Expo line meets halfway

The Expo Line, a much-anticipated light rail project that would ultimately link downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, is almost complete. The line is being constructed in two phases:  Phase 1, connecting downtown Los Angeles to Culver City, is nearly finished.  Phase 2, continuing the line from Culver City to Santa Monica, is expected to be finished by 2015.

The project, which started construction in 2006, will begin from 7th and Metro Center in downtown Los Angeles and will share the Blue Line tracks until the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Flower Street.  From there, it will branch off and have stops in high traffic areas such as the USC area, Vermont, Western, and La Brea avenues, and La Cienega and Westwood boulevards, before ending in downtown Santa Monica.

The main goal of the Expo Line is to help eradicate Los Angeles' traffic congestion.  According to the Metrolink website, over 300,000 people travel into the Westside every day for work from areas throughout the county and beyond.  The new light rail system can help reduce gridlock and pollution from greenhouse gas emissions from cars.  This line will be more helpful to commuters because it connects two major areas of the city.

For those who don't own cars and must rely on the city's unpredictable bus schedule, it can potentially shorten travel time immensely.  With the success of the MTA's Red, Blue, Green and Gold lines, the Expo Line is also expected to have a high commuter rate.  "It is projected to carry over 64,000 daily passengers by 2030, which would make it one of the most used light rail lines in the country," said Gabriella Collins, public relations director of Build Expo.

There has been some opposition to the line, however, most vocally from the nonprofit organization, Neighbors for Smart Rail.  Some of their numerous complaints are that the trains will cause street closures every few minutes, leading to more traffic than before, loss of privacy to the homes that it passes through, unsafe crossings near schools, and higher noise levels that will disturb residents.  The group advocates that an underground metro would be a better option.  A similar operation is the Subway to the Sea, which is a proposed extension of the Purple Line.

"Light rail trains are electric, resulting in substantially lower noise levels than diesel-powered buses or freight trains. Noise barriers, such as sound walls, will be installed in areas along the route where there are sensitive receptors, like in residential neighborhoods," said Collins.

Phase 1 of the Expo Line from downtown LA to Culver City is approximately 90 percent complete, and anticipated to open the Jefferson/La Cienega Station this fall.