Open thread: how’s your commute going on the Expo Line?


Boarding a Santa Monica bound Expo Line train at 7th/Metro about 7:50 a.m.


The crowd on the train as we rolled into Culver City Station.

The Culver City parking lot at 8:22 a.m. Monday.

The Culver City parking lot at 8:22 a.m. Monday.


The Big Blue Bus stop below the Expo/Bundy Station.


Riders exiting the train at 26th/Bergamot about 8:35 a.m.

Downtown Santa Monica Station about 9:30 a.m.

Downtown Santa Monica Station about 9:30 a.m.

Obviously not an ideal start to the first Monday morning commute for the Expo Line extension with a car driving through a fence and onto the tracks between Expo/Crenshaw and Expo/Western stations about 5 a.m. The incident cleared about 7 a.m. and full train service was restored  between Santa Monica and DTLA with residual delays. LAist and other media are reporting that the driver of the was allegedly drunk.

Sigh. Back in March, a tractor trailer crashed through a retaining wall on the 210 freeway, damaging Gold Line overhead wires a few hours before revenue service was supposed to begin. Repairs were done in time for the Monday commute. But. Still. An unpleasant reminder that there are an awful lot of nitwit drivers out there who impose a lot of carnage on themselves and others. Grump grump grump. And then there’s this:

UPDATE, WEDNESDAY: I wrote this post Monday morning but feel free to add comments about your experiences on Expo this week! The original post: 

I boarded a westbound Expo train at 7:50 a.m. at 7th/Metro and the above pics are from my 50-minute ride to 26th/Bergamot. There were very healthy crowds with most seats taken and some standees — and it stayed that way past Culver City Station. I’m writing this on the 26th/Bergamot platform and each of the past three trains has deposited another two to three dozen passengers here with nearly all of them headed across Olympic Boulevard to the Water Garden and other nearby offices.

The trains that have been coming through bound for Los Angeles have much fewer people, which is not surprising given there are only two more stations west of here. One woman I just chatted with said her ride from Culver City Station to 26th/Bergamot shaved a few minutes off her usual bus ride.

UPDATE 1: If you’re going to the Bernie Sanders rally at Santa Monica High School on Monday afternoon, the closest station is Downtown Santa Monica. Exit the station and turn left on 4th Street. It’s about a .4-mile walk to the high school’s football field. Or take the Big Blue Bus 1 Line south on 4th. Please give yourself extra time.

UPDATE 2: I caught a train back to DTLA from Santa Monica about 11:30 a.m. and by the time we left Culver City, most seats were taken. Between Culver City and 7th/Metro, the two big destinations looked to be Expo/Vermont and Pico Station.

As expected, there’s a fairly lively discussion ongoing of Expo on our Twitter feed and elsewhere. As for the following tweets, Laura Nelson is the Los Angeles Times’ transportation reporter and Jarrett Walker is a transportation consultant.

How was your ride this morning? Comment please.

23 replies

  1. You need to add at least two additional TVMs at the Downtown Santa Monica Station. On weekends the lines to buy and/or reload tap cards are long and some people take too long when using them. You should add a TVM for reloading only!

  2. You wanna shave an extra 5 min on this line?? Make it go faster Between Palms and Westwood and give it Signal Priority on Flower (though I know this one is a given). Also, don’t slow down at the rail yard and at Bergamot either. It doesn’t make sense for these trains to slow and stop at such random places throughout the line.

    • Apparently the yard before Bergamot is where they can stop to switch drivers. I saw this a couple days ago as I was riding toward Santa Monica in a front train car. It was pretty quick, like a tag team thing – the guy stopped, got out of the cab and opened the front door, and hopped off as the new one got on and stepped into the cab.

  3. I’ve been riding the Expo line since it first opened, and while there is an issue with the lines once in a while, it’s so much better than sitting on the freeway or dealing with slow and go traffic. My commute is a little longer, since the opening of the second phase, but since I now walk to the Sepulveda station (around 30 minutes walk each way), it’s much better than having to drive to Culver City. My criticism of the ride on Monday was, the Metro staff were not forthcoming with directions. A few of us ended up on the Eastbound line (going downtown); however, the train to downtown was on the Westbound line (and vice versa). I’m not sure of the rationale for switching the trains, but it would have been nice for the Metro staff to be informing the passengers when they got off the train and/or the bus. Nothing is perfect, but taking the train really does beat driving.

