More riders apparently equals more voices.
As more commuters throughout the region get around on public transportation, more comments come in on the highlights and downsides of the light-rail system.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has seen a significant bump in Expo Line use since the opening of the extension from Culver City to Santa Monica, according to agency data. Weekday boardings totaled 39,237 this past May, a 31.6-percent spike over the 29,801 rides recorded a year earlier.
“We’re pretty happy,” Metro spokesman Jose Ubaldo said.
Ubaldo noted that the May figures tell only a portion of the story because they include just 10 days of documented boardings at the new stations, which opened May 20. Rides were free on the entire line on the extension’s first two days of operation.
June data will likely provide a better snapshot of Expo Line ridership, but numbers for the month had not yet been processed by the agency as of last week.
Since the opening of the Expo Line extension, Metro officials have evaluated several issues on the new line and responded to numerous inquiries regarding ease of use, accessibility and service, Ubaldo said.
Some riders have complained that the ticket machines are not user-friendly. Ubaldo said train ambassadors at Santa Monica and other stations have been helping new riders acclimate to the ticketing system.
“It’s a learning curve, and it doesn’t always work the way we want it to,” Ubaldo said, adding that most of the people struggling with the ticket machines are likely first-time users. “If we see something big that’s becoming an issue, we’ll address it, but for now it’s just normal learning.”
Adding to the potential confusion is the fact that not all stations have gated turnstiles. Riders at stations without turnstiles must use their TAP cards at the designated sensors before walking to the train platform.
“If it doesn’t have a turnstile because of the dimensions, then you just tap and go inside,” Ubaldo said. “The most important thing is to tap.”
Meanwhile, some riders have lamented the less-than-ideal accessibility of some stations. At the terminus in Downtown Santa Monica, for example, riders are unable to exit towards 5th Street. Similarly, people using the Westwood/Rancho Park in West L.A. station can’t get to the platform from Overland Avenue.
Ubaldo said Metro was aware of the issues and looking into possible solutions.
“When you open a line, little by little you discover drawbacks, and you work hard to get everything right,” Ubaldo said. “For us, safety is the number-one priority. We don’t want people to be crossing the tracks.”
Riders have expressed confusion over nameplates inside the train cars that refer to other cities in the region, such as Long Beach and Lancaster. The nameplates are meant as tributes and don’t have any bearing on where the train actually travels, but they could be misleading to passengers who are not familiar with the system.
“We’ll see how we can resolve that,” Ubaldo said.
A few riders have noted that the Expo Line seats are covered with a fabric material similar to the kind that San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system discarded a few years ago. The former BART seats, which were found with high levels of bacteria, have been replaced with vinyl coverings that are easier to clean.
The Expo Line’s current fabric makes it harder for potential miscreants to scratch and tag the seats with graffiti, Ubaldo said. He said he was not familiar with the BART bacteria problem.