Light rail service between downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach was fully restored Saturday as an eight-month, $350 million renovation project came to an end — but the route isn’t called the Blue Line anymore.

The previously known “Blue Line” is now the “A Line,” as Metro slowly begins the process of switching from colors to letters to designate its rail and express bus lines.

Renovation work on the line — Metro’s oldest and historically busiest rail route — began in late January, fully closing the southern portion of the railway between Compton and Long Beach for four months. The construction switched to the northern portion of the line — between Compton and downtown Los Angeles — at the end of May.

The renovation project included new switches, an upgraded control system, new overhead power system, new digital information screens and other technology at stations designed to make the rail system easier to navigate. It also includes new signs, paint, landscaping and artwork.

“Metro’s A Line is back up and running between Long Beach and Los Angeles and this vital work ensures that riders will have a more reliable and pleasant trip,” Inglewood Mayor and Metro Board Chair James T. Butts said. “The work over the past nine months hasn’t been easy and we appreciate everyone*s patience. We believe strongly that this work will improve the quality of your commute.”

To celebrate the reopening, Metro is offering free rides on the line for three days through Monday, and a series of community celebrations and media events were held Saturday at the following locations:

–The Bloc on Flower Street in downtown Los Angeles, near the Seventh Street/Metro Center Station (11 a.m.);

–103rd Street and Graham Avenue, near the 103rd Street/Watts Towers Station (11:30 a.m.);

–Promenade Square in Long Beach on First Street, near the First Street Station )11:45 a.m.).

Hip-hop star Snoop Dogg — a Long Beach native — was on hand to emcee the Los Angeles event.

The renaming of the route from Blue Line to A Line is the start of a planned systemwide switch.

According to Metro, other rail and busway lines will retain their existing names until next year, when the Crenshaw/LAX Line opens.

The switch to letters is being implemented to accommodate the growing rail system — in light of the relatively limited selection of colors that can be used to clearly designate the lines.

The A Line opened in 1990 and stretches 22 miles between downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Also Saturday, Metro announced that it will continue its bus shuttle 860 express service from Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles with new bus line 456, as a pilot program beyond Saturday’s A Line re-opening.

Service on the new Metro Bus line 456 will begin on Monday. Fares will be adjusted to the $2.50 base fare in accordance with Metro’s standard fare for freeway express lines. It will run on weekdays with six northbound morning trips from Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles and six southbound evening trips from downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach. The hours are from 6 to 8 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday.

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