Open Thread: Expo Phase Two Grand Opening

Inaugural Expo train pulls into Downtown Santa Monica station Friday, May 20. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Steers/City of Santa Monica
Inaugural Expo train pulls into Downtown Santa Monica station Friday, May 20. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Steers/City of Santa Monica

The day Los Angeles transit enthusiasts have been waiting for finally arrived this morning when the 6.6 mile extension of the Expo line opened, bringing passenger rail back to the westside of L.A. County for the first time since 1953.

Opening festivities continue tomorrow with celebrations at five of the seven new stations and a celebration at the Culver City station. Tonight and all day tomorrow, riding Expo is free. Also, the Big Blue Bus and Breeze Bike Share will be free to ride tomorrow.

Looking east toward the Downtown Santa Monica Expo line station. Photo by Jason Islas/SBLA
Looking east toward the Downtown Santa Monica Expo line station: the Santa Monica Esplanade includes an extra wide sidewalk, plus two-way protected bike lanes. Photo by Jason Islas/SBLA

This morning at around 9:45 a.m., a ceremonial passenger service train pulled into the Downtown Santa Monica station at 4th Street and Colorado Avenue, carrying local dignitaries, elected officials, Metro and municipal staff, enthusiasts, and supporters of Expo.

Passenger service officially started at noon, but before that happened, Metro held a ceremony in the parking lot just south of the Downtown Santa Monica Expo station, emceed by 2nd District L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Also among the dignitaries were County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and State Assemblymember Richard Bloom, who served on the Santa Monica City Council from 1999 to 2012.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti was on hand, as was Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez, who posed with a surfboard and offered a hearty welcome to the Expo line in Spanish. Garcetti declared that L.A. was making the transformation from being the nation’s car capital to being the nation’s transit capital. Metro CEO Phil Washington was on hand to offer some words, too, as was L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who thanked the many people in the audience whose grassroots activism helped make Expo happen, especially Friends4Expo.

Santa Monica’s longest-serving City Councilmember Pam O’Connor, who represented the city and the South Bay on the Metro Board of Directors in 2001 when the Expo right of way was chosen. In fact, she was the board member who, with tremendous grassroots support, made the motion to set the right-of-way that is today the Expo light rail line.

Were you at today’s opening ceremonies? Are you planning to attend tomorrow’s ceremonies? What is your experience riding Southern Calfornia’s newest light rail line? Please post your pictures and comments below.

  • Joe Linton

    I drove down from Pacific Palisades, cruised for hours but I just couldn’t find a free parking space anywhere. (jk)

  • P.

    Does anyone know if Damien received a key to the first available Bike locker at the Expo Phase 2 station closest to his house? He apparently started the waiting list.

  • Jake Bloo

    After a ride on the Red Line, I boarded the Expo Line at 7th/Metro Center this morning around 11:30, and didn’t realize that I was stepping on the first public ride! Everyone was enthusiastic. People taking photos, recording the entire ride on an iPad. It was great to see a town that so often declared “unwilling to get out of their cars,” packing the platforms!

    Arriving in Downtown Santa Monica felt like a dream, almost. Huge crowds! The space looks great. I saw the snaking long line waiting to board and figured I’d try out the Breeze bikeshare to get on at a different station. Despite the number of steps to set up an account, it was straightforward to use. I biked to the 17th/SMC station, locked the bike up, and boarded the train back for Downtown.

    Overall (and on an atypical day) it was a great ride. So incredible to step on at Sunset/Vermont and be able to just walk down to the beach. No worries about the road or parking.

    The worst part, which has already been vocalized so many times, is being stuck in traffic. It feels so dumb, disappointing, and embarrassing as a proponent of transportation. BUT, knowing that it’s more of a political thing than an engineering thing gives me hope that the trains will soon have signal priority.

  • brianmojo

    It was great. Busy, but great. Overheard many, many people spontaneously speaking positively of the line. Separate, normal-seeming folks: “this is a gamechanger” and “that was great!”

    My only question is what’s with those protected bike lanes shown above? They seem to abruptly start/end at the station. There’s a hard curb and they sort of turn onto a crosswalk that leads towards an alley — is that the official continuation of the lanes?

  • brianmojo

    I only waited at one signal, because I boarded at La Brea (heading west). Santa Monica’s already-implemented signal priority and it shows.

  • There was free parking available at Metro’s garage at the La Cienega Expo station. Interesting that the recent LA Times piece made no mention of the existing parking that was built as part of Phase 1.

    I rode down to Downtown Santa Monica and touched the Pacific Ocean after stepping off a friggin’ train. Nuff said. F*** yeah!

  • Expo does a much better job of hitting a high density of housing and jobs than the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The ridership should be higher as a result. I also liked how the train announcements mentioned specific bus connections at each station.

  • davistrain

    I’m planning to ride the train to Santa Monica next week, after all the “lookie-loos” have had their ceremonial rides and things have settled down a bit. Might even take the Gold Line to APU-Citrus and see how the Citrus Ave. project is coming along, then do an “end to end” run.

  • Jake Bloo

    oh yeah. the SM signal priority was beautiful. Going West through downtown was brutal.

  • Went by Citrus extension today. Still not open.

  • The Westside is more densely settled? You don’t say. Except that there are far more industrial uses by Expo that are not likely to go away anytime soon. Meanwhile, by Gold Line 2A there are plenty of open lots and Brown Fields.

  • Doing the Gold Line Foothill Extension as light rail was political. LRT is not justified there by transit fundamentals like having an existing or planned high density of residential or commercial use in the vicinity. Metro implicitly acknowledged that by running a lower frequency of service on the extension. Since Metro has limited resources, running light rail in a place that doesn’t justify it means they have to offer less service in places that do need it. The cities by that extension have a lot of work to do to create a transit-supporting land use pattern. Hopefully they will step up.

    Expo Phase II is much more solid. Several of the stops have big office buildings nearby. Palms has a lot of apartments. Downtown Santa Monica is about 20 times more solid as a terminus than the area around Citrus College.

  • calwatch

    On Friday the parking lot at Crenshaw was maybe a third full, if that.

  • I rode it today (Gold Line). Pretty healthy ridership for a mid-day Sunday. Every seat taken by Arcadia. There’s lots of planned high density projects in the works. No doubt Expo Line has more potential ridership in the short term, but don’t sell out the demand for the Gold Line like I used to. It is there.

  • chairs missing

    How’s the signal priority in City of Santa Monica… any better than LA? Or is Pasadena still the only City in the region with enough common sense to prioritize movement of people over motorist entitlement?

  • Velodrone

    The signal priority issue on the Expo line is nowhere near as dreadful as the blue line going into Long Beach so I wasn’t particularly irked by the Santa Monica portion

  • davistrain

    Just a sample of the new housing within walking distance of the APU-Citrus station at the end of the Gold Line.

  • calwatch

    It should be a lot denser – you can build four and five story wood framed buildings and get twice the density. Also, to the east of APU/Citrus is a development that Glendora permitted with homes on one acre lots, with no driving or walking access to the station (the CUP mandated a wall along Citrus Avenue). This is the kind of disconnect between land use and transit that we are facing.

  • Yeah, I went out there and checked it out when the line opened. The low-rise multifamily housing there is better than nothing, but isn’t really dense enough to truly support light rail. Also, there’s very little commercial development within an easy walk of the Citrus College station. Finishing that north-south street will help connect to the colleges, but it’s still basically suburbia.

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