Posted on December 14, 2015 by Lou
The Santa Monica to Culver City link of Metrorail’s Expo line will be up and running in a few months and I need to raise an uncomfortable issue.
I’ve taken the train a lot from Culver City to Downtown over the past year and have had a very positive experience. It’s reliable, enjoyable and for someone who grew up as a transit rider – the BMT from Bay Parkway to Broadway – it’s a real throwback to be on a neighborhood rail line again. I particularly like the stretch between La Cienega and La Brea with an elevated expansive view of the LA Basin all the way to the Hollywood sign.
Soon, Expo heads to the beach through or near some of the westside’s more exclusive neighborhoods – Cheviot Hills, Beverlywood, Rancho Park, Westwood – and I’d like to see those residents on the train. It will require an adjustment. Westsiders can be pretty parochial but I’m sure many who never take the bus will be willing to give light rail a shot.
Here’s my worry:
Expo Line appears to be safe and its passengers courteous. But I’ve also noticed – at various times during the day – riders who use the train because they have nowhere else to go. The appalling level of homelessness in Los Angeles County inevitably forces people to reside in train stations as well as board the cars.
For regular passengers that can be unpleasant and unsanitary.
It’s a complicated and difficult subject because homelessness is a symptom of economic and social inequality and it’s shameful that our cities and county are not responding appropriately.
But the opening of the route with stations at Palms, Westwood / Rancho Park, Expo / Sepulveda, Expo / Bundy and the three stops in Santa Monica will be a pivotal test of whether Metrorail can attract and hold onto new riders.
Word will spread quickly in these protected communities if riding the train is perceived to be menacing in some way.
And then we’ll never get those westsiders out of their cars.