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Passenger Trains Return to Santa Monica Friday
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

 

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

May 19, 2016 -- For the first time in more than 60 years, a passenger train will be traveling through Santa Monica beginning this Friday. The public can hop on the Expo Light Rail for free rides starting in the afternoon, followed by a day of station celebrations Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On Wednesday the city launched a multi-month marketing campaign with the slogan GoSaMo to "educate, equip, and excite people about the new transportation choices available," City officials said.

The rail service will take passengers from Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica in 46 minutes (Expo’s estimate) with several stops in between.

The first phase of the line, opened in 2012, stretches from Downtown Los Angeles to Culver City. This second phase completes the project.

This public transportation service, hailed by many who are looking for ways to reduce pollution and alleviate congestion, has been years in the making.

The Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority board approved the project in 2010, and some legal battles followed (“Expo Light Rail to Santa Monica Clears Legal Hurdle,” August 16, 2013).

While the lawsuit from West Los Angeles homeowners ran its course through the state’s legal system all the way to the California Supreme Court, Expo continued toward its goal, and construction began on the 6.6 miles of rail in 2012.

The cost of the project was $1.6 billion, financed through money generated from the half-cent Los Angeles County sales tax approved by voters in November 2008.

There are plenty of people who are excited about the Expo line and have been during the years leading to this major moment in local transportation history.

City Councilmember Gleam Davis, who cast a vote in favor of the project in 2010 as a substitute Expo board member (Councilmember Pam O’Connor was on the board, but she was absent due to knee surgery recovery) told The Lookout in 2010 that the light rail was something the community needed.

“We need mass transit to help ameliorate our jobs/housing balance and to remove single car drivers from the 10 freeway, which generates a lot of pollution through some of the most vulnerable parts of our city,” Davis said.

“And this will be an enhancement for local businesses because more people will come to Santa Monica and not be deterred by traffic or parking issues.”

The light rail has its critics Among them is Phil Brock, a leader in Santa Monica’s slow-growth movement. He wrote about them in an email to The Lookout when he was a City Council candidate two years ago.

“For now, Expo line will bring pain," Brock wrote. "The planning for Expo has been poor. There is not sufficient parking, nor bus transportation between neighborhoods and the stations.

"The light rail line will run on Colorado instead of above the Olympic median, causing a traffic nightmare. Cars will circle endlessly to find parking spots.”

A major ad campaign has been launched to promote the light rail, including a video that can be found on YouTube featuring Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl comparing the train ride to driving accompanied by creative animation.

The Expo line marks the first time that passenger trains are coming into Santa Monica since Pacific Electric’s famous red cars ceased operation in 1953.

The glory days of the red cars were many decades before its end, and by 1924 only one car per day made the trip, according to historical reports.

Passenger trains had been operating in Santa Monica since the 19th century.

An article from the October 19, 1875 issue of the Los Angeles Herald detailed the opening day of the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad, which featured steam trains traveling on a rail stretching from San Pedro to a wharf near the Santa Monica Pier.

“The cars had been carefully prepared by Superintendent Crawford with seats, sides and awnings, and made a very comfortable conveyance,” the article stated.

The highlight of the day, according to the article, was the arrival of an unspecified senator on one of the train cars at 6 p.m.

“The fog was so thick that the steamer could not be seen until she was within 100 yards of the wharf, and her appearance was a great relief to all having friends on board."


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