LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The 4.6-mile Hollywood extension of the city’s new subway opened on Saturday to huge crowds eager to test the new experience of getting around by underground rail instead of by car and bus.
``This is my first time on a subway,″ said Marcial San Pedro, a retiree riding with his wife, Aida, on a Metro Rail Red Line train rolling to 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.
The premiere of the Hollywood segment marked a major step for the much-criticized, over-budget and behind-schedule subway. Until Saturday, the Red Line ran just a little over 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 metropolitan underground systems elsewhere.
Alfonso Rodriquez, MTA deputy executive officer and project manager of the Hollywood extension, said weekday Red Line passenger counts are expected to double now.
``Right now we have 39,000 people boarding daily,″ he said. ``With this extension, we expect it to go to nearly 80,000.″
The 4.6-mile segment, which was supposed to open last December, and a smaller addition that was already in service cost $1.74 billion, about $288 million over budget.
Eventually, the Red Line will continue on from Hollywood to Universal City, then drop down into the San Fernando Valley. Its total length will be 17.4 miles.