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Live updates: Metro Expo Line to Santa Monica opens

It has been more than six decades, but passenger rail is finally returning to the gridlocked Westside.

Metro’s Expo Line extension opened today and will run from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica.

Metro passengers are getting free rides from downtown to Santa Monica until trains stop running Saturday night.

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Transit buff came all the way from Canada to ride Expo Line

Stefan Stasik is such a public transit lover that he flew from Canada on Thursday night to get on the first public train to leave downtown L.A. for the Santa Monica shore.

On the platform at 7th St/Metro Center on Friday morning, Stasik, 45, who works in IT in Victoria, met up with fellow transit buffs he’d found on Facebook.

The Expo Line was free Friday. But Stasik said his travel to ride it probably will cost at least $1,000.

It’s worth it, he said, to celebrate the benefits of ditching your car.

“When you don’t have to be reliant on your vehicle, you end up having a lot more freedom,” he said.

Stasik says he hasn’t had a car for well over a decade.

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Big crowds expected tomorrow, but plenty of riders hit the beach today

Saturday is expected to draw the really big crowds on the Expo Line to the beach -- though the free trains were plenty crowded on Friday.

Just outside the the downtown Santa Monica station, more than a dozen Breeze bike-share bikes also were free to use for further exploration.

A pedicab with a sidecar waited across the street for passengers. Uber handed out cards offering $15 in free rides to new users.

But most of those who poured off the first trains at the downtown Santa Monica station seemed to want to head on foot straight for the Santa Monica Pier or for the beach, to stick their toes in the sand.

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Paddleboarders and soccer fans all riding new Expo Line

Marketing materials for the Expo Line promised to carry passengers to the beach, and Andrew Rice took them at their word.

The 47-year-old Mar Vista resident and a friend boarded the train at Culver City on Friday afternoon, carrying paddleboards.

Wedging the boards onto a packed train “wasn’t super easy,” Rice said after they disembarked in Santa Monica, “but it’s doable.” And, he said, passengers enjoying the first day of the Expo Line thought it was funny.

“It’s L.A.,” Rice said. “People are used to seeing beach gear.”

On the platform nearby, two dozen men and women in black T-shirts and scarves emblazoned with “Los Angeles Football Club” chanted, shouted and clapped to the beat of a small drum.

The group, made up of Major League Soccer staff members and fans, were hyping a MLS expansion team that will start playing in L.A. in 2018. Their $250-million, privately financed stadium will be built on the site of the Sports Arena in Exposition Park, just off the Expo Line.

“We’re making the maiden journey to our future stadium,” said John Thorrington, an executive vice president of the team, as he waited for the train.

Behind him, serval supporters sang, “The sports arena’s coming down, coming down, coming down,” to the tune of “My Fair Lady.” Others yelled and waved their scarves in the air.

Gary Roth, 54 of Cheviot Hills, emerged from a packed train impressed with the smoothness of the ride.

Roth lives a four-minute walk from the Westwood/Rancho Park station and works near the 26th Street/Bergamot station. He probably won’t commute by train every day, he said, but plans on making the Expo Line a part of his life — especially at lunchtime.

“Downtown Santa Monica is only five minutes away,” Roth said. “I’ll be riding it.”

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Westbound Expo Line train gets crowded at Culver City station

For a moment this morning, at the first downtown stop of the first public Expo Line train to the Santa Monica shore, it looked as though not many people had shown up to mark the moment.

The transit buffs who were waiting at the 7th St/Metro Center station to board were enthusiastic -- shooting video on their phones -- but relatively few and far between.

There were still seats available when the train -- operated by Karmisha Myvett -- left the station at 11:28 a.m.

But big crowds were waiting at 11:56 a.m. at Culver City -- and soon it was hard for anyone on the train to move at all, even an arm or a leg.

Passengers cheered and clapped when the train reached the end of the line -- a few blocks from the Santa Monica Pier -- at 12:19.

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At the front of the line to ride the train to DTLA

Phil Ender, 71, was a passenger on the first Expo Line train from Culver City to Los Angeles four years ago.

He arrived in downtown Santa Monica at 9:30 a.m. Friday, hoping to get in line early enough to repeat his performance.

“I have a streak going,” Ender said. “Don’t want to miss my chance.”

In fact, Ender was first in line, with hundreds of people waiting behind him for a free ride on the 6.6-mile rail extension.

