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Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation Expo Line Tour 5/12/2016

by Chris Guenzler

I talked with Chris Parker about doing the pre-opening Expo Line Tour and he got myself and Robin Bowers on it.

Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation Summary Mission Statement

The Foundation's mission is to diligently preserve and dynamically present the history of railroading in Los Angeles through its three core programs: public outreach, archival preservation, and multiple-media publishing. Each of these programs is interdependent and together they will enable the Foundation to achieve its mission.

This is my second tour with this group.

Expo Line (Los Angeles Metro)

Number of stations

Phase 1: 12 (in service)

Phase 2: 7 (pre-revenue testing)

The stations on the Expo Line are: 7th Street/Metro Center, Pico, LATTC/Ortho Institute, Jefferson/USC, Expo Park/USC, Expo/Vermont, Expo/Western, 11th Av./Degnan Blvd, Expo/Crenshaw, Farmdale, Expo/La Brea, La Cienega/Jefferson, Culver City, Palms, Westwood/Rancho Park, Expo/Sepulveda, Expo/Bundy, 26th Street/Burgamot, and Downtown Santa Monica.

Daily ridership

Phase 1: 31,710 (July 2014; avg. weekday

Phase 2: 64,000 (estimated 2030)

Began operation Phase 1: April 28, 2012; 4 years ago.

Character: Mostly at-grade in private right-of-way, with some street-running, elevated, and trench sections.


System length 8.6 mi(Phase I only) and 15.2 mi (Phases I & II)

The Maintenance facility is between Centinela Ave and Stewart Street.

The Expo Line is a light-rail line that currently runs between Downtown Los Angeles and Culver City. An extension that will provide service westward to Santa Monica is scheduled to open on May 20, 2016. The line is named "Expo" after Exposition Boulevard, which it runs alongside for most of its route. It is one of the six lines in the Metro Rail system, and is operated by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The Expo Line largely follows the right-of-way of the Santa Monica Air Line, which ceased operation in 1953. Several Expo Line stations are built in the same location as Air Line stations, although no original station structures have been reused.


An independent agency, the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority, was given the authority to plan, design, and construct the line by state law in 2003. After construction is complete, the line will be handed over to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for operation.

The line is being built in two phases; the first phase comprises the 8.6-mile section between Downtown Los Angeles and Culver City. Construction began in early 2006 and most stations opened to the public on April 28, 2012. The Culver City and Farmdale stations opened on June 20, 2012.

Design and construction on the 6.6-mile portion between Culver City and Santa Monica started in September 2011, with opening anticipated in early 2016. Testing along the phase 2 segment began on April 6, 2015.

Hours of operation

The Expo Line operates from approximately 4:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. on weekdays and until 2:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.


As of June 2013, trains run approximately every 12 minutes during the daytime, every 10 minutes during the evening, and every 20 minutes after midnight.


Maximum speed on the route is 55 mph, though it generally runs much slower than this.

History: Los Angeles and Independence Railroad

The line was first built in 1875 as the steam-powered Los Angeles and Independence Railroad to bring mining ore to ships in Santa Monica harbor and as a passenger excursion train to the beach - first independently and later after purchase by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1877. When the Santa Monica harbor closed to shipping traffic in 1909 the line was leased to Pacific Electric who converted it to electric traction.

Santa Monica Air Line (Pacific Electric)

By 1920 the line was called the Santa Monica Air Line providing electric-powered freight and passenger service between Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Electrically-powered passenger service stopped in 1953 but diesel-powered freight deliveries to warehouses along the route continued until March 11, 1988.


While Southern Pacific maintained ownership of the right-of-way after 1988, it no longer used or maintained the rails. Portions of the right-of-way were leased for use as storage facilities, parking lots, impound lots, and various businesses, but no permanent structures were built.

Community rescue

The abandonment of the line spurred concerns within the community to prevent the line from being sold off piecemeal - destroying one of the few remaining intact rail corridors within Los Angeles County. Advocacy groups including Friends 4 Expo Transit supported the successful passage of Proposition C in 1990, which allowed the purchase of the entire right-of-way from Southern Pacific by Metro (LACTC).

Metro successfully lobbied the federal government to use the remainder of Red Line funding for a different project to the Mid-City district of Los Angeles in 1998. That same year Los Angeles County voters approved Proposition A, another sales tax increase for transit, allowing Metro access to additional funds for transit projects. Metro then released a Major Investment Study in 2000 which compared bus rapid transit and light rail transit options along what was now known as the "Mid-City/Exposition Corridor". Construction began in August 2010.


