Ridership Continues to Increase on Expo Line

Waiting. The Red/Purple Line stop at the 7th St. Metro Center. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Ridership on the Expo Line continues to be “on a roll,” touts Zev Yaroslavsky in his blog.

With the opening of the Culver City and Farmdale stations in late June and the reconfiguration of some bus lines to make connections easier, ridership jumped by more than 175,000 passengers, an increase of 55%, between May and July.

Specifically, he writes, ridership went from 320,627 boardings in May to 497,449 in July:

Ridership on the line rose across the board—on Saturdays, Sundays and weekdays. Weekday ridership was up more than 60%, with 18,181 boardings last month, compared to 11,347 in May.

The Reason Foundation published two articles on Expo’s ridership shortly after the line opened. The Libertarian think-tank has argued against rail expansion in Los Angeles and crowed when early ridership figures showed 11,000 riders per weekday. Metro estimates that 27,000 people will ride Expo Phase I on an average weekday, and the new ridership numbers show a strong move in that direction.

Some of the jump is apparently also due to the popularity of the new line with Valley commuters who are looking to avoid the 405, according to the Daily News. While the commuters were not able to get to their destinations any faster than they could via car, they did appreciate that their daily trek was less stressful. Minus the general annoyance at the “crawl” the Expo Line does through parts of downtown, that is.

No word yet on wider ridership numbers for the late-night weekend service. I’m curious to know what the numbers will be. The handful of times I’ve been on the last Blue Line train of the night into downtown (prior to the new service), it has been packed and a few folks were always desperate to know whether the Red Line was still running. Have you ridden Metro after midnight? What was your experience?

  • I’ve really enjoyed taking the Expo to downtown. The bus journey was simply not going to happen as it was both long and unpleasant. Yes, that ridiculously slow stretch from USC to Pico station really needs to be taken care of and the line could do w/ a couple of grade separations (Crenshaw, Western, Vermont esp) but my, what an improvement over the 33/733.

  • Why is the picture of a Red/Purple Line train???

  • If it’s because of the awesome hat the person in the middle is wearing, then ok…

  • Jeff Liu

    I agree with Ryan, I ride it almost every weekday to work and prefer it over the 33/733. Much improvement is needed with respect to signal light timing. When Phase II opens, my guess is that it will take an hour to get from Santa Monica to downtown if there are no speed improvements. If you compare that to the Big Blue Bus #10 line, the Big Blue Bus is still faster because it doesn’t stop from Bundy/Pico to downtown. I might switch back to the Big Blue because of the speed and the cleanliness. I’ve taken the Expo after 9 pm a few times to Culver City on a weekday and once it took an hour. They were making extra long stops at each station for some reason. Not sure if that always happens. All I know is I fell asleep because it was taking so long. Luckily I woke up when we got to Culver City…

  • Erik T

    The downtown crawl can be hit or miss some days. Wednesday evening the train must have entered downtown with perfect timing because we sailed right through almost every crossing into 7th/Metro

  • sahra

     Because I have an injured arm and haven’t been out taking pictures of the Expo Line lately. This was a shot I took a few months ago. I do love the lady in the hat, though. So, it is indeed because of the hat. Since it is at the 7th St. Metro Center, and people there had transferred from the Expo Line, I felt I could tangentially justify it. But kudos for noticing!

  • Anonymous

    Ridership should keep growing with things like USC back in class, and the Rapid 20 that will give you a direct ride from Culver City station to downtown SM. As for the downtown crawl, it hits the Blue Line between Pico and Washington too… long term maybe grade separate some? Those are some major xings there.

    According to Metro, the late night service has been successful enough that they’re introducing it on the Silver Line. So no official numbers yet but the response has apparently been pretty good :)

  • Dennis Hindman

    Comparing ridership numbers between light rail lines can be misleading as the Gold Line at 19.7 miles long is more than twice the length of the 8.5 mile Expo Line. The Gold Line had a average weekday boarding for July of 2,319 per mile compared to 2,114 for the Expo Line. That’s less than a 10% difference per mile.

  • ZStern

    I’ve ridden it twice and both times it took 45 minutes from Culver City station to 7th and Metro.  At that speed, the rail line is an expensive bus. 

