SANTA MONICA (CNS / FOX 11) - For the first time since the 1950s, a commuter train will pull into Santa Monica Friday when the much-anticipated Metro Expo Line Phase 2 extension from Culver City opens, carrying passengers within steps of the beach.
From Hal Eisner:
It’s being billed as one of the more glamorous metro line routes… “The Expo Line to the Beach!" The first commuter train to make the trek between Downtown LA and Downtown Santa Monica in over six decades. But, from our ride on this first day of service you couldn’t really tell how many people will be regular users for one very simple reason. It’s FREE through Saturday night and most people we found were enjoying the free ride.
We found a lot of folks who have no plans to use the EXPO line, but quite a few who do. Some said it’ll be a great way to go to the beach and not worry about beach parking. Others told us it’ll be a great way to go to Downtown LA and not have to pay for Downtown parking.
There are some like Lissette Carranza who depend on public transportation. She doesn’t have a car so she says, “I’m always on the bus."
Student Taylor Bermudez says until the Expo Extension to the beach opened she’d have to take a train and a bus to get to Santa Monica. Now, the new line, she says, will make things easier and faster.
Najee Wilson works in Santa Monica and was taking a train and bus from Baldwin Hills to work. Now, two trains will get him there and instead of leaving an hour and a half early, he says, “now I can leave within the hour… it’s a big deal!"
The $1.5 billion, 6.6-mile extension will stretch the Expo Line from its current terminus near Venice and Robertson boulevards in Culver City to a station at Colorado Boulevard and Fourth Street in downtown Santa Monica. The extension includes seven new stations, with stops in Palms, West Los Angeles and the area just north of Santa Monica College.
With the extension, the Expo Line will stretch from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles, ending at the Seventh Street/Metro Center Station at Seventh and Flower Streets. Riders at that station can connect with the Blue, Red and Purple lines to Long Beach, Union Station, North Hollywood or the mid-Wilshire area.
Metro officials said the ride from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles is expected to take 46 minutes.
Metro will offer free rides on the entire Expo Line beginning at noon today through the end of service Saturday to introduce passengers to the new line. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, parties with music and food will be held at the Culver City Station and five of the new stations -- Downtown Santa Monica, 17th Street/SMC, 26th Street/SMC, Expo/Bundy and Palms.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he expects the line to be one of the Metro system's most popular, far exceeding the anticipated passenger count of 30,000 riders a day.
"We think it could be probably 40 to 45 thousand, and my prediction is it'll go well over 50,000,'' Garcetti said earlier this month. "The nice thing about a train is we can add capacity. We're running every 12 minutes to begin with, but if we need to run it every 10 minutes or every eight minutes, we can build that capacity as the ridership surges so that you're never going to be in a crowded car, but you'll be able to get in there and get where you need to go.''
The extension will also help introduce a new feature for Metro -- paid parking.
Three stations on the Expo Line Phase 2 extension will have parking lots costing $2 a day as part of a two-year pilot program designed to respond to anticipated high demand for spaces. Monthly parking passes for the lots are being sold at www.lametroparking.net.
Transit riders with monthly parking permits will have access to select spaces on a first-come, first-served basis from 4 to 9 a.m. on weekdays. After 9 a.m., the permit spaces will be available to the general public.
The lots will be available at:
-- 17th Street/Santa Monica College station: 67 spaces, of which 13 are reserved for monthly permits;
-- Expo/Bundy station: 217 spaces, with 131 reserved for monthly permits; and
-- Expo/Sepulveda station: 260 spaces, with 77 reserved for permits.
According to Metro, monthly parking passes for the SMC station sold out within an hour. Passes are still available for the other two stations.
People without permits will pay the $2 daily parking rate, with parking attendants on hand to collect money and ensure motorists have Transit Access Pass cards to use the rail line. When an attendant is not on duty, payments must be made by phone or with a smartphone app that will be available when the extension opens May 20, according to Metro.
Metro officials said payment kiosks will be installed at the lots later this year, and technology is also being installed that will allow riders to check parking availability online.
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