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Metro boosts service to alleviate Expo Line crowds, but riders say it’s not enough

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“It gets so crowded sometimes people can’t move,” one rider says

A mix of men and women of different ages and ethnicities sit and stand inside a train.
A crowded Expo line train westbound from the Jefferson/USC station.
Jessica Flores

At 6:50 a.m., as the sun came up, a group of riders hopped onto an empty Expo Line train from the Expo/Vermont station, many securing seats.

But as the train traveled west to Santa Monica, space become more scarce. Most riders, many of whom were high school students carrying bags and backpacks, had no option but to stand.

Metro announced last week that it was adding additional trains to the Expo Line during its “peak” hours to address crowding. Trains are now scheduled to arrive every 6 minutes—instead of every 8 minutes—from 6 a.m. to about 7:30 a.m.

But riders using the trains to commute this morning said they’re not seeing a difference.

“Honestly, I feel like it’s the same,” said Albert Rojas, 16, who takes the train from Downtown LA to Pacific Palisades every morning for school. “I wake up at 5 a.m., and the train sometimes come every 20 minutes. They should come more often.”

In July, Metro’s Board of Directors approved a new budget that reduced rail service hours during rush hour on the Expo, Gold, and Blue lines. At the time, Metro spokesperson Rick Jager said the change would only affect average wait times by one minute or less. He also said it would give riders more reliable service, because having too many trains operating at once created bottlenecks.

But since the Expo Line’s Downtown stations reopened from a two month closure last month, riders have taken to social media to report that trains have been packed, with riders “stuffed like sardines.”

Metro can’t afford to lose riders who might get frustrated with crowding and choose other transportation options. It’s been dealing with sustained dips in ridership over the years, on both trains and buses. Last year, the Expo Line was the only rail route that didn’t lose riders.

Jager told Curbed on Friday that agency staffers were “hopeful” that the boost in service announced that day would ease overcrowding “during those peak times.” He also said staffers would continue to make adjustments, if needed.

This morning, eastbound trains en route to Downtown LA were a lot less packed than westbound trains.

Carla Garcia, a graduate student at USC, rides the Expo Line from the La Cienega station to Vermont. “My experience has been positive, but it’s less congested at 7 a.m.,” she said. Starting at 8 a.m., Gracia said, “it’s packed.”

Still, even when it is crowded, Luke Jackson, who travels east to Downtown LA, said he prefers the train to the bus. “This is very fast so I like it,” he says. “It’s a lot better than taking the bus.”

At 8 a.m. Angelica Alleman jumped onto a crowded train from the Jefferson/USC station. Riders were wedged side-by-side, filling the walkways, with no room to move.

“Sometimes it’s worse,” she said. “It gets so crowded sometimes people can’t move, and it causes conflict between people, so it [feels] unsafe.”