Expo Line riders have gotten to know their fellow commuters a little too well over the past three months.

In August, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority cut two Expo Line trains per hour during peak commute hours. The decision forced riders to pack themselves onto trains shoulder-to-shoulder or miss trains entirely if they couldn’t squeeze into a gap in the proverbial sardine can.

“It’s been a nightmare,” said Rachel Salinas, who commutes from Long Beach to Downtown Santa Monica via the Blue Line and the Expo Line. “It puts me in a bad mood. There are too many people hitting me with their purses and bags, and I see how people have to struggle to get off at their stops.”

Officials said the service reductions were intended to make the Expo Line run on time. But after riders took to social media to sound off about overcrowding, Metro announced earlier this month that it would restore Expo Line service to its previous frequency.

Starting Monday, riders will be able to catch trains every six minutes instead of every eight minutes. Rush hour service will also be extended past 7 p.m. in response to growing ridership in the early evening.

Officials previously restored service during peak-of-peak hours in September, adding trains between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. and 5 and 6 p.m.

“Expo Line riders complained about overcrowding,” Metro spokesperson Steve Hymon wrote in a post on Metro’s blog, The Source. “Metro responded by adding some trains during (peak-of-peak) and is now returning to the former peak hour schedule.”

More frequent service is intended to ensure that all riders can board any given train during peak hours, said Metro spokesperson Anna Chen. That doesn’t mean everyone will be able to find a seat, she said.

“Not being able to sit down does not equal too crowded,” Chen said. “We’re a mass transit agency in the second-largest metro area in the nation. We want a train that carries more people than just the number of seats.”

Metro also cut service on the Blue Line, but the change did not cause the overcrowding that riders experienced on the Expo Line because the northern half of the Blue Line was closed this summer. It will resume full service between Downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach Saturday and trains will run every six minutes starting Monday.

The Expo Line carries about 60,000 riders each day and exceeded its 2030 ridership goals just one year after it was extended to Santa Monica in 2016. But ridership across Metro’s rail system has fallen 3% since then, and riders say that cutting service on the Expo Line or other rail lines may deter the potential passengers Metro hopes to court — car commuters.

“It’s definitely been uncomfortable, and I think if someone tries to start riding the train, it could cause them to go back to driving,” said Ryan Axel, who frequently rides the Expo Line in the early morning.

Salinas said she thinks once trains start running every six minutes, more Westside commuters will opt for the Expo Line to avoid high gas prices and traffic.

“I’m just glad I don’t have to deal with driving here from Long Beach,” she said. “(The overcrowding) was the only negative thing about my commute.”

madeleine@smdp.com

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  1. Last night I was on the train at peak of peak rush hour…and there was a Galaxe game. We were packed in so tight no one could get on the train and touching in all kinds of uncomfortable ways.

    Whoever is managing LA metro should be forced to try to fit themselves into that train and then still have to justify denying returning to previous levels of service.

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