New Westside Views, Courtesy of the Expo Line

We rode shotgun on the new train extension, opening next week to Santa Monica

Press and politicians—including Mayor Garcetti, Board Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Metro CEO Phil Washington—were treated to a sneak peek of the 6.6-mile Expo Line light rail extension, opening from Culver City to Santa Monica on May 20 at noon. The ride from Culver to the beach was smooth and quick, less than 20 minutes (try that at rush hour).

Garcetti told reporters the city’s rail renaissance is “Back to the future,” since L.A. was first built on streetcars. Westside councilman Mike Bonin talked up development opportunities at the stations, including the Bundy stop, where a large mixed-use project is proposed. For his part, Bonin supports the development but wants more housing and less retail square footage, hoping for “neighborhood-serving” retail; he said his district’s constituents understand the housing crisis and will ultimately support more apartments and condos, especially near a train station.

Other observations: 

• The Downtown Santa Monica station is very well done. The pedestrian-friendly esplanade adds to the welcoming atmosphere and everything seems close—Santa Monica Place, Third Street Promenade, the Pier, the beach.

• The 26th Street/Bergamot station really shows off the adorable galleries and eateries mostly hidden behind the freeway we call Olympic Boulevard. Hopefully, the train will bring more art patrons to the complex.

• Views at the Palms, Bundy, and, especially, Sepulveda stations are kind of, ugh. The aerial views really show the auto-centric city planning that happened here—tons of gas stations, liquor stores, and billboard blight. Hopefully, politicians like Bonin can help create more of a sense of place and really incentivize the Expo investment.

• When the train first crosses from Culver City into Palms, there is no shortage of homeless encampments. Will the city sweep out the folks before the opening next week? Stay tuned, and check out some video views of the line below.

Gliding into the Palms station

A view of bucolic, suburban Cheviot Hills, with Century City skyline in the background

Soaring over West L.A.

Sliding into Santa Monica station