This morning I rode the metro, in Los Angeles, from Santa Monica to Hollywood. Who would've thought it would be possible in the city that adores their cars? I was able to ride the Expo Line from Culver City to Hollywood / Highland in 50 minutes. While it's still a bit longer than a drive, it's much more relaxing.
The Expo Line just opened this past summer and is a light rail line that follows exposition blvd from Culver City to downtown LA, stopping by a few hot spots like USC and the Staples center. I decided to drive to the Culver City station and take the metro to Hollywood. I actually spent more time finding the station than I thought I would. First, Apple Maps has no idea where the Expo Line station is. Neither does Google Maps, which made finding the station more difficult. In addition, the parking lot is a mostly dirt and unpaved lot with a small sign that says metro station. I was looking for a big parking structure with a huge sign.
The first thing that shocked me was that there were actually a few people riding it. I saw a few business men, lots of USC students, and some poor people. It's like any other city, which made me glad. I was expecting it to be empty. As I began my journey, I was kind of excited. The Expo Line lets you see large parts of LA you would never go to because there are nothing but houses, including some poorer areas. It's good to see the other side of the glamor. As you get closer to downtown LA, you're dropped into the middle of USC, which has a gorgeous campus. Once you get into downtown LA, the Staples Center and LA Live appear, along with the traffic of the 101. Overall, the Expo Line felt very much like Boston's Green Line.
Once I was in downtown LA, I switched to the Red Line which goes from downtown LA to Hollywood. The metro station is a modern station with TV's reporting the next train's arrival time, pillars plastered with ads, and had a general bustle of any central metro station. It very much reminded me of the Embacardo station in San Francisco. As the Red Line train came, I was surprised to see it full. People are actually riding the metro!
The Red Line feels like a proper city's mainline rail system. It's completely underground, it's long and standing room only. Each stop has a bustle of people going in and out of the subway. The trains are color coordinated and each stop has signs directing which platform goes which direction. I think most Los Angelenos who ride the Red Line will be surprised at how the Red Line makes Los Angeles feel like a city with a proper subway.
While Los Angeles is still dominated by a car, the city is slowly transforming. The metro line is expanding rapidly, it seems to be running quite well and going to all the right places. I'm very happy that the city has taken the metro initiative and look forward to the day when Los Angeles becomes a "proper" city where you don't need a car.