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/ 

  • P.

    This is on top of the previous drastic cuts to evening service from 10 to 20 minute headways.

  • Matt

    The 20 minute service is really bad and it starts at around 8:00 p.m.

    Also, Expo ridership has never dipped, so it is non-sensical to cut service to it.

    With the Crenshaw Line opening next year, I wonder if they go back to every 6 minutes. They will almost have to.

  • Foolsgold

    I would have no problem with the reduction if these CLOWNS could get their shit together.

    1) Top management at Metro needs to be FIRED. You are telling me that after 2 years of the Expo line being fully opened that you are reducing the number of trains? There is clearly toxic management happening if this is happening.

    2) I use to see sheriffs/metro police ticketing ride hoppers 2 years ago. I ride the train every day to work and have yet to see one person get ticketed. Increase police presence and start ticketing unpaid riders who shouldn’t be on the train. This will hopefully deter ride hoppers and make room for PAID riders.

    3) I thought these monkeys said “by reducing the amount of trains, we can optimize the timing of the trains getting stuck at traffic lights.”. This is a bunch of bullshit. The trains get stuck at lights the same amount as before.

    It’s 2019 and mass transit is getting stuck at traffic lights…you shits know you can use computers to optimize the flow of trains so mass transit has the right of way….

  • Salaam Allah

    less trains ? we need more !

  • Zen Tao

    It’s been 3 years. Expo phase II opened 3 years ago, in 2016.

  • LRM

    On the traffic light issue, LADOT and every municipality that Expo runs through need to be pushed into giving the train preference if they haven’t yet.

  • LRM

    If it would help, there should be some serious talk and action around closing lightly used streets between Washington and 12th along Flower to speed Expo and Blue. I know the Washington junction is the big problem but there’s piecemeal stuff that can make a difference.

  • 1976boy

    Ridership declines with every service cut.

  • joe kozul

    So if this is METRO’s response to ridership conditions, why build BRT’s in Eagle Rock and Nordhoff , why not just add more buses ?

  • Joe Linton

    Let’s improve transit in Eagle Rock, Nordhoff, and on the Expo Line!

  • Bob 1401

    Where is the MEASURE M money that was going to OPERATIONS to prevent this from happening??????

  • Brad the Tortoise

    To me, an even simpler (and less costly) solution would be to give Metro signal pre-emption (not “priority”) for those cross-streets.

  • burbox

    Interesting discrepancy between concerns expressed re: overcrowding on EXPO LINE versus equal (or worse) overcrowding on BLUE LINE.

    Until the Blue Line ridership began plummeting because of terrible declines in service and reliability starting a few years back (capped by Metro’s current disastrous closures for Blue’s “refurbishment”–seemingly deliberately calculated to drive Blue’s passengers away permanently), the BLUE Line ALWAYS had thousands more average weekday passengers than did EXPO. (Check Metro’s historical data.)

    Nevertheless, Metro (in its usual policy of implicit discrimination against its poorer, more transit-dependent, and “minority” riders) always provided many more daily trains on EXPO–based on my actual careful comparison of Blue vs. Expo schedules at every “shake-up” since Expo extended service to Santa Monica. IF/WHEN Metro finally reopens Blue, we can expect Metro to resume the same discrimination against rail riders from south L.A.

    Blue Line riders, however, most of whom learned long ago not to expect good local public services of any kind, have been abandoning Blue’s terrible service in droves for driving old clunkers to work, etc.

    Watch the new Blue schedule in October for resumption of this discriminatory Metro policy.

  • Matt

    I don’t ride the Blue Line so that is why I don’t comment there.

    A couple of your points don’t make sense. The Blue and Expo have the same service – every 8 minutes during peak down from every 6. I think both lines have the same to complain about. The Blue Line is also a much longer line and Expo has had higher ridership per mile for quite a long time.

  • Joe Linton

    If you can share those train number comparisons with me, I’ll look into doing a story about this – could you email me joe at streetsblog dot org? Thanks.