The line, the first Westside rail connection in more than 60 years, now runs 15.1 miles through west and central Los Angeles, from Santa Monica to Metro’s 7th Street station in downtown L.A.

The retiree said he frequently rides the Expo Line from his home in Culver City to eat and shop in downtown Los Angeles, and takes the bus to Santa Monica.

But a train, he said, is a big improvement.

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Music welcomes riders to Santa Monica station; scenes from #ExpoLine

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First Expo Line train arrives in Santa Monica on schedule

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Limited parking could be a problem for Expo Line riders on Westside

After more than six decades without a rail line to call their own, traffic-choked neighborhoods on the Westside are awaiting the Expo Line’s arrival with mounting excitement.

But beneath the anticipation of the Friday launch is a lingering concern: parking. Four of the seven new Expo Line stations will not have dedicated spaces for transit riders. The other three have a combined 544 spots, which are expected to fill up early.

The lack of parking could pose a challenge for some commuters hoping to use the first Los Angeles rail system to reach Santa Monica in more than 60 years, particularly those who don’t live along major commercial and residential corridors.

Read the full story here.

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Packed like sardines in first Expo Line train to the beach

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All aboard! Riding on first Expo Line train from DTLA to Westside

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First Expo Line train leaves downtown; long lines in Santa Monica

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Free service on Expo Line starts at noon

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Hundreds on hand to celebrate Expo Line extension to Westside

Hundreds of dignitaries, advocates and Westside residents gathered beneath gray skies in Santa Monica on Friday morning to cheer the opening of 6.6-mile Expo Line extension.

Just before 9:45 a.m., four Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees walked out onto the street-level train tracks at 4th Street and Colorado Boulevard, holding a blue banner that said, “More Expo.”

As a sleek silver-and-yellow light-rail train glided into view, bystanders and members of the media thrust iPhones and cameras into the air to record the moment — and then waited a few moments longer, as the train stopped at a red traffic light.

Finally, as the train sliced through the banner, the audience cheered and whooped.

At a ceremony afterward, Metro representatives and elected officials cheered the extension, which will increase L.A.'s passenger rail system to 105 miles.

The Expo Line runs along the same route as the Pacific Electric streetcars, which stopped carrying passengers between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica in 1953.

“We’re sort of back to the future,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, whose district includes Santa Monica. “Thanks to Metro and this fabulous new extension, we are reopening the future.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti congratulated the neighborhood advocates and transportation officials “who fought and dreamed and said this could be done.”

“At the end of the day, this isn’t about getting lines down,” Garcetti said. “This is about connecting with each other.”

Garcetti joked that on Friday night “somebody is going to go out on a date on the Expo Line and fall in love.” The audience laughed.

“Somebody’s going to fall in love tonight?” Kuehl said. “Well, I’m in love with this train.”

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The Expo Line extension is finally open, but the trip will take you 50 minutes

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Scenes from Expo Line grand opening in Santa Monica

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Ceremonial first train rolls into Santa Monica Expo station

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MTA drivers prepare for Expo Line grand opening

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Images from Santa Monica Expo Line station

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Riders rejoice: ‘Happy Full #ExpoLine Day!’

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New Metro maps show Expo Line route extension

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Here’s what the Expo Line looked like five years ago

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Finishing touches

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Santa Monica officials seek to seize the Expo Line moment

Santa Monica leaders are hoping to get as much mileage as they can from the opening of the Expo Line extension.

They’ve said from the get-go that they want to use the big moment to get people excited about public transportation.

This week, the city launched GoSaMo, a marketing campaign “to educate, equip, and excite people about the new transportation choices available to them” in the city’s push to “enhance mobility, reduce congestion and combat climate change.”

The idea is to raise awareness not just about the train but about new Big Blue Bus routes, Breeze Bike Share stations, pedestrian-friendly scramble crosswalks, bike paths and Zipcar fleet.

“To really address mobility, it had to be about so much more than Expo,” Mayor Tony Vazquez said in a statement announcing the campaign. “We want to make Santa Monica the leading example of pedestrian- and transit-oriented lifestyles in Southern California.”

GoSaMo will make its presence felt on social media, in ads, and at events including celebrations at the new Expo Line stations on Saturday. On June 5, the city will close down two miles of streets to cars for Coast, its own version of CicLAvia.

Among the highlights of the campaign -- which the city created with the media company Good -- are commemorative TAP cards designed by Santa Monica artists and window decals on local businesses, pointing visitors to nearby popular city sights and transportation options.

