Many years ago, even before the ground was broken on phase one of the Expo line and arguments were continuing about whether it would ever happen, I started saying that I was looking forward to the days when I could put my pen down, step out of my office, get on the train a minute away, and take it all the way to the beach and finish my computation there. Well, Friday, the first such day arrived. Phase two of the Expo line is now complete and has opened to the public, with newly finished stations from Culver City through Santa Monica. It joins the already running (since April 2012) Expo phase one, which I’ve been using every day to get to campus after changing from the Red line (connecting downtown). (Click any image to enlarge.)
On Friday I happened to accidentally catch the first Expo Line train heading all the way out to Santa Monica! (I mean the first one for the plebs – there had been a celebratory one earlier with the mayor and so forth, I was told). I was not planning to do so and was just doing my routine trip to campus, thinking I’d try the new leg out later (as I did when phase one opened – see here). But there was a cheer when the train pulled up at Metro/7th downtown and the voice over the overhead speakers announced that it was for Santa Monica (it was about 11:25am so the service started earlier than the scheduled noon). The platform was extra full of people with cameras and so forth and there was a great sense of anticipation. I got on, found my usual seat and spot for my folding bike, and rode the train to USC. Even the driver sounded excited as she announced the destination along the way “going all the way to downtown Santa Monica”. When I got to my stop at USC/Expo, I was tempted to stay on, but I’d a lunchtime meeting arranged, so I stepped off. I’d come back later, after lunch.
I had a lot of work to do, but it was in a form that meant I was just sitting and drawing on my iPad (some detail work to be inserted into some pages for the book) and so this was ideal for the train trip. So I stepped out of my office, on to the train, and continued to Santa Monica, looking out of the window from time to time to see some of the new infrastructure once we passed Culver City (and trying not to listen to the – unbelievable – litany of complaints somebody nearby was already loudly announcing every time the train paused for more than about 20 seconds!).
It takes about 40 minutes to get out there, which is really not long if you’re reading (or drawing, as I was), and before too long I was at Santa Monica station and walking toward the pier. They’ve done a nice job of transforming the route connecting the station to the pier into a pleasant thoroughfare, with reduced traffic, and more space for bikes and pedestrians. (In the photo, in addition to the train in the distance, the new walkway, and people, buses, etc., you can see another excellent thing I dreamed of many years ago – bikeshare bikes!)
It is about a couple of blocks, depending upon how you count, and then there it was – the pier and the beach. I wandered right to the end of the pier, looked at the ocean for a while and quickly turned around (I will confess that I was aided in that swift departure by the numerous overly loud amplified buskers) to begin the journey back to my office. I’d have gone to the English store to get a celebratory “99” (its an ice cream cone of a certain sort with a stick of Cadbury’s flake in it… quite terrible, quite excellent – brings back my school days in England) but inexplicably I’d not brought my wallet.
And so I headed back, pleased. They’ve really done it. We (as a community) have really done it! The city is growing up, getting more connected and also providing more opportunities for us all to contribute to improving the environment, and to encounter each other and truly share the city. On that latter point: Since the Expo line opened (and I mean since phase one), connecting Downtown Los Angeles to major centres like USC and the Science Center and Natural History Museum, Culver City, etc, I’ve seen more examples of people from different walks of LA life intersecting (mostly in positive ways) than I have anywhere else in the city. People are not cut off from each other in their cars but are sharing the same spaces while figuring out how to get from A to B. This under-appreciated aspect of improved public transport is hugely important for the city, and it will accelerate now with phase two, and with the further Metro expansion to come.