Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Expo Line Reaches the Beach!

An Expo Train promoting itself at the 26th Street/Bergamot Station
Los Angeles transit aficionados have been awaiting this weekend for many years.  The Expo Line is now open to Downtown Santa Monica!  Expo Phase I involved connecting Downtown Los Angeles with Downtown Culver City with light rail.  Phase II of the line extended it to West Los Angeles and Downtown Santa Monica, just a few blocks away from the 3rd Street Promenade, the Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific Ocean.

I couldn't help myself and rode the extension end to end on opening day, Friday May 20th, even though I knew it would be crowded due to excitement and the fact that Metro always makes the first day free.  Today I rode the line in more depth, exploring the new stations besides Downtown Santa Monica (an area I'm already pretty familiar with).  It was still very crowded even though you had to pay today!

What strikes me about Expo Phase II is that many of the station areas have a high density of housing and jobs nearby, which bodes well for ridership.  Palms is mainly residential and features a lot of apartment buildings.  Bundy and Bergamont have impressive amounts of office space nearby.  Downtown Santa Monica of course is a strong destination for shopping, tourism and has a lot of office space and apartments.

Another interesting thing is that Phase II has a lot of grade separations, usually aerial structures that fly the train over major arterials.  I wonder why many of the arterials in Phase I didn't get the same treatment.

There is a bike and pedestrian path alongside the line that looks pretty solid.  The Expo stops in Santa Monica also have Breeze Bike Share stations nearby.  The amount of bike parking and particularly bike lockers at each station has also been beefed up compared to Phase I.

A view of the Expo bike path near the Bundy Station
Honestly, there's so much you could potentially say about this and I'm not even going to try to be comprehensive.  My favorite thing about the newly complete Expo Line is how it makes it easy to get to the Landmark Theater at the Westside Pavilion (just a few blocks north of the Westwood/Rancho Park Station).  The Landmark is one of a handful of movie theaters in Greater Los Angeles that screens limited-release movies.  Being able to see films like that is one of the perks of living in a global city like Los Angeles, and the Expo Line means doing that without having to worry about the hassles of driving and parking has never been easier.

The Landmark Theater is one of the biggest cultural advantages of living in Greater Los Angeles!
So overall a good day for transit in Los Angeles.  But don't get cocky Metro.  On the way home I sat down on a seat on the Red Line which was damp (gross).  I'm hoping that someone spilled a bottle of water, but the realistic part of my brain is telling me that's just wishful thinking and I sat in a puddle of pee, left perhaps by one of Los Angeles' increasing number of homeless people.  You're lucky I love transit, because if I were a normal person trying transit for the first time today, that would have been my last ride (more perspective on that issue here).  I hate to say it folks, but touch your seat before you sit down (you'll notice experienced riders doing this).  If it's dry, it'll fly, if it's wet, let it set :(

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