Less Traffic, More City

Is Metrorail the future of Los Angeles?

Photo by Caradi Star Henley

The journey began at the Exposition and La Brea metro station. The mission was to do like the settlers and go west. The destination was the last stop on the Metro Expo Line, Downtown Santa Monica, only blocks away from the famous Santa Monica Pier, the promised land for dusty denizens of Los Angeles’ interior cities and neighborhoods. At the station on La Cienga and Jefferson there is a parking lot for riders, however finding parking in the residential area around La Brea and Exposition was not too much of a hassle.

Expo Line

It was pretty easy to spot where to purchase tickets. Signs are posted all around and are very helpful for first time riders, like me. The only cash I had on me was a $20 and not thinking twice I put it into the ticket machine. Moments later, I hear the jingling of $17.25 in coins coming out of the machine. This was my first time seeing a silver dollar in years. Now, I had 17 of them. I bought my friend’s ticket because I was holding him hostage for the day. Most of my friends looked at me like I was crazy, when I suggested a metrorail excursion across the city.

“You want me to take the metro? Why can’t we just drive?,” they said.

Their reactions mirrored the ideas of most middle-class Los Angelenos. When we think of the metro, we tended to conjure up images of a scary, sometimes smelly place that did not fit in with our car culture. Growing up in car-centric Los Angeles, it was almost socially unacceptable to not have a car, and a stylish one at that. A saying in L.A. goes, or used to, “You are what you drive.” We didn’t consider all the hardworking people who merely thought of the metro system as the most efficient means of transportation. Perpaps LA’s car-dominated culture can change as we learn the environmental benefits of using the metro.

“You are what you drive.”

I had been to Santa Monica a thousand times. It was a popular spot to show off to out-of-town guest and also where I went to high school. I knew every possible backstreet to get there and back to miss the traffic of the I-405 and I-10 freeways from my home in Ladera Heights.

Traffic is something we Californians love to complain about. However, we seem to miss what the traffic is actually doing to our homes. According to EnvironmentalLeader.com, “the constant acceleration and braking of stop-and-go traffic burns more gas, and therefore pumps more pollutants into the air.” Using the metro can reduce traffic-induced headaches while contributing to better air quality.

I looked at taking the metro as fun and exciting, as it was my first time riding the rails in Los Angeles. The Metro Railway to Santa Monica is fairly new, having opened in Spring 2016. For me, it was a new way to see a city that seemed to be getting oh so familiar. I felt like a tourist in my own city and I was also surrounded by tourists.

The doors to the train opened and the car was crowded with people from all walks of life. An elderly lady sat with her groceries and a teenager with dark eye makeup sat in the corner with headphones on. A group of frat boys on spring break visiting a friend at USC sat behind me. They boisterously boasted of the plans to party after their trip to the pier. The frat boys and I had the same destination, if not intent.

The Santa Monica Pier, photo by Caradi Star Henley

The trip to Santa Monica was a lot faster than I thought and not congested with normal Los Angeles traffic that seems to never sleep. The Metro Expo line goes back and forth from Downtown Los Angeles to Downtown Santa Monica with many stops in between. As more construction and funding goes into the metro system, it might be the new culture of Los Angeles. It might even look like this in 2090, its 100-year anniversary.