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Officials, passengers hail Expo Line's Culver City extension

The Culver City and Farmdale stations open Wednesday. Riders say their trips to downtown L.A. and back will take less time.

June 21, 2012|By Ari Bloomekatz, Los Angeles Times
  • An Expo Line train departs the Culver City station on Wednesday, the station's opening day.
An Expo Line train departs the Culver City station on Wednesday, the station's… (Patrick T. Fallon / Los Angeles…)

As elected officials cheered the new Culver City light rail station along the Expo Line on Wednesday, perhaps no one was more excited than 85-year-old Richard Ploen, a Westside native who watched the Red Car trolleys disappear and had been waiting more than 50 years for rail service to return.

Ploen lives in Palm Springs but grew up in Culver City and often used the trolleys to go to downtown Los Angeles where he worked as an office boy at an insurance company. On Wednesday, he spent two and a half hours driving to the station near the intersection of Washington and National boulevards for the grand opening, saying he didn't want to miss the moment.

"It's great," Ploen said, looking up at the elevated platform and holding a small digital camera. "This is something I've looked forward to ever since I used to ride the streetcars."

360-degree virtual tour: Expo Line stations

Officials opened most of the $932-million first phase of the Expo Line in late April, providing 7.9 miles of light rail between downtown Los Angeles and the eastern edge of Culver City. But they did not open two stations on the route: Culver City and Farmdale, which they said were added further along in the project and needed more work.

The Farmdale stop also opened Wednesday and the Culver City station is now the line's current western terminus, about 0.7 miles from the previous stop at La Cienega and Jefferson boulevards.

"We look forward to the station serving thousands of passengers in the years to come," said Culver City Mayor Andy Weissman.

Officials said that the Expo Line now averages 11,347 boardings each weekday and that they expect that number to increase because of the Culver City station. They also predict that ridership will surge once the $1.5-billion second phase of the line is built and reaches an additional 6.6 miles west into downtown Santa Monica.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky saidthat the current line will probably be most heavily used by people working in downtown L.A. and on the Westside and that "people who work in Culver City now have a way to get to Culver City without taking a car."

Ridership also could depend on whether some commuter complaints — about delayed service or occasional rough, jerky rides — are addressed. And it remains unclear how many Angelenos will take the rail line to Culver City just for fun or how many Culver City and Westside residents will drive to the station, park there and ride into downtown.

Downtown Culver City is roughly a 15-minute walk from the station or a short three-minute bus ride that drops passengers at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

Joel Schroeder, 32, is a filmmaker who lives in Baldwin Vista near the Expo Line with his wife. He toured the station Wednesday and said it would give them easier access to restaurants and shopping markets.

"My wife and I come and eat in Culver City a lot and we'll use that as an excuse to take the train," Schroeder said.

360-degree virtual tour: Expo Line stations

Samantha Luu, 26, lives in Palms near Culver City and had an optometrist appointment in downtown L.A. She said that it took her 15 minutes to walk to the station and that she was excited because "this will definitely save time."

"This is great because you know how traffic can get on the 10," Luu said as she sat aboard a train at the Culver City station.

Restaurant owners and managers in Culver City said they have been preparing for the opening of the station and hope more business comes their way.

"I'm already busier because of the hype about it," said Mary Skokna, cafe manager at Akasha Restaurant in downtown Culver City. "We'll see as the days go on" if it stays that way.

ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

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