When Jeremy Stutes moved to Santa Monica from North Hollywood a few years ago, he landed an apartment within walking distance of Bergamot Station.
It was an intentional choice.
He knew the forthcoming Expo Line would soon provide him with another public transit option as he slowly distanced himself from the driving lifestyle, and this past month he did the Southern California unthinkable.
He sold his car.
With the light-rail system’s anticipated extension to Santa Monica opening May 20, Stutes is eager to incorporate Metro into his routine for getting around Los Angeles.
“It’s been a gradual transition away from the automobile,” he said. “I’m excited to rely on Expo, Breeze Bike Share, Big Blue Bus, Lyft, Zipcar and even Metrolink and Amtrak as a I step away from the idea of having to own my own automobile. I’m also stepping away from the stress of sitting behind the driving wheel in traffic.”
Stutes has a deep interest in the success of the new train. He’s the chairman of railLA, a nonprofit advocacy coalition whose board also includes current Santa Monica City Councilmember Pam O’Connor. The group supports rail projects in the region.
But he’s not alone in his endorsement of the Expo Line, whose expansion to Santa Monica will bring track-based transit back to the Westside for the first time in decades. The 6.6-mile, $1.5-billion extension from Culver City features seven stops, including three in Santa Monica, and will facilitate trips to Downtown Los Angeles in about 45 minutes.
Danielle Shenise, a locally based photographer, said she’s looking forward to using the expanded light-rail operation. She and other proponents have touted the environmental benefits of public transit.
“We’ve become way too dependent on our cars,” she said.
Local resident Tim Harter, a senior field representative for Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), said the Expo Line will allow him to attend meetings in Downtown L.A. and meet friends for dinner in Culver City after work. The extension, he said, will connect Santa Monicans to a transit system that serves many other parts of the region.
“I can’t wait to experience Los Angeles without sitting in traffic,” he said. “I have been waiting for this train for a few years.”
But not everyone is so gung-ho about the expanded Expo Line.
Dinah O’Connor, a Sunset Park resident who has lived in Santa Monica for most of her life, is concerned about the safety of pedestrians and motorists. She noted that the train is at street level in Santa Monica and that there are no crossing arms at the affected intersections.
“It looks dangerous,” she said. “I think there are going to be a lot of accidents.”
O’Connor, who runs the Twist clothing store on 17th Street near Ocean Park Boulevard, said the Expo Line isn’t going to boost her business because it isn’t close enough.
She added that she and many of her customers in the neighborhood are steering clear of Colorado Avenue entirely.
“I think people are really going to think about crossing town, regardless of what side you live on,” she said, arguing that improved mobility for people in the region will come at the expense of local residents. “It’s a hassle. It’s a clogged-up mess. We already don’t go in that direction.”
Robert Herman, who has lived in Santa Monica since 1957, is also skeptical that the new rail line will reduce congestion locally.
“We love the freedom we have with our cars and a train will never solve the traffic problem,” he said.
Added local resident Faith Rumack, whose home is in the northeastern portion of the city: “For those of us who still live here, it’s a nightmare.”
Longtime resident Michael Stark said the extension of the Expo Line fits into Santa Monica’s long history of changes in planning and development.
“I’m sure it will cause problems but we will survive those like we have all of the others,” he said. “I love this city, warts and all, and don’t want to live anywhere else.”