Beyond phase one: making connections to the Expo Line

Though it looks a ways away, Century City will be only one bus connection away from the Expo Line. Photo by Carter Rubin/Metro.

Phase One of the Expo Line will soon put transit riding Angelenos within walking distance of a slew of destinations previously not served by Metro Rail: USC, Exposition Park, Mid City and Culver City, among others.

But many transit trips don’t begin and end by walking to and from the same line; we often depend on making connections to other modes of travel — buses, bikes or a ride from a friend.

The Expo Line is rich in those connections too. This post will highlight some of connecting bus lines, many of which you already know, and hopefully some that are new to you.

Before we start, it’s worth noting that Metro’s Trip Planner, Google’s Transit Directions and Metro’s smartphone app are easy and reliable tools for planning your next transit trip — use them!

First we’re going to break it down by transit agency and the lines they offer, with an eye to describing how to get to a couple major destinations that are reachable via one transfer from the Expo Line.

Metro Los Angeles Rapid and Local

When the Expo Line opens to the public this Saturday, all Metro Rapid and Local lines that cross the Expo Line at a station will now have stops at those Expo Line stations. That’s pretty straightforward. So if you’re traveling along the Expo Line and you need to head further south or north along, say, Vermont Boulevard, you can just hop off the Expo Line at the Expo/Vermont Station and transfer to either the 204 Local or the 754 Rapid. The Vermont buses and those listed below all run every 15 minutes during daytime hours – and often more frequently.

The Expo Line (in light blue) shown along with other Metro Rail lines and the Metro Rapid bus network. (Local buses not pictured.)

The same goes for the following Expo Phase One stations (listed East to West, excluding stations already served by the Blue Line):

For additional Metro Bus connections, check out the new Expo Line page on and click on the “Connections” tab. The recently released Expo Line time table [PDF] details further information on Metro connections.

And stay tuned for some more changes that will go into effect starting in June. Those will ensure that Metro’s buses in the area better serve Expo stations. We’ll have more details on The Source when they become available.

Santa Monica Big Blue Bus

This map shows a proposal for how the Big Blue Bus Rapid 12 will connect Culver City Station to UCLA. Photo by Big Blue Bus.

When the Expo Line opens to Culver City Station this summer, you can look forward to two frequent, all-day transit connections via the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus.

First, to connect the Expo Line to Century City — a major Westside jobs and entertainment center — Big Blue Bus is rerouting Route 5.

Instead of having an eastern terminus at Pico and Rimpau, Route 5 will start at the Culver City Expo Station and travel northward along Robertson Boulevard to Pico Boulevard, then jog northwest to the heart of Century City at Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars. From there, Route 5 will continue west to downtown Santa Monica via Olympic Boulevard and Colorado Avenue.

Second, to connect the Expo Line to Westwood and UCLA, Big Blue Bus will change the terminus of its popular Route 12 to Culver City Station. Furthermore, the current “Super 12” service — which has a streamlined route to campus and fewer stops — will be converted to a Rapid 12. Both the “regular” 12 and the Rapid 12 lines will travel from the Culver City station, through Palms and up Westwood Boulevard to the Westwood Village and UCLA campus.

Additionally, Route 6 makes a handful of runs between the future Culver City Station and Santa Monica College on weekdays.

Linda Gamberg, Public Information Coordinator at the city of Santa Monica, added that the city, which operates Big Blue Bus, will monitor how the Expo Phase One changes ridership patterns and will consider increasing service frequency on Lines 5 and 12, if the demand warrants it and if the city’s resources allow for it.

Furthermore, because the Expo Line will reach Culver City before class at UCLA starts up again, Big Blue Bus wants to see how that may affect travel patters on the Westside. Any further service changes in response would not likely happen until February 2013.

Culver City Bus

For now, your only opportunity to connect directly to a Culver City Bus route is at La Cienega station. There you can pick up Line 4 and take it to West L.A. Community College and the Culver City Transit Center.

Due to recent funding cuts, Culver City Bus will not be able to add any permanent additional service — i.e. more frequent buses — to Expo Line stations. Rather, Culver City transportation planner Diana Chang informed me that the agency intends to take a “wait and see” approach to determine if the arrival of the Expo Line increases the number of travelers on Culver City’s buses.

If Culver City Bus sees an uptick in ridership, it’s prepared to provide additional service on a trial basis, and then consider permanent changes down the road.

That’s all great, but how do I get to the beach?!

