Expo Line Trains Are Overcrowded Since Metro Cut Service 25 Percent

Recent crowded Expo Line train - via Tony Scudellari @tvmxsup Twitter
Recent crowded Expo Line train - via Tony Scudellari @tvmxsup Twitter

In its FY2020 budget, Metro cut peak service by 25 percent on the Expo Line. Recently there are numerous social media posts saying that Expo trains are now “insanely crowded” with “wall to wall bodies” “packed like sardines.”

Metro rail service cuts took effect June 23. Blue and Expo Line peak weekday headways increased from six to eight minutes. Gold Line peak weekday headways increased from seven to eight minutes. Weekend morning rail service was also cut. Overall, the Metro FY2020 budget has a nearly six percent cut to rail service.

For the first nearly two months of the new fiscal year, two shared Expo/Blue Line downtown L.A. stations were closed due to the “New Blue” refurbishment of the Blue Line. These closures have depressed rail ridership. Since the Expo Line fully reopened on August 24, social media has been abuzz with accounts of overcrowded Expo trains.

Responding to overcrowded Expo Line posts, Metro social media staff have taken to posting a canned response asking riders to contact the Metro board.

Sadly, rush-hour Expo trains were already fairly crowded prior to the June service cuts. The tweet below was from May 23, the day the Metro board approved rail service cuts.

During the FY2020 budget discussions, some boardmembers questioned the proposed rail service cuts. Metro operations staff have portrayed cuts as right-sizing rail service to match declining ridership. They also asserted (starting at minute 1:17) that they would monitor ridership, continuously evaluate, and where trains experience overloads, they would add extra capacity, including possibly relatively-quick temporary changes to schedules.

At the request of Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Metro operations staff will report back quarterly to the board Operations Committee on the impact of rail service reductions. The Operations Committee will meet next at 9 a.m. on Thursday September 19. The public can show up to these meetings to give input on Metro operational concerns, including overcrowding.

Some have speculated that the recent Expo/Blue Line service cuts could be Metro admitting operational issues – ie: that it is just too difficult to have Blue/Expo trains running every three minutes on shared tracks in downtown Los Angeles, including getting trains in and out of the 7th Street station terminus. Even with some delays the old schedule provided riders more service and less crowding. For riders, it would still be better to schedule for every six minutes, and to slip a little – delivering trains say every seven minutes – than the current (arguably more reliable) schedule for every eight minutes. For crowding and ridership, frequency would be better than reliability.

The current Expo Line overcrowding does not bode well for Blue Line riders, who will experience their own 25 percent service cut (and perhaps similar overcrowding), when New Blue construction finishes later this month.

Perhaps when the Regional Connector subway extends these lines (circa 2021) then Blue/Expo headways can be improved more reliably. Theoretically not having the terminus at a high-ridership central station will make operations smoother. But these 2021 improvements are little solace today’s Expo riders.

Where does the Metro board stand on the service cuts? In 2016, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti was pretty excited about frequent Expo Line service.

More recently, Garcetti and others have been pushing to accelerate expensive highway and rail projects for completion before the 2028 Olympics. With federal transit funding delays, escalating construction costs, and a push for accelerated construction, discretionary funds dry up and operations budgets get trimmed.

But, hey, in the words of Metro communications staffer “Steven,” riders on crowded Expo trains should:

… contact Metro Board of Directors at https://www.metro.net/about/board/contact-the-metro-board-of-directors/ 

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At this morning’s Metro board Operations Committee, the agency announced increased Expo and Blue Line (now the A Line) service. When the Blue/A Line reopens in early November, Metro will restore peak-hour six-minute headways, which should minimize the line’s recent overcrowding. Metro’s “New Blue” rehabilitation construction has had portions of the Blue/A Line closed since […]