The Expo Line Will Get More Green Lights At Intersections — Cars, You'll Have To Wait

The Expo Line will be given priority at traffic intersections on its route through Los Angeles, per a motion approved this week by the City Council. (Courtesy Los Angeles Metro)

In an effort to expedite travel on the Expo Line, the Los Angeles City Council this week approved a plan to prioritize train travel over other vehicles at traffic intersections in the city.

The light rail line currently travels across 22 ungated intersections within L.A. on its route from the 7th Street Metro Center downtown to the city of Santa Monica. But those signals are not programmed to account for the trains, which can lead to compounding delays for Expo Line riders.

"Because these signals do not respond in real time to trains, even a slight delay leaving the station can result in the train hitting a series of red lights, with a cascading impact on the line's operations," City Councilman Mike Bonin wrote in a motion filed Oct. 11. "Often trains with more than 250 people on board have to wait at red lights while a few cars with just a handful of people in them turn left in front of the train."

The traffic light signal changes are projected to make travel time on the speed-challenged line 15% faster.

Bonin, who chairs the council's transportation committee, named the lack of priority at traffic signals as a key culprit in travel delays for Expo Line riders. But waiting on traffic signals isn't the only burden L.A. Metro riders have faced on the Expo Line.

This summer, Metro also cut the number of trains running during rush hour, which led to serious overcrowding issues (the agency added a few trains back into service after rider outcry).

The public transit system operates buses and trains throughout L.A. County, but vehicle priority on roadways is decided by the cities they operate in. For example, Long Beach started signal prioritization in 2017.

LADOT was given 60 days to make the changes and report back to the council examining the impact that prioritizing trains has on all other traffic at those intersections, namely cars.

The motion also calls on LADOT to examine potential upgrades to its traffic control system, called ATSAC, "to be more responsive to the needs of people walking, biking, and taking transit" in the city.