THE BLOG
01/23/2014 10:47 am ET | Updated Mar 25, 2014

Just TAP and Spin Through the Unlocked Expo Line Turnstile

Who doesn't love a good story? After all, this is Los Angeles. Take this article in a recent issue of LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's blog entitled, "Record numbers riding easy on Expo."

"The first phase of the Expo Line is getting up to speed -- six years ahead of schedule.
Metro had projected the line would be carrying 27,000 riders a day by 2020. It has been surpassing that mark since last fall. In December, an average of 27,360 rode it every weekday. And, in a win-win for passengers and the transit agency, the line's success hasn't translated to overcrowded train cars, at least so far."

The fluff piece goes on to quote a rider who uses Expo to commute from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City. She notes how seats are plentiful, even during the morning and evening rush. "Those are the only times I have someone sitting next to me."

No surprises here. That's because the line is still not getting the ridership it should be seeing. And in a noble effort to put lipstick on a pig, Metro's rail operations chief, is quoted saying he is glad for the extra room as the line will need the seating capacity when the second phase to Santa Monica opens in 2015. Whoever heard of a business happy that its product is selling modestly rather than flying off the shelf? Did the Metro rail operations chief really just say that?

Aim low and anyone can hit the target. Early, boasts Metro. But is there really anything to boast about? A partially completed light rail line, delivered years behind schedule, making a ridership target that anyone can see is a baby step for a world-class city's transit agency.

By most accounts, Expo Phase 2 construction is moving along at a good clip. This means we may actually see a light rail line to the sea well within the decade. That's great. As is the groundbreaking this week on the new Crenshaw Line which will hook up Expo and Green Line riders and give South LA a sorely needed rail line through the Crenshaw Corridor. Construction of the long-delayed extension of the Wilshire Subway to the Westside is also great news as is talk of new stations in the Arts District. Who knows, we may even see a train to LAX if Councilman Mike Bonin has his way.

Given our history, it's terrific to see a County Supervisor and others promoting, rather than deriding, transit ridership in LA. Still, I'd rather see expedited transit construction than read incredulous creative writing about how Metro is meeting artificially low ridership projections. Would it really be so bad if LA's trains were full during the morning and evening rush hour? Isn't that a worthy goal?

Yours in transit,
Joel