    Speed improvements (if possible) need to be made ASAP.

    If we are going to continue to push light rail in this county – let’s make it grade separated!!

  • enning


  • Erik Griswold

    SMBBB is faster without traffic on I-10.  But at many times of the day, that is certainly not the case.

    (It is interesting to read the schedule and see the wide variations throughout the service day in the travel times from the 3rd St. Promenade to LAUS).

  • ZStern

    If you are going West to East in the morning and East to West in the afternoon, the rapid 10 bus is faster than the expo line and most likely will continue to be once phase II opens.  I really don’t see Expo being a huge commuter line for those trying to get downtown from SM in the morning.  Driving in these directions is not that bad and the majority of people will pay the extra cost for time savings. 

    Where the big proposition to ride is going west in the morning and returning east in the afternoon.  Most of these commuters are people working in SM but not living in SM (too expensive among other potential reasons) and are probably more likely to ride transit.  The traffic on the 10 in these directions at these times is terrible and the expo line will offer a significant upgrade over driving and the Rapid 10.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, you need to compare total transit ridership before and after construction of the Expo line. For all we know, those 18k daily riders were former bus riders.

    Indeed, the numbers don’t look good for Phase 1. $930 million for a mere 8 miles of track — on an existing rail ROW. That is over $100 million per mile, which in most countries is how much a full blown underground metro costs. Or to put another way: approx $7 per trip in capital costs, which came almost entirely from State and local discretionary funding sources. No wonder the Feds did not want to fund it.



    Those are some good observations. The phase 1 Expo Line cost about $109 million per mile to build. This is cheap compared to the Gold Line East LA extension which cost $150 million a mile to build. The upcoming Crenshaw light rail line will cost at least $170 million a mile. Both of these inflated costs are mainly due to the insistance that these rail line have to be at least partially grade separated. A lot of people are quick to insist that there has to be light-rail in a lot of places, yet most of them seem to be totally clueless that there is not a endless pot of money to build rail everywhere, or that voters will eventually put their foot down and refuse to increase the sales tax once again to complete these overpriced projects.


  • I ride it every weekday and it’s taken 45 minutes twice, very early on, both times due to some sort of technology issue. It is reliably 25 minutes from Jefferson/La Cienega to Pico station.

  • You are right about riders from the Valley. One of my coworkers is making the switch from a bus from Culver to Encino to the train from Culver to North Hollywood for three reasons:
    – it’s cheaper
    – there’s more personal space
    – unlikely to get stuck in some sort of 405-pocalypse like happened last Thursday

  • Nick

    Sahra, you can’t post a picture of the Red/Purple line for an article about the Expo Line. Even if you have an injured arm, you can at least find a picture on Flickr or something. C’mon, really? 

  • Took the Expo line for the first time this past Friday.  Overall a great experience.  I live in Santa Monica and work in Burbank.  Rode my bike to Robertson and Venice. Took the Expo line with my bike in an uncrowded car to downtown where I walked my bike down one set of stairs to the platform for the Red line to Universal City.  Got a bit crowded but people were mostly nice and accommodating re: my bike being in the way.  Rode escalators up to the exits on Lankershim and then rode my bike 10 more minutes to work at Warner Brothers.  Took a little bit longer than my just bike riding but at least I didn’t have to climb Cahuenga pass in the high summer heat.  I may do this again but since I can make it there faster on the bike alone and get a bit more exercise I will stick to bike commuting when I do ride to work.

  • sahra

    yes, really. i love the photo and the last part of the article refers to the larger question of after-midnight numbers for all the lines. it was more just an artsy shot for a piece on trains. none of my old stock of photos that i had of the expo line were as interesting. and that is because i wasn’t able to get out and about because of the injury. i thought everyone could use a little whimsy on a friday. clearly some people don’t agree.

