Looking east from the downtown Santa Monica station. Steve Hymon/Metro.
Trains carrying beachgoers and tourists from Los Angeles to the sea are what made Santa Monica a popular destination more than a century ago. On Wednesday, the first Expo Line train rolled into Santa Monica for a test run — marking the return of trains to the bayside city for the first time since the 1950s. In this case, the Expo Line tester was being pushed by a truck. On Friday, the first train will roll in under its own power.
The Expo Line extension from Culver City the rest of the way to Santa Monica — four blocks from the pier — is expected to open early next year. Construction should wrap up in October; then it's the seemingly endless testing and training phase, likely six months or so. Test trains have been running on the Rancho Park, Palms and West LA portions for several weeks now.
Here's Metro video from Wednesday's test run:
Los Angeles Magazine notes that, when the newly extended Expo Line opens next year, there may be an immediate shortage of parking for the riders who drive to the train rather than take a bus, walk or ride a bike. Those optional riders are crucial to the success of train lines in LA, but the problem is that the large, free ungated parking lot in Culver City where the Expo Line currently terminates — full on USC game days, CicLAvias and other busy ridership days — will soon be developed into a mixed-use project. Remember, development is one of the key political and urban planning motivations for spending so much money on train lines even though most of Metro's transit customers are bus riders, and most Angelenos plan to keep driving. Transit stations let City Hall concentrate new density where it can create the construction jobs and economic payoff without causing as much new traffic congestion, and be sold to voters as forward thinking and urban friendly.
From the LA Mag blog item by Neal Broverman:
The good parking news is that the development will include 300 subterranean spaces for Metro riders; the bad news is that amount of spaces is about half of what the Culver City lot offered.
Metro is most likely counting on the coming extension to Santa Monica to help absorb the difference. Stretching 6.6 miles through West L.A. and Santa Monica, the new addition will mean less people driving to Culver City since they can hop on the train at the seven new stations. With construction wrapping, and an opening tentatively planned for March, many Westsiders have noticed the new line also includes some parking of its own.
The station at Expo and Sepulveda (just south of Pico) will offer the most spaces, with a 260-car garage a few steps from the station. At Expo and Bundy (closer to Olympic), surface parking for 250 cars on Exposition Boulevard will be included. Finally, at the SMC/17th Street station on Colorado Boulevard, a small, 70-spot surface lot will be a stone’s throw away. All in all, that’s 580 spaces.
Broverman also notes that the parking at Expo Line stations won't remain free longterm.
Old time movie bonus: We've run this before, but not for awhile and it's apt today — and just pretty cool. In 1898, Edison Co. cameraman Frederick Blechynden rode a train through the same part of Santa Monica where the Expo Line will end. You see the train pass through a tunnel about where Pacific Coast Highway now begins with a vehicle tunnel, then the locomotive travels north along the palisades and beach toward Santa Monica Canyon. You then see a train return on the route. This is where PCH goes today. It's some of the oldest surviving motion picture footage of the LA area. Posted online by the Library of Congress.