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Expo Line to Santa Monica Marks First Birthday with Big Ridership Boost


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

May 18, 2017 -- The Expo light rail extension to Santa Monica marks its first anniversary Saturday, and ridership has been soaring, according to statistics from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which runs the system.

Weekday ridership on the line surged from an estimated 39,237 passengers the month service on the 6.6-mile extension from Culver City to Santa Monica started to an estimated 55,388 passengers this February, a 41 percent jump, according to Metro.

In March, the Expo line averaged 59,931 weekday boardings -- its best so far, officials said. The ridership level already is nearing the 64,000 average weekday riders Metro officials expected to be taking the line by 2030.

The Expo Line is now the second busiest of Metro’s four light rail lines, surpassed only by the 22-mile Blue Line between downtown L.A. and Long Beach, Metro officials said.

Unlike the opening celebration last May, which included a massive block party, the one-year anniversary will be marked with little fanfare ("All Aboard Santa Monica’s New Light Rail Line," May 20, 2016).

While City officials view the $1.5 billion extension from Culver City as a cornerstone of their plan to wean motorists from their cars, the boost in rail ridership comes at a time when the City's Big Blue Bus (BBB) has been losing ridership.

During the past fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, ridership dropped to about 16.5 million riders from about 18.7 million the previous year ("Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus Continues Losing Riders," November 8, 2016).

The BBB, which hoped the Metro line would increase ridership, has been restructuring routes and implementing new technologies ("Santa Monica Bus System Launches Major Route, Schedule Changes," February 17, 2017 and "Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus to Launch App for Passes," April 5, 2017).

The MTA's bus system also is struggling. While the Expo extension and the new Gold Line posted healthy ridership totals, they weren’t enough to overcome the continuing drop in bus ridership, MTA officials said.

While there are no City sponsored festivities, Metro officials are marking the Expo line's extension with a series of giveaways today at the 26th St/Bergamot Station and next Thursday at the 17th St/SMC Station and at the Downtown Santa Monica Station.

During the giveaway events -- which take place from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. -- riders have the chance to win a “More to Explore” monthly Pass.

“We made history with the opening of the Expo Line extension a year ago — and the extraordinary ridership shows that Angelenos are ready for the future of public transportation,” Garcetti, who is also on the Metro Board of Directors, said.

Metro promised to ease congestion and provide thee public with new options for transportation, he said.

“We’re delivering,” Garcetti said.

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