Metro conducted study on the Expo Phase 2 from 2007 to 2009 and approved the project in 2010, with planned opening to Santa Monica in early 2016. The Expo Construction Authority officially handed over control of the Expo Phase II track to L.A. Metro for the county transit agency to begin pre-revenue train testing on January 15, 2016. This phase will open on May 20, 2016.

Our Trip

I woke up early to do the watering, fixed my breakfast while I was doing that then got dressed and was ready to go. I drove to the Santa Ana train station and parked in the northeast lot. I walked over to Track 1 and bought my Metrolink round-trip ticket to Los Angeles. Robin soon met me and we waited for Metrolink 683 to arrive and take us to Los Angeles Union Station.

Metrolink 683 arrived into Santa Ana and we boarded the Quiet Car for the trip to Los Angeles Union Station. It was a quick trip, and soon we detrained at LAUPT. We decided to look around.

Faces of Metrolink this morning at LAUPT.

Our train was the one on the right.

Two more faces of Metrolink.

A train from Riverside with a leased BNSF engine on the point. We walked to the east entrance to LAUPT and waited by the big fish tank for our group to arrive. I talked with Ed Saalig, author of the RDC book and then other friends including Chris Parker showed up. I paid my fare for the trip and received a lunch menu and a trip handout. We went over to the moving screens and watched the train and faces go by.

Soon Metro's Andres Di Zitti told us the plans for the trip. We were given Metro Cards to use to tap at all points on our trip today. We then headed down to the Subway and waited for the next train to come in.

The monitor shows the extension we would be riding today.

The Purple Line train came in and we all boarded the first car. We were soon off to our first stop at 7th and Metro. Here we went up the stairs, tapped our Metro Cards then walked onto the first car of the Expo Line Train. Soon out Expo Line trip started.

Once on ground, we soon came to the junction of the Blue Line to Long Beach.

We stopped at the Expo Park/USC station.

Next we came to the Expo/Vermont station.

Dinosaurs were on display here.

Later we came to the construction zone of the Metro Crenshaw Line. This line's northern terminus for Phase 1 would be at Exposition, with an underground station at Crenshaw/Exposition to connect to the above ground Expo Line. Phase 2 would tunnel all the way to the Purple Line Subway.

We stopped at the Farmdale station. I went to the front door to take pictures to Culver City the Expo Line present west end.

On the way to Culver City. Here we detrained while another group boarded for their tour of the line.

Our train left with the other tour group aboard.

This is true again in 2016.

Our train came in and after all the passengers had been cleared, we boarded and I was at the front door now open to show you the route to Santa Monica.

My new mileage begins and it will be all new until we reach Santa Monica.

We left the Culver City Station.

Views on the way to the Palm Station.

The Palm station.

There is a siding on the Expo Line just west of the Palm station.

Now we climb a little hill to take us to the underpass under the Santa Monica Freeway.

We went through the underpass under the Santa Monica Freeway.

The line makes a curve to the right.

We went under this pedestrian walkway over the Expo Line. This is a great location for photos of the Expo Line.

Views on the way to the Westwood/Rancho Park station.

We met another Expo Line test train.

Views on the way to the Westwood/Rancho Park station.

Westwood/Rancho Park station.

Views on the way to the Expo/Sepulveda station.

Expo/Sepulveda station.

Next we went under the 405 Freeway.

We then met another Expo Line test train.

Views on the way to the Expo/Bundy station.

The Expo/Bundy station.

On the way to the 26th Street/Bergamot station we went by the Expo Line Maintenance facility.

The 26th Street/Bergamot station.

On the way to the 17th Street/SMC station.

The 17th Street/SMC station.

On the way to the Downtown Santa Monica station.

We are arriving at the Downtown Santa Monica station ending my new rail mileage for today.

Our train at the Downtown Santa Monica station. That other group was taking our train back but we had a good lunch planned. We walked over to the Sonoma Gardens Restaurant where I had a bacon sandwich. Later we returned to the Downtown Santa Monica station and there was another group led by Bart Reed.

Some of the artwork at the Downtown Santa Monica station.

Our group pictured at the Downtown Santa Monica station.

Our train came into the Downtown Santa Monica station and we all boarded.

On the way back we made a special stop at the Expo/Bundy station to drop off Robert Jacoby. All too soon we had returned to the 7th/Metro station and we all went downstairs to wait for the Red Line train back to Union Station.

The group waiting for the train back to Union Station.

Our train for Union Station came into the 7th/Metro station and we boarded the first car again for the quick trip back. Once there that ended our Pre-Opening Expo Line trip. A special thank you to Metro for having us today and to the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation for putting on this trip. Robin and I walked to Track 8 and waited for the doors to open before we boarded Metrolink 602 home to Santa Ana. It had been a fantastic trip to Santa Monica on the newest Metro Rail Line, the Expo Line.