SMC students' Expo Line experiences

Jennifer Bryan, 19, a cosmetology student waits for the expo line train at the SMC stop on Tuesday May 31, 2016. Jennifer is one of the many students who use the train to commute to school. Josue Martinez

As the electric rail car comes to a stop, words that haven't been heard in Santa Monica for over 60 years come out from the PA system: the announcement of an arriving train. The doors open, and hundreds of riders scurry out of the door and run down the railway like excited animals dying to eat their food.

Since its opening day on May 20, the Metro Expo Line has seen thousands upon thousands of eager riders hopping on board in order to go from to Downtown Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles. However, there is another stop along the newly opened line that's seen almost as many people getting off, and they're none other than the students of Santa Monica College arriving at the 17th/SMC station.

As the first day the Expo Line was officially open during the school semester, Monday, May 23 saw the first packed bunch of SMC students arriving to school on it. Since then, waves and waves of students have taken the Expo Line captive, changing the daily commute for many SMC students who need to travel long distances to get to campus.

Kathy Ocampo, 19, who is an biological science major, spoke at length about how the Expo Line has made an impact on her commute to school. “The commute is great, but it does get very packed," she said. "Before I took the Expo Line, I used to ride the R10 and, on top of that, 2 or 3 additional buses.”

Students have the option of using the Breeze Bikes, taking the bus, or walking to campus when they get off at the 17th/SMC station. For Ocampo, she chooses to walk to campus.

“It’s most comfortable for me. I don’t really mind [walking],” said Ocampo. She also expressed excitement about the Expo Line cutting down on the number of buses she needs to take. “All I need to do now is just walk straight to the station and straight to my house. I don’t have to take the extra buses anymore.”

For some students, the Expo Line has proven useful, but hasn’t really changed much for their daily commute. Rather, it has added an extra option to avoid traffic. Karen Martinez, 21, who is a nursing major, said,“I have taken trains before, so it wasn’t as special to me. I usually take R10, but depending on traffic, I choose to take the Expo Line to avoid traffic.”

Like Ocampo, Martinez also chooses the walking route to campus. “One thing I would say to students is that it’s great for those who don’t like taking the bus,” said Martinez.

Of course there is one last group of students who are excited about the Expo Line, but because there is not a conveniently close station to their house, they cannot hop aboard. Tangila Lee, 22, a theater arts major, expressed her sadness over what she called a “catastrophe.”

“I really want to take the train," said Lee, "but unfortunately, it is pretty inconvenient because I would have to take a 30 minute bus ride just to get to the closest station. If it was closer, I would take it every day to school.”

For many SMC students the Expo Line is lifesaving, for others it’s merely one option of many, and for some, it's unfortunately out of their reach. Regardless of which category they fall under, it can be said without a doubt that the Expo Line has changed the life of plenty of SMC students in some way, shape, or form.

This story has been updated to include the video below about the Expo Line Extension's grand opening.