Readers of this blog (there are one or two) know that I often write about transportation issues, including mass transit. So I thought it was a bit odd that I never, ever rode public transportation in all of my time here. So recently I hopped aboard the Expo Line to rectify that error. And I was very impressed.
First, I was shocked by how many people use the train. I got to the parking lot in Culver City at around noon on a Friday and I got one of the last parking spots available.
After buying my subway pass, I looked around for an escalator to take up to the platform. Alas, there was none, just two very long staircases. There was an elevator, but I was surprised there was no escalator as well to get people up and down as quickly as possible.
I was also surprised there were no turnstiles; just tap your card and be on your way. I can’t imagine how many people do not even bother paying their fare.
The train was waiting for me on the platform. The seats were nice and comfortable after my long hike up the stairs. The train itself was relatively clean and empty. That latter situation quickly changed — by the time we got downtown, all the seats were taken and people were standing.
I had no idea where we were going, so I was surprised to see that the Expo Line actually goes to useful places. In addition to the neighborhoods, it stopped at USC, the Science Center/Natural History Museum and the Staples Center. It certainly beats paying for event parking.
Now the downside — the trip from Culver City to downtown took about a half an hour. That is not terrible, but it is not great, either. The problem was that we had to stop at traffic lights at major intersections when the train was at grade, which is most of the time. We were stuck at the light at Crenshaw for several minutes, for example.
This could have been avoided by elevating the entire Expo Line. Of course, this would have added hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of the project, which is probably why it was not done. What they should have done was what they did at the beginning of the line: the train is elevated at Culver City, goes down to grade, is elevated again over La Cienega, then back down to grade and elevated again over La Brea. They should have continued this at Crenshaw, Western and at all other major intersections. Aside from the safety factor, it would have made the trip much faster.
Overall, though, it was a pleasant experience. You get nice views from the few elevated sections and the landscaping along parts of the line was very nice. I honestly do not think I would take it every day if I worked downtown, but I will definitely use it for the occasional trip to the museums or other downtown places where it is expensive or annoying to park.