Good question! When Expo Phase One is open all the way to Culver City, your best bet is probably going to be taking the Expo Line to Culver City Station — that’s Phase One’s western terminus at Venice Boulevard and Robertson Boulevard — and then transferring to the 733 Rapid bus or the 33 Local bus, which runs westbound on Venice Boulevard to Venice — just two blocks from the boardwalk — and then up to downtown Santa Monica and the pier.

Another option: Bring a bike and exit the train at La Cienega/Jefferson station. Take the bike path on the south side of the station west for a block, cross the bike and pedestrian bridge over Ballona Creek and then veer right to pick up the Ballona Creek bike path that will take you to Marina del Rey and connections north and south to the Marvin Braude bike path.

Final Thoughts

As always, I’ll add the caveat that it’s good to check Metro’s Trip Planner or Google Maps to find the fastest route. Depending on where you live and the time of day, it might be fastest just to take one bus all the way to your destination, instead of making the connection to the Expo Line.

Lastly, if you have any specific questions about routing and Expo Line connections, I’ll do my best to field them in the comments section below.

32 replies

  1. Y Fukuzawa, parking in Santa Monica is not free. Did you add that cost in the calculation?

  2. @Austin

    A “short” 7 miles to the beach on a 15 MPG minivan at $4.00/gal with an average family of four (mom, dad & two kids)

    Let’s do the math:

    7 mi x 2 = 14 mi roundtrip
    (14 mi / 15 MPG) x $4.00/gal = approx $3.73 in gas consumed for the trip to the beach
    $3.73 / 4 people = $0.93 per person

    Comparison to Metro:
    $3.00 roundtrip per each person

    Minivan wins.

  3. What happened to the 217 Service? 217 was supposed to extend to Culver City Transit to support EXPO line. Although 217 Sign has been posted at CC Transit Center since January, bus has never served stop.

  4. Last I checked, switching to the Santa Monica bus would cost metro card holders to still pay for a second time. Is that being fixed in time for the opening? What what about Culver City buses? Do we have to pay separately for them, too?

  5. I love that for some commenters, the hassle of taking a bus 7 miles, a “short distance” to the beach, just isn’t worth 3 whole dollars. 6 if you include the ride back. Driving down toward the beach is a nightmare, parking is a nightmare, and gas is over $4 a gallon.

    If you’re heading to the beach, bring your bike. You can take it with you on both the train, and the bus. If traffic sucks and the bus is going slow, get off and pedal the rest of the way. And laugh at all the people stuck on Washington and Venice circling their cars around the block over and over looking for that one magical, open street spot.

  6. @Irwin.

    Back in September Culver CityBus did their due diligence and had outreach and meetings regarding adding service to the #4 in preparation for Expo. In order to do it they were going to rob Perter to pay Paul, in other words they were going to do budget magic to make it work. The response to the outreach was underwhelming to say the least. 2 people showed up to the meetings plus they didn’t get many emails. From their perspective, the public wasn’t very interested in a service increase on the #4. So now they’ll wait to see what the ridership numbers do and make a decision from that point.

  7. @IT Guy in Irvine
    Of course, the so-called pro-transit slacktivist rebuttal to that is “but that’s big brother watching over us!”

    But hey, it’s another method that Metro can take instead of the usual “higher fares, higher taxes, service cuts” proposals.

    The only set back is, will transit rider be for a TAP out process? We can continue to do it inefficiently and pour more tax dollars into carpet bombing transfers without relying on data, or we can do it efficiently by implementing a TAP out process to obtain hard data where people get off and where they transfer to properly coordinate transfers.

    I personally wouldn’t mind having a TAP out process. As a true pro-transit advocate, I’d be for spending 0.1 second of my life tapping out so that Metro can obtain proper data that they can share with other transit agencies to warrant the need of adequate transfers at any given time. And this can be done within six months? Do it.

  8. Is this anything new? Don’t forget the Metro Green Line has been around for a while and to this day, it still does not connect with LAX. You still have to get off the train at the Aviation Station and catch a shuttle in to the airport. This is an inconvenience when you also have to drag your luggage from the train to the shuttle and then in to the terminal buildings. Also, there is a shuttle you can take from the city bus station near LAX which Metrobus, Santa Monica Blue Bus, and Culver City Bus use. Once again having to drag your luggage from the bus to the shuttle in to the terminal buildings. It costs more but Prime Time and Super Shuttle make it so much easier getting to the airport. And no, I do not work for them. Just giving advice from past experience.

  9. @Irwin
    You cite poor planning, but have you wondered why that is so?

    Here’s a thought exercise:
    How on earth are the different agencies going to “see” the data where people get off to coordinate transfers to begin with?

