Expo Line trains regularly run behind schedule, posing a challenge for Metro

by Ben Poston and Laura J. Nelson

A major selling point for the Expo Line extension has been the travel time between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica, which officials touted would be comparable to driving in sluggish rush-hour traffic on the 10 Freeway.

But in June, its first full month of operation, the 15.2-mile Expo Line was the least timely route in the Los Angeles County rail system, according to a Los Angeles Times review of Metropolitan Transportation Authority data. During evening rush hour, more than one-third of trains arrived at least five minutes behind schedule.

Early performance issues have not dimmed L.A.’s enthusiasm for the first rail line to the Westside in six decades. Since the $1.5-billion extension’s debut, weekday trips have risen by 40% and weekend trips have soared by more than half as commuters and beachgoers seek an alternative to driving.

But riders have also griped about punctuality problems, as well as crowded conditions and packed platforms caused by a shortage of rail cars

The Expo Line’s growing pains underscore the challenges Metro faces as its rail system rapidly expands. More than 18 miles of track have been opened in the last six months, with 17 more miles slated to open within the next decade.  

While most Expo Line delays are not serious enough to hobble the system, recurring reliability problems undermine one of Metro’s key selling points: that taking the train is a convenient, dependable alternative to driving. 

Just 25% of eastbound trains made the trip from Santa Monica to downtown L.A. in the scheduled time of 47 minutes, the Times analysis found. Trains heading west fared better, with 58% of trains pulling into downtown Santa Monica on time or early. 

Most late trains arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled time, but some delays linked to disabled train cars or electrical problems can drag on much longer.

Metro does not consider a train late until it has missed its scheduled arrival time by five minutes. By that standard, 24% of Expo Line trains were late in June, the data show. In contrast, 17% of Gold Line trains and 16% of Blue Line trains were late.

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Comment by Scupine on August 29, 2016 at 10:43pm

Very informative. And very reflective of my experience taking the Expo Line. I love it. And it could be so much better.

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