SANTA MONICA — An Expo Line train carrying a host of elected officials and dignitaries cruised through a ceremonial banner in Santa Monica May 20, and two hours later, commuter train service to the beach city resumed for the first time in more than 60 years.
The $1.5 billion, 6.6-mile Expo Line Phase 2 extension opened to the public at noon, stretching the line from its previous 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.
It’s the first time since the 1950s that Santa Monica has been accessible by rail.
With the extension, the Expo Line stretches 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.
Officials of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the ride from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles is expected to take 45 to 50 minutes.
The MTA offered free rides on the entire Expo Line May 20 and 21 to introduce passengers to the new line. Parties with music and food were held at the Culver City Station and five of the new stations — Downtown Santa Monica, 17th Street and Santa Monica College, 26th Street and Santa Monica College, Expo and Bundy and Palms.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he expects the line to be one of the MTA’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.”
MTA spokesman Dave Sotero told City News Service that Expo Line trains had been “running full all day” May 20 and already had carried as many as 20,000 passengers as of about 4:40 p.m.
“People seem to be loving it,” Sotero said.
The extension will also help introduce a new feature for the MTA— 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 are available at: the 17th Street and Santa Monica College Station: 67 spaces, of which 13 are reserved for monthly permits; the Expo and Bundy Station: 217 spaces, with 131 reserved for monthly permits; and the Expo and Sepulveda Station: 260 spaces, with 77 reserved for permits.
According to the MTA, monthly parking passes for the Santa Monica College 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, according to the MTA.
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.