Expo Light Rail Observations
Culver Commuter Weighs in on the Good and the Bad
By: Marcus G. Tiggs
Special to the Observer
Better late than never is my way of describing the Expo line. Sure the Culver City station isn’t ready for prime time, but neither is the Farmdale station (in L.A. adjacent to Dorsey High).
I chose not to take advantage of the freebie rides a couple of weekends ago simply because I didn’t need to experience the Expo on a sightseeing trip without even a window seat. This is in no way an indication that I wasn’t excited about the prospect of leaving my big F150 truck in the garage, saving some gas and the environment.
My paid experience started first thing two Monday mornings ago. There were no crowds, no fanfare but at least a platoon of MTA employees providing instructions and guidance to the newbies, like me--these folks are great.
Because most of you reading this live or work in Culver City, I thought my Expo Lessons Learned (“ELL”) could be of help with your Expo experience. First, take the leap if you are on the fence in trying the Expo---there are clearly some bugs Metro has to work out, but it is still worth the try.
Obviously, if you do not work anywhere down the corridor between La Cienega and downtown L.A. you may only want to use the Expo for weekend or evening trips to LA Live, Staples Center or even to Hollywood/Highland.
I will keep this as simple as possible starting with the not so obvious good things (I will leave the environmental stuff for the many “Green” friends and professionals). 1) You really don’t need an Expo schedule because trains are running at least every 15 minutes (but usually every 10 minutes); 2) You don’t have to think about whether you will find a seat (La Cienega and later the Culver City station will be the beginning terminus to downtown for a while); 3) Forget about worrying whether you are going to hit traffic or whether you need to get gas (all you may have to wonder about is if you have a very slow operator. lols); 4) You can count on (usually) reaching the end of the line either way in a pretty much guaranteed 25-35 minutes (regardless of the time you leave); 5) You can catch up on reading, work or like me, simply taking a cat nap; and 6) the La Cienega parking structure is adjacent to the station, is free and is never full (at least for now).
Now with the bad, 1) Come on MTA, what’s up with the Culver City Station (it looks ready to me, even with what looks like a low budget parking surface); 2) Every operator is not made the same (some are so slow I think I am on a bus that is stuck on tracks); 3) At the 7th/Figueroa Station Expo shares tracks with the Blue Line (if a Blue Line train is late or breaks down that can effect whether your train is on time); 4) Did Expo really need three stops for service to USC (these redundant stops add an additional five minutes to my final destination--probably not bad for those of you USC students or employees, but I just threw it in because I had a shortage of Expo bad things).
ELL (Lessons Learned): First, as you can see there is more good than bad. The good by far outweighs the bad, which could be better described as minor frustrations. To prepare for you trip and experience, 1) if you don’t want to deposit the $1.50 fare each trip (yes the kiosks take credit cards too), visit a local MTA retailer (they are all over the place) and get a TAP card.
The non-student/senior cost is $2 for the card and then load it up in various denominations (this saves time by you just having to TAP your card on the easily identified TAP terminal before you go up to the station); 2) bring reading material (I take my IPAD to read or send off emails); 3) Be prepared to explain to your friends why you look so relaxed when you get to/from work (obviously because of no stress from traffic delays, whether you are out of gas or whether you will be late); Start planning on whether you will need to use the Culver City Station parking lot (or whether you will be walking or riding your bike to the station—for me, the Culver City station is 4 residential blocks, plus crossing Washington Blvd, so you know I will not need to use the parking lot).
So my experience during the first week and one-half of regular Expo service on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) is a resounding 7+. This high rating is notwithstanding last week waiting at the Vermont station for an extra 15 minutes because as the driver said the trains were out of synchronization at the 7th and Figueroa Station, or my experience just this Monday, where my train on the way home suddenly lost power from the catenary system at the Farmdale station, shutting down the whole system for a couple of hours (the good Samaritan who gave me an unsolicited ride to the La Cienega station happened to the be the West Adams Neighborhood Council president which led to an interesting discussion on the Farmdale station history and frustrations).
If you can’t tell by now, yes I plan on the Expo being my primary mode of transportation to work. Thanks MTA and our great city of Culver City (for fighting for the grade separated station in Culver City).
Marcus G. Tiggs is a 20+ year Culver City (Ranch Higuera) resident. He is a bankruptcy lawyer working in downtown Los Angeles and is a member of the Culver City Planning Commissioner and the Sponsorship Committee Chair for the Fiesta La Ballona. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org