Politics

Sneak peek of Expo Line light rail to Santa Monica

A test train runs the new Expo Line Phase 2 route between Culver City and Santa Monica. The line is expected to open to the public in spring 2016.
A test train runs the new Expo Line Phase 2 route between Culver City and Santa Monica. The line is expected to open to the public in spring 2016.
Meghan McCarty/KPCC

Test trains are currently running through the Westside of Los Angeles on the new Expo Line extension that will connect Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica by rail for the first time in more than 60 years.

The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority gave a preview of the rail service Monday at the Palms station in West L.A.

Tweet: Sneak peek of new Metro rail line

A few months ago Metro began running test trains on the line, which is 90 percent complete. It is expected to open to the public in spring 2016.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti presided over the event, touting the project as on time and on budget.

"People are seeing this is a reality happening more quickly than we thought, going through the most heavily congested corridor in America on the Westside of Los Angeles," he said. "This is a game changer."

Connecting the urban core of Los Angeles to the beach by rail has long been an elusive dream in Los Angeles, since Mayor Tom Bradley vowed to build a subway in the 1970s.

The so-called "Subway to the Sea" heralded by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, also known as the Purple Line extension along Wilshire Boulevard, will actually end at Westwood without a new injection of funding - and it won't make it there until 2035.

The Expo Line route opening next year is light rail, so it is smaller and slower than a subway train.

Because it operates above ground there are safety concerns over at-grade crossings where the tracks meet streets used by cars, bikes and pedestrians. Metro is holding safety trainings at local schools to educate children of the risks posed by light rail crossings.

The new Expo Line Phase 2 will add 6.6 miles and 7 new stops from its current terminus in Culver City - four of the stops are in West L.A. and three are in Santa Monica.

Mayor Garcetti joked that he needed to come up with a nickname to rival "Subway to the Sea":

"I've been playing with all sorts of things like - from the pier to the beer, from the beach to the bars, the light rail to go sail, or the light rail to see the whale."

He said he didn't think it would take a catchy name to attract riders, though. Metro expects to grow ridership to about 65,000 over the next 15 years.