Here's what you need to know about the new Expo Line, the latest addition to L.A.'s patchy network of light-rail spurs: It's fast — for about three miles, then it gets pretty slow. It's so brand spanking new that the slimy stuff you feel on the stainless steel handrails is actually oil, not something more infectious left behind by passengers with bad colds. It's quiet as an elevator. And it's opening April 28.
Here's what it isn't: The first rail line since the closing of the old Red Car network to connect the Westside to the rest of L.A., as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other leaders of L.A.'s transportation scene said repeatedly Friday during a media test ride. If all goes according to plan, that will come true sometime in 2016, when Phase 2 of the line, running from its current terminus at Venice and National boulevards in Culver City to Colorado Avenue and 4th Street in Santa Monica, is completed. But most people would consider Culver City a tad south and east of the Westside.
Geographic quibbling, of course, matters less than whether people will actually ride this $930-million train, and whether it will speed their trips. The answer: Yes, sort of. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimates that 27,000 people a day will ride Phase 1, rising to 64,000 when the full 15.2-mile line is completed. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said that would make it the busiest light-rail line in L.A., and one of the busiest in the country.