The Metro Expo Line extension opens Friday, allowing passengers to take the public rail to Santa Monica for the first time since the 1950s.
The 15-mile line connects downtown to Santa Monica with a 45-minute ride. It includes a stop on Westwood Boulevard just south of Pico Boulevard.
The first phase of the Expo Line, which opened in 2012, ran from downtown to Culver City and cost about $1 billion. The new extension cost an additional $1.5 billion and includes stops in West Los Angeles, Palms and the area north of Santa Monica College. The extension, which began construction in 2011, was largely funded by Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.
Zev Yaroslavsky, a former Los Angeles City Council member who represented Westwood and surrounding areas, said he expects the Expo Line to alleviate congestion on both sides of the 10 Freeway.
“This is a historic moment for the emerging and evolving public transportation system in Los Angeles, and it should not be underestimated,” he said.
Yaroslavsky said the Expo line from downtown to Culver City has more than 30,000 passengers a day. The new extension is expected to surpass that number of riders.
Juan Matute, associate director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, said the station at Westwood Boulevard will allow UCLA students and workers to travel downtown in about 30 minutes. A 2009 study estimated the Westwood station would be the second most popular station, with 5,200 passengers boarding each day, he added.
“About 50,000 people come to UCLA every day, so four to five thousand people using the train instead of driving is a considerable portion,” he said.
Matute said he thinks the new line will encourage students and workers to live outside of Westwood and commute with the Expo Line.
“Tuition keeps getting more expensive and it’s expensive to live on the Hill, so a lot of students might be motivated to live off campus or at home,” he said.
Some students said they plan to take advantage of the extension.
Aly Zhang, a second-year economics student, said she would use the line to go to the beach with her friends because it’s cheaper than taking an Uber or Lyft. She added she thinks the new line makes living off campus more appealing because of the high costs of living on the Hill.
Other students said the lack of easy access to the station may deter them from using the new line.
“I don’t have a car, and it might be expensive to take an Uber to and from the station every day,” said Hari Sivaskandan, a first-year business economics student.
Yaroslavsky said the new line does not just serve the people in Santa Monica or Culver City, but rather serves people along the entire line.
“It’s a whole greater than the sum of its parts,” he said. “Every time we build a new link, it exponentially expands the reach of the transit network. The new line connects Pasadena to San Gabriel Valley to downtown to Santa Monica.”
Yaroslavsky said three stations on the new portion of the train will offer parking in lots for $2 a day as well as monthly parking passes.
Some are concerned the lack of parking at stations may deter people from using the line.
Matute said Metro had to decide whether to spend millions on buying land for parking lots that serve a limited amount of people or to buy Big Blue Buses that would serve more people.
Yaroslavsky said he agreed people will adjust to the lack of parking and find alternatives, such as using Uber, Lyft, the bus or carpooling. He added he is confident Los Angeles residents will take advantage of the new system.
“I do not think the lack of parking will impede the success of the line,” he said. “Angelenos are willing to get out of their cars if it is beneficial to them, and the rail line is cheaper, faster and less stressful than driving.”