Nita Lelyveld

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From the archives: Expo Line kicks off its final leg

From the Sept. 13, 2011, Los Angeles Times:

Traffic crawled at an infuriating pace Monday morning on the 10 Freeway.

But at a groundbreaking ceremony for the last leg of the Expo light-rail line to Santa Monica, dozens of Southland officials proclaimed a different future.

Construction of the first phase of the Expo Line, an 8.6-mile stretch from the downtown 7th Street/Metro Center station to Culver City, has been underway since 2006 and is slowly nearing completion. The $1.5-billion second phase will continue 6.6 miles west to Colorado Avenue and 4th Street, about a half-mile from the ocean.

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From the archives: When the Expo Line could have been the ‘Aqua Line’

From the March 23, 2006, Los Angeles Times:

Grab your Crayola boxes, boys and girls.

They are running out of colors for Los Angeles’ expanding Metro transit system. And that has created a political debate involving crosstown college rivals, racial concerns and, of course, money.

There’s the Red Line, Blue Line, Green Line, Orange Line and Gold Line. Now officials who are planning a light-rail transit line along Exposition Boulevard need a color for it that riders will remember and route mapmakers can illustrate.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials today are poised to christen the downtown-to-Westside route the “Aqua Line.” But it might not come without a fight at the MTA board, where some members favor using the cardinal color at the Exposition Boulevard line’s start and aqua at its end.

— Bob Pool

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From the archives: Major work begins on Expo Line in 2007

From the Aug. 11, 2007, Los Angeles Times:

Standing amid mounds of dirt at the edge of USC on Friday, political leaders celebrated a milestone for L.A.'s fledgling rail system: the start of major construction for a rail line from downtown to the Westside.

But like so many mass transit projects in Los Angeles County, the Expo Line was shaped by three decades of political squabbling and compromises that raise questions about whether it can achieve the goal of getting Westsiders out of their cars and onto mass transit.

The first 8.6-mile leg of the line will run from the 7th Street/Metro Center station in the heart of downtown to Culver City. But it will be nowhere near many of the Westside’s most congested destinations, including the Miracle Mile, Grove-Beverly Center areas, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Century City and Westwood/UCLA.

Instead, it will move along an old Southern Pacific rail line through relatively quieter southwest L.A., roughly following Exposition Boulevard. The route avoided heavy opposition from community groups and reduced costs, which will be at least $640 million. The line is supposed to start operations in 2010.

— Rong-Gong Lin II and Jeffrey L. Rabin

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Uber offering discounts for rides to or from Expo Line stations

A lot of people are excited about the first train service in more than half a century to go from downtown to the Santa Monica shore. Uber wants to get in on the action.

On Thursday, the company sent L.A. customers a promotion, offering $5 off any UberPool trip that begins or ends at a new Expo Line station.

“Here’s $5. Drive less. Explore more,” the email began.

The promotion code for the deal? EXPLOREMORELA.

Seven new stations open to the public on Friday. But getting to and from them may not be so convenient for some would-be travelers -- which spells opportunity for ride-hailing companies.

UberPool is Uber’s version of carpooling. Riders join others heading in the same direction and split the fare.

Uber said the deal would be good this weekend only.

Nita Lelyveld

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Seven new Expo Line stations will open Friday from Culver City to Santa Monica

The westward expansion of the Expo Line marks the first time that passenger trains have traveled between downtown and the Santa Monica shore since the demise of L.A. County’s extensive streetcar network in the 1950s.

The grand opening brings to close the $1.5-billion, 6.6-mile extension of the Expo Line, which has been under construction for nearly a decade.

The 15-mile ride from Santa Monica to downtown will take about 46 minutes, which Metro officials say is a competitive alternative to morning and evening rush hours on the 10 Freeway. Trains will run every 12 minutes for most of the day.

The project was largely funded through Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase that the Los Angeles County electorate approved in 2008. Three other Measure R-funded rail projects are underway, through South Los Angeles, downtown Los Angeles and the Wilshire Corridor.

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Yes, you can take your surfboard on the Expo Line

Starting Friday, beachgoers can take the train to within a half-mile of the Santa Monica Pier.

That includes surfers, Metro officials say — as long as the trains aren’t too crowded.

If people toting surfboards see that the Expo Line train they’re trying to board is already packed with passengers, they should wait for the next train, Metro officials say. (The same policy applies to bicyclists and anyone else with particularly bulky items.)