  4. I rode the expo line for my very first time today. Here is what I thoughts about it. First, the travel time and speed are much WORST than other Metro Rail ever. The train only travel an average 20mph on the line I guess due to unnecessary slow down, traffic signal, operating in lower speed, and switching pilots at the maintain yard, which takes extra time to run the whole trip. Even the train is running on the separate route, it still does not operate higher speed for no reason. I also hope you are seeking ways for adding signal priority and gates installation on street-run crossings not only for expo line, but also for blue line and gold line in order to increase the speed, safety issues and cut down the travel time. Also, you should switch pilots at the station instead of midway of the trip.
    Second thing is capacity problem. The light rail car does not have enough room for passengers demand. Too much seats on the trains!! Better to take out some seats on the train, especially the seat near the doors. By removing them, it will offer an extra room for standing, and passengers riding with bike or wheelchair, and eventually increase the capacity by 10-25% of each set railcar. You may want take a look of BART rail car that they have assigned a dedicated space for bikes and wheelchairs. If you still encourage people to ride a bike, you may consider adding room for them.
    The next thing is security issues. Ticket evasion is still a main problem on the rail. Many rude people speak foul language loudly or play loud music in the train, which disturbs passenger and makes them feel uncomfortable. I wish you can place more security guard or LASD on board the train and the station to ensure comfortable place, and prohibit people to ride the Metro w/o ticket.
    All these things are my observation today when I took the expo train. But overall I am glad to see the rail expansion, and more people are riding the train.

    • I, too, rode the Expo extension for the first time today. We rode from downtown Los Angeles to downtown Santa Monica leaving at 11:30 a.m. The train was exactly on time all the way and the cars were moderately full (a few seats, but not many, available). We caught a return train that left at 3:36 (midway through the posted start times). It was packed from the second station and continued that way to downtown Los Angeles. We got caught in the track problem at LATTC./Ortho so the trip lasted 58 minutes, 10 more than posted — not bad, all things considered. Among the issues that were concerning were (a) there were no verbal announcements of upcoming stations or even when we arrived at stations; (b) there were no electronic signs as to this, either; (c) there was no notification of the track issue at LATTC/Ortho so we had no clue as to when we would arrive at 7th/Metro Center; (d) the issue of bicycles on the trains was not handled well (i.e., people with bikes were crowding into doors that were already overly crowded; (d) signal preemption is obviously a work in progress — we waited for more than minute coming and 45 seconds going out at 5th St. in Santa Monica and waited for about 40 seconds each way at Normandie Ave. Other than that it wasn’t as bad as I feared except, of course, in downtown L.A., which is always going to be an issue.

  5. I used it yesterday and again this morning. Thankfully, my point of orgin was between the accident and my stop at 26th/Bergamont. Sending the trains back immediately was helpful. Full train this morning, but only until Culver City. Shaves 10-30 minutes off my commute even with a 10 minute drive to the La Cienega station. On those days when the city is in complete lockdown, it’ll be even better!

  6. First off, I’m incredibly happy to finally have the Expo Line operational, and have already used it every day it has been in service except for today. It’s also opening up the possibility of attending evening events in DTLA that I otherwise would avoid coming from Santa Monica.

    Unfortunately, I was on one of the first trains to be blocked by the car across the tracks which I got on at 5:12 at Expo/Sepulveda to head to a 6:15 Amtrak train at Union Station which would be a tight connection at best. I had biked to the station from Lincoln/Ocean Park area with a heavy bag. The stuck car was initially announced as ‘police activity’, and no announcement of shuttles were made, so I decided to head back home and drive to the station like usual. Checking Metro’s Twitter account 10 minutes after arriving back home (at about 6:15 or so), I saw that shuttles would be arriving soon to the Expo Crenshaw station that I chose not to stay at. I then drove to Union Station in about 25 minutes as usual (beating the shuttle connection itinerary), and took the 7:25 train and was an hour late to my destination.

    What I learned is that my commute on days that I take an early Amtrak train is poorly served by Expo. Though I would save about $90 a month, taking Expo would add an hour on each end of an already long day. Still, I’ll be using it frequently on other days, and am so excited about this new version of Los Angeles that is finally a reality!

  7. Rode the Expo Line eastbound on Friday afternoon from 17th/SMC to 7th/Metro Center. It was fine, though full. My observations: 1: 4 westbound trains came and went before an eastbound train arrived. 2: The displays which should show the time until the next train are impossible to read in the sunlight.

    • I noticed this Saturday – my guess is that they were running 3 or 4 trains in a row in order to deal with the long lines for the free rides on opening weekend. Maybe that’s why the printed schedules were effective Sunday.

      Steve, the photo above of the Culver City lot at 8:22 a.m. is a copy of the Downtown Santa Monica at 9:30 with the station name cropped out. Did someone think we wouldn’t notice? 🙂

      • Hi Pat;

        It was an honest mistake. I clicked on the wrong photo and didn’t notice. I fixed it. Thank you,

        Steve Hymon
        Editor, The Source

  8. I tried a combo of Expo/Line 312/Line 102 this afternoon to get from SaMo to Westchester and it worked fantastically; equally as fast as driving and twice as fast as taking the bus down Lincoln. Plus I’m a student so the entire fare is only a dollar!

