The Ride Special Series

KPCC's special series on transportation. Hosted by Susan Carpenter and Alonzo Bodden

Nope, the Expo Line doesn't beat a car or bike in a race

by Leo Duran | The Ride Special Series

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KPCC's Leo Duran did a rematch of the Great Race, this time taking Metro's new Expo Line reaching to downtown Santa Monica. Leo Duran

Follow Leo Duran on Twitter – @LeoHasACat

KPCC held a race from Union Station to the Santa Monica pier several months ago, and bicyclist Jacob Margolis won over driver Sue Carpenter and me (the bus rider).

But a new challenger has entered the game: the Expo Line extension, which now goes from downtown L.A. to the pier. Could it have won?

I took Jacob's time of 65 minutes as the one to beat and did a solo-race on the debut weekend of the new Expo stops.

Sorry to be a complete failure, but no, I didn't win. The only person I beat was myself, besting my bus time of 94 minutes. By just 4 minutes.

TL;DR Delays and mechanical issues happen. Transfers are a time-suck, too.

Here's a break-down and the math of what happened:

  • 48 minutes – Metro estimates that it takes about that time to ride the Expo Line end-to-end.
  • +5 minutes – I have to get to one of those ends, first, at that's at the 7th/Metro stop. From Union Station, I have to take a three-stop ride on either the Red or Purple line subway.
  • +3 minutes – I had to run to that subway platform from the Union Station parking lot – the starting line – of course
  • +4 minutes – Trains aren't always right there when you get on the platform, ready to go when you arrive. And the next Red Line train out of Union Station was in four minutes. So I wait.
  • +8 minutes – More waiting! At the 7th/Metro stop, I ran to the transfer point for the Expo Line...but the next one didn't depart for several minutes.
  • +10ish minutes – Mechanical issues struck my train. A lot. The loudspeakers weren't working and neither was the AC (which would have helped with some nearby riders' BO). A couple of times, we were also waiting for the conductor to reboot the whole train like a Dell computer. All these combined took so long that I honestly lost track of time.
  • +4ish minutes – Yes, even the train has to deal with traffic, and there were sections throughout the whole line where car congestion at intersections affected us, too, forcing us to wait a pretty long while at certain stops.
  • +3ish minutes – The train slowed down by a lot or stopped throughout the new sections of the line, too. I imagined it was for safety concerns since, out the windows, I could see a number of people near each stop gathering at guard rails and crowding the platforms. I'm okay with safety first.
  • +5 minutes – In the final leg from the last stop to the pier, remember that I had to run – a driver or bicyclist would have the luxury of rolling right up to the finish at the ferris wheel of the Santa Monica pier. And running with a backpack, recorder and microphone isn't easy.

There we have my 90 minute race time.

If you do the math, I still would have come in last even if there weren't mechanical issues, traffic congestion or safety slowdowns: transfer times and running to places all pile up.

Best case scenario is I would've clocked in at 74 minutes.

The only possible way I could have won would be if at each transfer point, my train was ready to go with no waiting (which never happens in real life, people. Living in New York has taught me trains seemingly take forever to arrive, or those train doors will close just as you get there.)

So here are the revised times for KPCC's Great Race:

1st – Bicyclist Jacob Margolis, 65 minutes

2nd – Car driver Sue Carpenter, 70 minutes

3rd – Expo line train rider Leo Duran, 90 minutes (sorry)

4th – Santa Monica Big Blue Bus rider Leo Duran, 94 minutes

Bonus race: I lost that one too

I inadvertently ran past KPCC reporter Meghan McCarty while racing, so when we were both done with work I proposed we do an impromptu race.

She would drive from downtown Santa Monica and take the 10 back home to Pasadena in rush hour.

I would be on the Expo Line train back to my home in DTLA.

Whoever got to downtown first would win. We agreed that for her, that's at least to the 110 interchange. For me, that would be to the 7th/Metro stop.

Meghan texted me first.

Screenshot of Leo Duran's phone for who lost in a race to DTLA between him on the Expo Line and Meghan McCarty driving
Screenshot of Leo Duran's phone for who lost in a race to DTLA between him on the Expo Line and Meghan McCarty driving Leo Duran
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