  • Bigchiefjordan

    Every day I take the Red Line from North Hollywood to 7th St, then Expo to Culver City, along with a bike to take care getting to and from the stations.  It takes about 80 minutes total.  I had started to compile complaints – slow through downtown, no escalators at the elevated stations, poorly thought out bike accommodations, no 10 ten minute intervals at rush hour….But then I had to drive a car from downtown to work one day last week and missed the Expo line every inch I crawled down the 10 in traffic.  Much can be done to make it great, but right now it’s good.  Good for reading, checking e-mail, sleeping a few extra minutes, watching the sunset.  And I can definitely tell it’s getting more crowded.

    Plus, it totally saved my ass when I was out for drinks in Culver on Friday night and time got away from me.  At 1:30am it was a very pleasant ride all the way home.

  • sahra is Just lazy

  • sahra

     Thanks for your thoughts, @facebook-100001971430615:disqus I believe your point has been made in both comments and the email you spent expressing your displeasure. It isn’t laziness. Using stock photos is something I do my best to avoid. As a photographer myself, I feel uneasy using others’ work. Moreover, it seems like the easy way out. If I am going to write a story about something, I make the effort to go and take the photo myself…something which became difficult this week because of an on-the-job injury. All the photos in my articles are ones taken myself, save a small handful (which are duly credited). If I had claimed the shot was of the Expo Line, then this would indeed be a serious issue. I never made any such claim and, as I mentioned, the last paragraph refers to wider ridership. So, there is no dishonesty or attempt to pass the shot off for something it is not. I realize that you are highly disappointed not to have a stock photo of the Expo train and I am so terribly sorry that that has caused you so much pain.

  • If you knew what we paid Sahra and looked at her output, there’s no way anyone could call her lazy. Thank goodness she’s technically on a “contractor” contract because we couldn’t afford her on an hourly rate.

  • brady westwater

    I have recently noticed that even at 9PM on a Sunday night, when the Red Line Union Station & North Hollywood trains both pull in at the same time the Expo Line pulls in at 7th & Fig, all the passengers departing and embarking creates a crowd scene that was unimaginable even a few years ago – much less when I first moved into the Roosevelt Building in the late 1990’s.

  • ywhynot

    I’m all in for constructive criticism but I will say that many of the comments here regarding time spent slogging through downtown or cost of construction or the intricacies of traffic patterns vs rail are only referring to part of the story at best. The point of better transit is to provide more and better transportation options in order to more interconnect the city denizen with services, employment, and recreational space holistically.The expo-line (very surprisingly) actually does an incredible job at that considering how long its been open. 

    There is always room for improvement (and as long as there is public will it will come – See London Underground), but I don’ think there is much doubt that the expo-line has provided a civic good. 

    (Regardless all the comments mean people care! How awesome is that lots of people care about transportation options other than automobile travel in LA. I feel like we’re in Who Framed Roger Rabbit)

  • Guest

    Speed improvements should come when the Expo Line is officially turned over to Metro. After this happens Metro can work with LADOT to give the train Stop light/intersection ROW. However the line is still officially under the control of the Exposition Construction Authority beacuse of the safety concerns at the Blue/Expo line interchange at Flower/ Washington Blvd. Look for times to improve after this issue has been resolved and under operating control of Metro.

  • EXPO was turned Over to Metro Back In March

  • Chrisman54

    I love the new Expo line! I live in Culver City and like going to downtown LA for various things (theatre, restaraunts,etc.), but I always hated the drive and then having to look for and pay for parking. Now, I pay a total of three bucks and it’s always just taken me half an hour to get from Culver City to downtown LA. What’s not to love?

  • Please Mayor “V”, put pressure and work with LA DOT to allow the trains to get signal preemption. The trains now spend as much time waiting at signals as the do moving between USC and Washington. You can take 10 minutes of the trip. Please!  

  • Kymberleigh Richards

    DrunkEngineer is wrong on one key “observation” … the Feds were never asked to fund the Expo Line; Metro decided on its own to use entirely local and state money to build it.  So to say “the Feds did not want to fund it” is either a lie or a lack of knowledge of the facts.

    Either way, credibility comes from getting the facts right before you open your mouth.

  • Dennis Hindman

    The federal government funded $116,075,000 of the $930,625,055 in construction costs for phase1 of the Expo Line

    That information is in attachment B on page 19 of this Expo Line Construction Auhority document:



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