Late April 2012. I was amidst cramming for my last round of college finals and celebrating the end of four years at the University of Southern California when the first leg of the Metro Expo Line opened from Downtown LA, past the university, just north of Crenshaw, and out to Culver City. That entire semester, I watched test trains run by the architecture school's quiet sculpture garden tucked alongside Exposition Blvd, awaiting with the fervent excitement one would expect from an urban planning student/public transit fanboy.
As a Downtown dweller making a regular bicycle commute to USC, I was thrilled when the train finally opened. A few weeks after its launch, I proudly boarded the train in cap and gown and took it to my graduation ceremony. My time at USC then came to an end, and so did my very short-lived regular use of the Expo Line. In the past four years, I've taken it on a few occasions - as a way to bike to the beach, as a depot for my few Westside friends to pick me up from its Culver City terminus, to attend an event at Exposition Park or at USC campus. Though my usage of it pales in comparison to how much I ride the Red, Purple, Gold, and even Blue Line. While the Expo Line has decent ridership already - about 750,000 boardings every month - it's still dwarfed by every other Metro Rail line.
That, however, will surely change after this Friday, when the Expo Line finally delivers on its ultimate goal: reaching the beach. A 47 minute train ride from Downtown LA to Santa Monica, blocks from the Pacific Ocean, is well poised to alter commuter preferences, change frustrating perceptions of LA's transit network, and bring our far-reaching region a little closer together. As I plan to ride the first train open to the public on Friday, I'm once again feeling the anticipation and thrill I felt four years ago. This time though, with a beach at its horizon, I imagine I'll be using the Expo Line, future E Line, much more frequently. I'm eager to see if other Angelenos agree. •
By Ari Simon, Managing Editor