We ride Los Angeles’ Expo Line expansion to Santa Monica on its first day in operation

Who says you can’t move forward by looking back? After decades of promises and planning, and years of development and construction, last Friday, the long awaited Expo Line officially launched public service on its expansion from Culver City (which opened in 2012) to the beaches of Santa Monica – connecting the city to Downtown LA via a rail service for the first time since the 1950s. In fact, the line runs alongside a similar route to the original Santa Monica Air Line, that discontinued public operations in 1953.

We had the chance to be amongst the first to ride the extended route on opening day… so what were our initial thoughts?

For starters, US$1.75 for an hour long train trip (a one-size-fits-all fee paid per trip, regardless of origin or destination) must make this service amongst the cheapest in the western world. It was a short wait with hundreds lining up at any time, but good organisation and the fact travel was free (meaning no one dealing with TAP top ups or tapping on to ride) kept things moving fast and organised.

I jumped on the service right in peak hour at 6pm, as the train – which starts out down Colorado St before rising above traffic and its namesake (Exposition Boulevard) – darted past the traffic most of these travellers have been stuck in for the past 6 decades, whether on a bus or in their own cars, when the earlier existing rail network was discontinued, deliberately creating a city that would be almost entirely reliant on personal vehicles for the years to come.

Celebrations in Santa Monica mark the first day of travel.
Celebrations in Santa Monica mark the first day of travel.

What seemed to be a smooth running – though crowded – first day should bode well for the future of the service. It’s clear this is one that Los Angeles not only needed, but wanted. And even though I was pushed up against a wall amongst the crowd of commuters for some parts of the 50 minute journey, I’ll take this over bumper to bumper freeway travel – or the LA bus network – any day.

Never ones to miss the chance for a promotion, ride sharing service Uber were offering UberPOOL users (this is an option where you can share your ride with others to cut down on costs, available in select cities) the opportunity to save $5 off a ride to or from a one of the seven new Expo stations through the weekend. Their partnership with Uber was also promoted on the train, showing just how symbiotic the Metro network sees the ride sharing service with day-to-day public transport options. The network is also promoting the fact that 80% of Los Angeles residents live within biking distance of a Metro Station, which the city hopes will encourage commuters to get out of their cars and onto the public transport network. If you’ve ever been on a LA freeway, you’ll recognise the value…

For more details about the Expo line, head to the official LA Metro website

Photos by the author. While in Santa Monica, we stayed at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. 


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.