(Photo courtesy of Metro)

The City of Santa Monica is expecting Expo to carry paying customers by April/May of 2016.

In his inaugural City Manager’s report on Nov. 10, Rick Cole told the City Council that staff is actively working on several Expo related preparation projects and that passengers are likely to be using the service by Spring of next year based on the announcement that March 5 has been set as the opening of the new Gold Line.

“My assumption is we will be 30 to 60 days behind the Gold Line … ” he said. “Since we’re both in the active testing phase, I think we will be seeing revenue service as early as the beginning of April and probably no later than mid-May.”

He said staff have formed several internal teams to address public safety, Buffer Park, opening ceremonies, traffic, first/last mile connections, maintenance and rider concerns.

“It’s really important we begin to think about all that goes into getting ready for what will be a historic change in how we get around our city and how we connect to the rest of the region,” he said.

Cole said the Santa Monica Police Department is working with other public safety agencies to prepare for Expo’s arrival. He said there are currently hundreds of violations associated with Expo such as people walking on the track, sometimes driving on the track or making illegal turns along track-adjacent roads. Cole said addressing homelessness would also be part of the City’s preparatory work.

“We have a lot of education and some enforcement to do,” he said. “Obviously our emphasis is going to be on education but in order to protect people’s lives when the trains begin running seriously, we’re going to have to be very vigilant to enforce the law to protect people’s safety both on the train and on the street.”

Cole said the 2.35 acre buffer park located along Exposition Boulevard between Stewart Street and Dorchester Avenue would begin construction as soon as the adjacent Expo maintenance yard is finished. He said construction of the yard is almost finished and work on the park will begin in 2016 with about a 9-month timeline.

Council formally approved $6.3 million for construction of the park and awarded the contract to USS Cal Builders as part of their consent calendar that night. While the project has been referred to as “Buffer Park” for most of its life, staff said a formal name would be chosen next year.

“Staff will return to Council in early 2016 with a park name recommendation in accordance with the City’s public land and buildings naming guidelines,” said the staff report.

According to Cole, Expo’s arrival in Santa Monica will be met with a large launch that goes beyond just a ribbon cutting. Staff are planning for pop-up events at each Santa Monica station, issuing limited edition tap cards, festive banners at each station, a campaign to encourage behavior changes to embrace public transit and Cole said council has already authorized exploring incentives for people to access the Expo Stations without a car.

With monthly staff meetings about Expo ongoing, Cole said he would return to the council at future meetings with additional information.

“The future is coming and we’re getting prepared,” he said.

editor@www.smdp.com

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...