The Grassroots Effort to Make the Expo Line Faster

Is L.A. dragging its feet on giving signal preemption to trains?

With less than a month to go before the Expo Line extension opens to Santa Monica, a petition is underway to make it chug along faster.

One of the persistent complaints of the light rail line, which currently connects DTLA to Culver City, is that it’s too slow, often hitting red lights, especially around USC and the South Park neighborhood. For some riders, it’s understandably frustrating for a train, with hundreds of people, to stop at a red light while two or three cars zip by. Currently, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation doesn’t allow the train signal preemption in L.A., so if a train hits a light, well, it hits a light.

For years, transit advocates have been pushing for the LADOT to give the city’s trains more frequent green lights. The problem is pronounced on the city’s routes that travel on surface level, like the Blue Line through South L.A. and the Gold Line through northeast environs.

While the LADOT has been somewhat resistant to change—leading to charges that it’s stuck in backwards “car-centric” planning—there are increasing pressure for Expo to be given the green-light. Transit advocate Dwight Sturtevant has started a petition calling for the LADOT to make transit riders a priority and give Expo signal preemption; as of Thursday it had over 800 signatures.

Ironically, the city of Santa Monica has already promised more greens for Expo, with most trains having few impediments from reaching West L.A. or the beach speedily, LA Weekly reports. The LADOT has remained mum on whether they’re considering preemption for Los Angeles, but it looks like even Metro has skepticism about it.

“As we have more and more trains running, if we were preempting in downtown areas, some intersections may be out of business during certain times of day,” Bruce Sherlburne, executive director of strategic rail planning at the transit agency, told the Weekly.