Since opening in the spring, the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica has changed cross-town commuting and opened up the city in new and exciting ways. The light rail’s popularity has come at a bit of a price, with trains occasionally so crowded that commuters have to wait for one or two to go by before hopping on. A fix is in starting Monday*, when Metro doubles the frequency of Expo trains, according to Urbanize LA.
Expo currently run on 12-minute “headways,” but trains will begin arriving every six minutes on Monday. This lovely advance is thanks to the arrival of new light rail cars—the Pikachu-looking yellow and grey vehicles—that have been slowly rolling in from Japan’s Kinkisharyo company. Dozens of shiny new vehicles are now online, but Metro is still awaiting even more. Since a relative shortage still exists, many of the trains will be two-car trips (two trains hitched together) instead of three; so crowding isn’t going away entirely.
The six minute headways are obviously great news for riders, but they add complications for other folks. Metro will have to juggle a massive amount of trains traveling above-ground between USC and DTLA—the Blue and Expo lines share tracks in this part of town and the increase in Expo trains means a careful balancing act. Meanwhile, drivers will have to contend with more wait times as additional trains zip through the city. Look for traffic hotspots in the aforementioned downtown area, but also at Overland and Barrington avenues in West L.A.
But back to the Expo riders; their commute is about to get a lot sweeter. What else can Metro do to entice more people to the train? Some coffee/snack kiosks around some of the busier stations like Culver City and Santa Monica seems like a no-brainer. And what about express service? The Gold Line had trains stopping at select stations before Metro canceled the service a few years back; but could it work for Expo? As Uber and Lyft proliferate in L.A., Metro will have to innovate to keep its ridership flourishing.
*An earlier version of this story indicated the new schedule begins Sunday; it starts on Monday.