All Aboard the Expo Line! Next Stop, Santa Monica

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Starting May 20th you can ride all the way from downtown LA to 4th and Colorado in Santa Monica — and back — for the first time in over six decades.

The Expo Line train at 4th and Colorado stop in Santa Monica. Photos by Robert LaFond.
The Expo Line train at 4th and Colorado stop in Santa Monica. Photos by Robert LaFond. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

The last time Los Angeles residents were able to take a train to the beach, it was in 1953. But on May 20th, Angelenos will be able to board an Expo Line train in downtown LA and take it to downtown Santa Monica, just blocks from the pier. The extension was delayed for decades over safety, environmental and funding concerns. But now Metro, the train’s operator, is hailing this and other subway extensions as a “transit renaissance” for the region. Is LA moving toward a less car-dependent future?

DnA’s Frances Anderton and Avishay Artsy participated in a test-ride of the Expo Line on Monday, May 9, joining a group of elected officials, Metro boardmembers and press. Here’s a video about our trip:

DnA spoke with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA City Councilman Mike Bonin, former Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority CEO Rick Thorpe, LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, writer David Ulin and pedestrian advocate and Gizmodo’s Urbanism editor Alissa Walker. Listen to the DnA segment here:

There’s one group in LA that’s been anticipating the Expo Line extension for years: cyclists. The route features a bike lane that runs alongside it.

“I think the bike path is going to change the city, maybe as much as the train,” Alissa Walker said. “I’ll be able to jump on this bike freeway to get from one part of the city to another, and being able to jump on the train if you get tired, that’s going to make the most difference in my commuting.”

Another excited cyclist is Meghan Sahli-Wells, the mayor of Culver City and a board member of the Expo Construction Authority. She told DnA she takes the train and bikes to all the Expo board meetings.

“I live within, probably a little less than a mile from the Expo station, as do a great number of Culver City and Palms residents. So I’m particularly excited to not have to look for parking, fit in my exercise within my commute, and really have great transit access for myself, my kids and my community,”Sahli-Wells said.

When she’s on the train, Sahli-Wells puts her bike in the articulation between the train cars, and uses a bungee cord to secure it to a hand rail during the ride. If she has several meetings or one that’s far away, she’ll take the bike with her. If she just has one meeting and it’s near the train station, she’ll lock it up at the station.

Here’s one helpful tip she has for cyclists: “If I can see the security camera where my bike is, that means the security camera can see my bike.”