  9. Congratulations on a great, hard-fought extension. The photo above reminds me — It’s digital, so it’s fixable, but I was a little bit dismayed to see last month, the new light rail cars’ changing “next stop” monitors were not designed so the entire stop name fits on one screen width. Anybody who deals with type for a living could have figured out a better solution than SANTA MON scrolling ever-so-slowly so it reads ONICA STATION. Set it up two lines, use a condensed font, make ALL the station names work in a similar format – do ANYTHING else than the current solution. Even if you only can show 2-3 upcoming stations instead of 3-4.

    • Hi peasepress;

      Some info from Metro staff that may be helpful:

      Metro is still waiting on the railcar vendor to complete work on the new onboard passenger display system (there have been a few bugs as anyone traveling the Gold Line extension in one of the new P3010 cars can attest to). Once the kinks are worked out, Metro will have access to the graphics programming and will be able to change fonts, layout and colors to optimize the system for each line’s specific requirements. Currently everything is set up as a default, and obviously that’s not optimal. In the cosmic scheme of things, at least we have the rail cars out there — which allowed the two rail extensions to open this year.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  10. I tried to ride the Expo line from the Culver City station to 7th/Metro this morning. It didn’t happen. Trains were running 30 minutes apart and there was a bus bridge to the east. I had a bicycle. When the trains running east or west arrived they were too crowded to put my bike on. Obviously I couldn’t follow my orginal plan of going east to Downtown. Not being able to go west meant that I also couldn’t get to the Santa Monica R10 to get downtown. I arrived at the Culver City station somewhere 7:00 or 7:30. I don’t understand how an accident at 5:00 am was snarling the Expo line aat what should have been rush hour.

  11. Additionally, I noticed the real time arrival signs at the stations are not yet up and running.

  12. I’m sorry to say that I laughed at the irony of people taking Metro rail to avoid the soul sucking car traffic, only to be delayed by car traffic on the rail. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured.

  13. Also please note that the schedules for Expo have changed, already. The original schedules for service beginning May 22, which were distributed this weekend and in the gift bags, showed 50 minute run times for eastbound service. That schedule included too much travel time between the La Cienega and Culver City stations. The new schedule, also dated May 22, 2016 and now posted on the Metro web site, has been corrected to include only three minutes between La Cienega and Culver City, and a total run time of 48 minutes. The impact for riders is that westbound trains that are running on time will serve stations west of Culver City two minutes before the times printed on the published schedules.

  14. Rode this morning from Downtown Santa Monica to Expo/Sepulveda. The 7:42am train was pretty late, I’m guessing because of the crash this morning. The train was slower than I expected in some of the non-street running sections, and it completely stopped at the maintenance facility for maybe 20 seconds (were they letting Metro workers off there??). Connected to Metro Bus 788, which is smooth and easy after Pico, but very slow in that Exposition/Sawtelle/Pico loop as it has to cross the freeway twice. Definitely a less than ideal bus route.

    All that being said, I expect most of these issues were just initially glitches that need to be ironed out (although I don’t know if the bus route will be fixed). But I’m very happy to have the Expo Line!

  15. Day 1 Expo Line commute: Rode from 26th/Bergamot (where I got dropped off but will be walking/biking most mornings) to 7MC, which is across the street from my office. Trains were on-time to the minute and there was no sign of the car-on-tracks issue from earlier in the morning. Only problem was someone had spilled a tapioca pudding under my seat so the floor of the brand new car was already a mess.

  16. Did you notice how many of the trains were two-car consists and how many were three-car consists? My only observations were that my eastbound train had three cars and the westbound train that left the station just before had two cars. I expect this mix of service will be typical for the next few months as we wait for the delivery, testing and release of new vehicles.
    My train arrived at La Cienega on time (8:26 AM). There were plenty of seats available, but that’s because of the extra car on my train. I expect to experience standing room only conditions occasionally when I’m unlucky enough to get a two-car train.
    It was a smooth ride to LA with no delays until we reached 23rd Street. There we had to wait around 6 minutes for trains to clear ahead of us (according to our driver) which put us in downtown at 9:00 AM.
    The parking lot at La Cienega seemed to be less crowded than usual, though I arrived a few minutes earlier than usual. What have you seen/heard about parking at the new stations, and at Culver City? My guess is that Culver City will be packed, probably filling up earlier than before, but that the Sepulveda and Bundy stations will have parking spaces available all day.