Photos: We Got To Ride The Expo Line Extension To Santa Monica

On Monday, Metro offered members of the press a preview ride of its very-soon-to-open extension of the Expo Line from Culver City to Santa Monica. When the train line opens, on May 20, Angelenos will be able to ride the train from downtown L.A. to the beach in fewer than fifty minutes.

LAist was present for the sneak peak, which left from the Culver City station just after 9 a.m. Tripods, not TAP cards, dominated the two car train, which was filled nearly to capacity, was laden with press, county employees, and Mayor Eric Garcetti's staff.

The ride to Santa Monica was smooth and uneventful, save nearly all the passengers' excited chatter about the future of Los Angeles and what this line did (or didn't) represent for the metropolis. The journey from Culver City to Santa Monica by rail took precisely 18 minutes.

The train smelled clean and freshly manufactured, itself one of Metro's newest trains to date. Screens visible throughout the the rail cars will show passengers what stops are approaching and have already passed, and well marked disabled seats will surely help keep them open for those who need it most. The train was quiet, smooth, and a comfortable temperature.

Of course, there are some issues. Perhaps the most glaring is the amount of time the train takes to move just a few blocks in Santa Monica, contrasted with the amount of time it spends flowing along the old Pacific Electric rail line between Culver City and West L.A. In Santa Monica, as between downtown Los Angeles and USC, the Expo Line is forced to stop for vehicle cross-traffic at several intersections. While Metro has done a good job of syncing the lights to keep trains running on schedule flowing quickly, a train just off-schedule may hit all the red lights.

This became apparent upon departure. Mayor Garcetti requested the train hold for a few extra minutes for a quick photo-op in the train's cab, consequently delaying the train's departure—as I overheard a Metro employee radioing—by four minutes. The sync was off. As we rolled out of Santa Monica, the train spent at least another four minutes stopped at various intersections in Santa Monica along Colorado Avenue. The most notable was Lincoln Boulevard, where we sat for still for two minutes, having apparently arrived just after the light cycle would have let us through.

The ride back to Culver City, however, still only took 22 minutes, far quicker than it would be to drive the distance during the more congested hours of the day. Metro's schedule (.pdf), released for the full Expo Line last week, reflects a consistent ride of 50 minutes from downtown L.A. to Santa Monica and vice-versa, regardless of how congested the roads may be.

Good deal. The Expo Line will open with free rides to the public on May 20th.