Nearly 10 months after its debut, the LA Metro Expo Line attracts tens of thousands of boardings per day — a fact that is helped by being so close to USC, according to Metro.
Since its opening on April 28, the Expo Line has brought thousands of students and community members onto the Metro system. The 8.6 mile-long line serves riders from Culver City to Downtown Los Angeles, with three stops near USC.
The Expo Line ends at the 7th Street/Metro Center, which connects riders to Hollywood, Universal Studios, Chinatown, Pasadena and the Los Angeles International Airport.
This first phase cost around $930 million. Metro has budgeted $38.9 million for Expo Line operations for 2013.
Metro is “completely delighted” by the success of the Expo Line, according to Metro spokesperson Kim Upton, who said the line has exceeded their expectations.
“The line is much more popular than Metro imagined it would be,” Upton said.
Original projections for the year 2020 predicted 27,000 daily boardings on weekdays. Already, the line gets more than 22,000 boardings each day. Total Metro weekday boarding averages 360,901 times a day.
“LA is hungry for ways to get out of their cars and out of rush-hour traffic,” Upton said. “When we build something, they hop on.”
If the large rider numbers are any indication, Metro does not expect the line to slow down anytime soon.
“Daily boardings are growing at a steady clip,” Upton said. “We’re expecting it to grow, but we don’t know how much. It’s far beyond its original projections,”
One of the key points of the campaign for opening the line at USC was for transporting fans to Trojan football games. Many students have seen the packed trains on game days.
“My friend lives Downtown and he takes it for every game day, instead of taking a cab or driving,” said Maddie Lay, a senior majoring in political science.
On the first game day of the season, there were 8,000 more riders on the Expo Line than on an average day. The number of riders increased with each consecutive game, according to Upton.
By 2015, the Expo Line will expand to Santa Monica, a service many students said is much needed. Phase II will cost an estimated $1.5 billion. The line is currently being built by BuildExpo, an independent company that is funded by Metro that turns the line back over to Metro once it is ready to run. Major construction on the line began last summer.
BuildExpo expects the commute from Downtown L.A. to Santa Monica on the Expo Line will take around 46 minutes, even during rush hour.
After the completion of the extension, BuildExpo predicts ridership will grow to 64,000 daily passengers by 2030. If these projections hold true, the Expo Line would be one of the most heavily used light rail lines in the country.
“I’ve taken the bus to Santa Monica, and it took about an hour and a half. Being able to get there more quickly will be really nice for students,” said Hannah Kim, a junior majoring in costume design.
Other students agreed, saying they would appreciate a faster route to Santa Monica.
“I think it would be life-changing. Once you get there, you can go so many other places,” Lay said.
Several stations have also been upgraded for Metro’s TAP program since the line first opened in April. TAP is a reusable, reloadable plastic charge card for Metro funds. Passengers currently have the option of using either paper tickets or TAP cards, but Metro has begun phasing out the paper tickets.
Indoor stops will also soon begin to use a locking gate system, where users must scan their TAP card in order to enter the station.
Though this will not be an issue for the USC stops, users will still need to use a TAP card and present it when they enter other stations.
Despite the new line and marketing efforts made by Metro, some students said they still stick to using cars. Many don’t know where the Expo Line goes, or if those places are worth their time.
“What is even in Century City?” Wesley Adams, a senior majoring in communications, responded when asked if he would take the Expo Line.
Kim said she understands why so many students choose to skip taking the bus or train.
“Coming from a town without public transportation, I would never have considered taking the bus,” Kim said. “A lot of people don’t consider it, they just think of it as a car town.”