Expo Line Trains Are Overcrowded Since Metro Cut Service 25 Percent
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.
@metrolosangeles @metrolaalerts what is going on with the expo line this week? Trains are not running every 6 mins. Always insanely crowded. And https://t.co/wsvmadTvnh giving no current prediction, so I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait to not be stuffed like a sardine.
— Kevin Bloom (@kevinpbloom) September 5, 2019
@metrolosangeles Rush hour on the Expo line in AM and PM is insane. It’s wall to wall bodies and is feeling unsafe. Not sure if I can ride with my son anymore. Is something being done?
— Audio Visual Mineral (@audvismin) September 4, 2019
@metrolosangeles cutting expo line trains from 6-8pm will only decrease ridership and revenue for you. If we are going to be packed like sardines a la NYC Subway, trains need to be more frequent and run faster (why the train has to wait at stoplights still boggles my mind)
— Micah (@mikeuh) September 5, 2019
@metrolosangeles When the doors of the vinyl-covered Expo Line car open & you realize it’s totally full. Metro, you’re making it harder than it needs to be.
— Roberto Ignacio Díaz (@robertissimus) September 5, 2019
@metrolosangeles – glad to have #ExpoLine running w/o bus shuttles. But can you please get back to trains every 5 min? Having a train arrive every 10 min at rush hour is going back to the old days of insanely crowded, airless trains during the summer heat. Thanks. pic.twitter.com/tfPKXFOrHI
— Tony Scudellari (@tvmxsup) August 27, 2019
Responding to overcrowded Expo Line posts, Metro social media staff have taken to posting a canned response asking riders to contact the Metro board.
We are very sorry to hear this. To request more frequent service we ask to contact Metro Board of Directors at https://t.co/xZFFxaQGUW ^Steven
— LA Metro Rider Alerts (@metrolaalerts) September 4, 2019
Hi, these changes were implemented with our bi-annual schedule changes. For more frequent service, we recommend contact Metro Board of Directors: https://t.co/xZFFxb8ijw ^Steven
— LA Metro Rider Alerts (@metrolaalerts) September 5, 2019
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.
Current crowd on the Expo line. We need more frequent service, not less! https://t.co/kXqD8X1NiG pic.twitter.com/Db4k1I1DTZ
— Nathan Pope (@npope32) May 24, 2019
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.
#ExpoLine trains will run every 6 minutes starting Monday, October 24! 2X faster than their previous frequency. – https://t.co/By69o3k3mh pic.twitter.com/BidRoVZPXB
— Mayor Eric Garcetti (@MayorOfLA) October 19, 2016
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/ …