The Expo Line is Finally Here!

Los Angeles, the megalopolis that has severely lacked sufficient public transportation for decades, is finally coming around.

The nearly $1 billion train that takes commuters from Culver City to downtown just opened to much fanfare and mostly positive reviews. To celebrate its commencement, Metro provided free rides to everyone who took part in this historic event. The 7.6 mile stretch of rail is just the beginning. In approximately four years the second phase of the project will bring commuters all the way to Santa Monica, a modicum of connectivity the city hasn’t had in decades.

As a lifelong Angeleno (not to mention one who lives extremely close to the Jefferson station) I could barely contain my excitement for this important milestone in LA’s evolution. Sunday afternoon I jumped aboard for my own train ride down Exposition Blvd, all the way to the end of the line at downtown’s 7th/Metro station. The platform and trains were packed with people eager to ditch their cars and experience the city from an entirely new vantage point. I can honestly say I’ve never viewed Los Angeles quite like this, elevated travel high above ground with the expanse of the Santa Monica mountains as a backdrop.

One major question is how the new trains will affect the nation’s most infamously gridlocked city. While the Expo Line should attract new types of commuters, it won’t put a serious dent into our choking traffic congestion — yet. The LA Times explains

It’s unclear how many commuters will use the truncated line early on, although the first phase is projected to have 27,000 riders eight years from now. Officials at the LA County MTA predict that the full line to Santa Monica will carry 64,000 riders per weekday by 2030… (However) research by the Texas Transportation Institute shows that, except during recessions, Los Angeles area traffic congestion has increased despite an investment of billions of dollars in rail projects over the last three decades.

Our ongoing traffic nightmares should improve once Phase 2, and the eventual Subway through the heart of the city are completed. Although there were some minor issues with the train’s opening (increased wait time between stops), it’s nothing Metro can’t overcome as it begins regular service. One thing that really struck me was the beautiful artistry at each station, highlighting the uniqueness of these different neighborhoods. After so many years of botched leadership, it seems like civic leaders are finally responding to our last major deficiency. Hooray for LA!

Check out Curbed LA’s wonderful trove of opening day images here

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia