127 km/h)


See Also:

Railroads A-Z