    We don’t have a “TAP-out” process on our buses or rails, so no agency in LA has hard data where transit riders get off. Without such data, there’s no way to coordinate transfers efficiently. All it is hearsay and conjecture, but no solid proof to back it up with hard data that warrants a certain agency to provide specific number of transfer buses at any specific time of day.

    And no, “TAP-out” isn’t hard to implement. Strictly speaking from an IT perspective, this can be implemented as short as within six months with our existing TAP system. All it is to change our TAP-in process to a TAP-in and TAP-out process. The method works perfectly in many cities around the world, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work here in LA.

  10. @Steven P
    That’s exactly how I feel. Metro needs to factor in travel distance.

    If me, my wife, my two kids, and my parents-in-law who are in town want to go to Santa Monica, that would cost each of us $5 in day passes using public transit and I have to transfer to another bus. Metro wants $30 for my entire family to get to the beach which is only ten miles from where I live? No thanks, I’ll just drive my minivan and park at one of the parking structures there for $9/day.

    If Metro wants us to take transit to the beach, they need to come up with a better plan to make transit costs cheaper for shorter trips.

  11. @ Ryan

    Bus transfer is not a problem. The lack of bus transfer is the problem!

    There are no west bound buses available at the interim terminus at La Cienega Station other than the once per hour CC#4. This is poor planning by everyone: Big Blue Bus, Culver City, not just Metro.

  12. For a family of four to the beach, even a day pass would end up costing $20. At that rate, I’m better off driving my entire family to the beach. And for short trips within 10 miles, I’m not paying $5 for a day pass since it’s such a bad deal. Why should I pay the same price as longer travelers if my travel distance is so short?

  13. @Ryan

    $5 for a day pass is still too expensive for people that only need to travel for a short distance.

  14. To those concerned about the bus transfer: you can get a day pass for $5, which is a superb deal. Considering parking and gas alone that’s a steal. I think it’s important to note that, while I think Metro’s pay-per-ride system is very problematic, we have some of the cheapest public transit in the nation.

  15. Why not extend the 780 down to the La Cienega station? Its existing terminal is just a few blocks away, and it would provide those going to and from the Fairfax District with another link into the rail system.

  16. @Irwin @Nicole
    Public transit and cars are not the only options in LA. An alternative called the motorcycle or scooter exists if public transit won’t work for you anymore and if you don’t want to go back to paying high cost of fuel/insurance/parking/maintenance for your car.

    Motorcycles are cheaper and much more fuel efficient than a car, they give you the freedom of going when you want when you want instead of waiting for the bus, and for short distances within 10 miles, the fuel efficiency of the two-wheelers come out way cheaper than taking public transit or driving a car. Most places even let you park your motorcycle for free because they take up less space than cars. LAX even offers FREE PARKING in the CENTRAL TERMINAL AREA for motorcycles!

    Get a motorcycle endorsement and trade in your old car for a motorcycle or a scooter. Look around and more people are doing that these days.

  17. @ Nicole

    I also use Fox Hills transit center so I understand your frustration. 217 is supposed to be extended south beyond Fairfax/Washington to Fox Hills and replace the local portion of 439 south of Expo line in June. But Metro has not published any time table for the revised 217 service so frequency is unknown right now. It will probably be a full day service as opposed to the 439’s one-direction peak hour service so it will likely be an upgrade from what we have now. However, if it runs once per hour like CC#4, then it is just as useless. I’m hoping for 12 minute headway on 217 to match the 12 minute Expo line service. Perhaps one of the Source contributor can clarify.

  18. @Katie – it depends where in Santa Monica you need to go. I’ve always had good experiences with the #10. Then again, I was taking it from Santa Monica to Downtown in the morning, which seems to be with lighter traffic than Downtown to SM.

    A positive for the BBB is they have transfers (wish Metro still did).

  19. @Frank M

    Ditto. For me, Expo will work great to get to the beach or to visit crosstown rival UCLA during games than fighting freeway traffic. But as an USC student living near my school, I already drive my Vespa around my immediate vicinity and to events at the Staples Center. I can’t see any benefit of using Expo for short rides around my area when my Vespa does the job fine.

  20. Same here being a Mar Vista/Venice Blvd. area resident. Getting to Downtown LA will be a great deal for me with the completion of Expo. But on the other other hand, I don’t see any benefit of this taking me to the beach even if Phase II of Expo is completed. For a short ride into Venice Beach, the cost of taking the train and/or bus isn’t worth it.

