LA County Metro puts new light rail line through its paces

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Corey Moore/KPCC

Metro Line test car just before it's pulled along the tracks starting at 23rd and Flower streets in downtown L.A. It's headed to Culver City.

Los Angeles County Metro began testing a train car along part of the new Expo light rail line from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City. The test run got folks looking forward to the real thing.

It seemed 13-year-old Jasmine Taylor and her friend 14-year-old Angelina Montes were among only a few students in a sea of kids who noticed the test train as it rolled along Exposition Boulevard and crossed Western Avenue. They're excited.

"I live on this street so it's like we finally see a train here," Jasmine said. Angelina added, "And she has classes at USC, so she gets to take the Metro."

Jasmine, who lives on Exposition, takes classes through USC's Neighborhood Academic Initiative, a program that prepares low-income neighborhood students for university admission. When Metro workers finish the nearly nine-mile route late this year – or perhaps early next – Jasmine will join passengers as they ride the trains from USC headed west through L.A. to Culver City.

Metro Manager Tom Jasmine said this is the first time since the early 1950s that a passenger train has run on this track. Actually, it didn't run on its own during the test phase – another vehicle pulled it at two miles per hour.

"This is very initial but very important, because if we don't make it by something we can't run the trains. So this is probably the most important stage there is."

Making sure the train gets "by something" includes checking for clearance and overhead issues so the train won't run into signs, poles or anything that might block its path. Metro workers taped thick white foam pads to the sides of the train to help monitor how much room the train has around it.

Darrell Clarke, who runs the community group Friends 4 Expo Transit, snapped pictures of the train before it pulled out of the 23rd Street station near USC.

"Later this year we open most of the way to Culver City," said Clarke. "2015 is the projected date for Santa Monica. I live in Santa Monica. I've been really looking forward to an alternative to traffic for a long time."

The trains will primarily run on Exposition Boulevard. Brian Catchers works at Woodland Farms – an agriculture business in downtown L.A. He hopes the route will work for him.

"I get up early in the morning, too. Very early to go to work so I don't know if they gonna be working 24 hours... 'cause a lot of 'em don't run 24 hours."

Catchers says he'll check the Metro website once the train is fully operating. Metro officials will test the train for most of this week.

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