I’m a couple weeks late on this one…but I was just catching up on my Transit Nerd News, and found out that ground has been broken on the Expo Line! According to an August 11th Times article, officials expect to see 43,000 passenger boardings every weekday by 2025. The question is, where will the Expo line be by 2025? The Phase One route is already decided: an old Southern Pacific rail line, south of the 10, that is nowhere near many of the job-dense areas. But Phase Two is still up in the air, and it may be headed for the same fate as the “Beverly Hills Freeway” (the lack of which is partially responsible for the gridlock on the Westside that the Expo line is supposed to help with)
The Expo Line is supposed to follow the old Exposition Blvd. tracks, from the Washington at National terminal in Culver City, to the beach in Santa Monica. If so, the Expo Line would take the place of the “Subway to the Sea” – even though it is an above-ground train subject to the same traffic lights and slowdowns that the Gold Line is in South Pasadena. The original beach-bound train was actually supposed to run underground, along Wilshire Boulevard, a route that was eliminated by Senator Henry Waxman in the 80s after the 1985 methane gas explosion. Granted, at $300 million a mile for a sub-Wilshire train line, the Expo line is far less expensive at a total of $640 million. But can the Expo Line handle being the only train line to the ocean with a route that long from downtown?
Also, will that Expo Line route follow the old Expo tracks from Culver City, or will it have to take a longer route to skirt parts of residential West L.A. – especially the Cheviot Hills? The residents of the Cheviot Hills neighborhood do not want mass transit going through their backyards. Ironically, Cheviot Hills is plagued with traffic from Century City, which I learned today was built with access to the non-existent Beverly Hills freeway in mind. But the Expo Line wouldn’t necessarily lighten that load, as it goes too far south of Century City and Westwood to be of any help. And even if the Expo line is allowed to run on the quicker route through the Cheviot Hills, travel time from downtown to that area would be as long or longer than taking buses, making it impractical even for those Century City or Westwood workers willing to take it most of the way to their offices.
Additionally, there is some question about whether the funding exists to get the Expo Line past Vermont. With so many cuts to the transportation budget, the same Times article says that the money might just not be there. The official Build Expo page doesn’t mention any of these setbacks, even though it is the head of the Exposition Construction Authority who says that, without the $314 million currently being held by the California Transportation Commission (as part of those budget cuts), the contracts for the next leg of Phase 1 cannot be awarded.
I’m still excited that ground has been broken though. I don’t actually live on the Westside any more, but one of the advantages to moving east was access to better transit services. Also, while it wouldn’t be much help for those commuters stuck in the congestion in Santa Monica and West L.A., it would definitely help some of the commuters on the 10 find alternate routes to work – or, for that matter, to the beach in that distant day when the last phases are complete.