    I assume it’s the same with residents living near Downtown LA in reverse; not quite a great deal to get into Downtown LA for a short ride as opposed to being a good deal to get to Venice Beach.

  21. I personally am looking forward to riding the Expo Line this weekend. I’d probably use Expo to go to Downtown LA because it’s a good deal, but I don’t see myself using this to go to the beach for the reasons that Hector G. and Y Fukuzawa mentioned.

    The closest station to my place of residence is La Cienega/Jefferson. If it’s going to cost me $1.50 for one station to the Culver City and if I have to take pay another $1.50 onto a bus to Venice Beach, I’d rather drive the whole way to the beach. Now if that one station train ride plus the bus trip was cheaper, then I’d consider it.

    If I live closer to the beach, why should I pay more than getting into Downtown LA which a lot farther from where I live? Something is not right here.

  22. I take the 439 to work every day. I get off where Sepulveda meets the 405, near Fox Hills Mall. I take it because it’s direct and only increases my commute time by 50%.

    The 439 will no longer go to Fox Hills Mall. I can’t find out the date service ends because currently the Metro website has no information on that.

    It is being replaced by the 217, but, again, the Metro website has no information. The 217 is listed under “Planned Service Advisories” but the page it links to has no information. No idea if that line runs to Jefferson/La Cienega or not.

    The Culver City 4 runs so infrequently, is timed so poorly, and takes so long to get from point A to point B that it is not a realistic option.

    Metro, will you be overlaying the 217 along the route that the 439 runs between Jefferson/La Cienega and Fox Hills? I would like to take Metro, but currently it looks like I’ll have to go back to driving.

  23. @Hector G.

    Metro’s fare policy as of today is pay-per-ride, not pay-per-distance. Under a flat rate fare system, we get inflexibilities like this.

    Hopefully Metro will wake up soon to fix the fare policy. IMO, this flat rate policy is one the factors why Metro is deeply in the red and so reliant on tax payers.

  24. See, this is what I don’t understand.

    Metro’s solution to get to the beach is to transfer to another bus at the current terminus at Culver City. That means paying another $1.50 to the Metro Bus for a short ride to the beach. This adds up to $3.00 for the traveler.

    But once the Expo Line is built (with enough funding), one can eventually go all the way from 7th/Metro to Venice Beach for $1.50 without paying for any transfers.

    If it’s going to be $1.50 for the entire line from 7th/Metro to Culver City when the entire line is built, why not just make traveling from 7th/Metro to Culver City be $1.00 and when transferring from Culver City to Venice Beach on Metro 33 be $0.50?

  25. Y Kukuzawa I totally agree! I live near Union Station and work in Santa Monica. I could tap from Union and tap again the 7th/Metro transfer, but I’d have to stop at a machine to buy a transfer ticket to Big Blue Bus. That’s so annoying. If I could just buy a month pass and tap the whole way it would be so seamless!

    But even so, all the Big Blue Buses run on the most congested streets so it’s inefficient anyway… As excited as I am about Expo, I’m worried that Phase 1 (even with the Culver City stop) it isn’t going to help my commute. I may just end up continuing to use the BBB Rapid 10, which is a total nightmare on the freeway. Anyone have better suggestions to utilize the subway to get to Santa Monica?

  26. What about Metro Line 534? When/where will that line connect from the Expo Line to Santa Monica via the 10 Freeway?

    • Hi NM,

      That’s one of the issues that will be considered during the scheduled June service shakeup. Stay tuned for more details.

      Carter Rubin
      Contributor, The Source

  27. Carter, thanks for this update but unfortunately, Metro is not running a bus bridge between La Cienega Station to Culver City Station during the period when the train will terminate at La Cienega. This means there will be lots of stranded people at La Cienega station pondering how to get to the beach or all points to the west.

    I suppose if we take the long term view of things, this is just a minor hiccup but I have to say that opening Expo to La Cienega without a bus bridge to the final terminus of phase 1 is kind of weak planning. How much would it cost Metro to assign 4 buses to run in a loop (no local stop) between La Cienega station and Venice/Robertson via National Blvd? Something like this would at least enable people to connect from Expo to 733 and BBB12/Super 12 without a 3 bus transfer tap dance just to bridge that 1.5 mile gap.

  28. Problem with connecting to the Santa Monica Big Blue is that they’re not on TAP.

  29. The problem with the 105/705 route is that it does not take you SOUTH of Rodeo along La Cienega Blvd. The 439 used to but it doesn’t seem to anymore. I see a bus stop for 217 on La Cienega and Slauson but I can’t find route information to suggest it will connect to La Cienega station. What’s going on with that?