The proposed Exposition Light Rail
Line moved one step closer
to becoming a reality today, as the MTA board gave the Downtown-to-Westside line the green light
The Expo Line will (if built as planned) follow an old street-car right of way, and will connect USC to downtown before running westward
to a temporary terminus in Culver City. At some point in the future, if the stars align and the Feds keep the money flowing, the line would be extended westward to Santa Monica, finally creating that holy grail of L.A. transit geeks (of which I am one): a rail line to the beach.
Which is all very well.
However, I can't help but wonder if a better use of these funds might be a Red Line extension, which, until recently, had been a nonstarter, the third rail of L.A. transit politics, if you will (or even if you won't). Now, thanks to Councilmember Tom LaBonge's tireless efforts, the notion of a subway extension is no longer the laughable proposition it was just a year ago. And it is into this project that I think the MTA should be putting it's resources.
It's not that I'm against the Expo. If we had money to burn, I'd say let's burn it. But we don't. And the Expo line, which is being sold as a line to serve the Westside, will do little to alleviate traffic on the overburdened I-10 corridor. I mean, let's be honest: the alignment of the Expo Line takes it far south of the 10 except for one short stretch near the terminus in Culver City. Does anyone seriously think that commuters are going to drive past
the 10, miles out of their way, to catch a Downtown train?
Unlikely, at best. Which begs the question: if this line will not reduce traffic on the 10, what's the point? Even when (if) the line is built out to Santa Monica, the benefits to commuters are unclear.
It seems to me that perhaps this line was (appropriately, at the time) conceived as an alternative to a Red Line extension, during the dark days when the subway was the whipping boy of everybody from Rep. Henry Waxman to County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Those days are gone.
Plans can be adjusted. It's not too late. The MTA should stop now to reconsider the Expo Line.