New LA Metro Expo Line finally opens and gets put to the test

"Wanderers" by artist Willie Robert Middlebrook is on display at Expo/Crenshaw Station.
Courtesy of Metro
The Exposition Line train at the La Cienega/Jefferson station after finishing a test run.
Kevin Ferguson/KPCC
Reporters and officials on a test ride of the Exposition Line near 7th Street/Metro Center station in Downtown Los Angeles
Kevin Ferguson/KPCC
The La Cienega/Jefferson Exposition Line station in West Los Angeles
Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

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The newest addition to Metro’s light rail system is up and running at last. The Expo Line began crisscrossing Los Angeles Saturday, and Metro celebrated at nearly every station. The ride is free on opening weekend.

If you’re heading west, the train starts downtown at 7th Street and Figueroa. Winding its way past Staples Center and USC, the new light rail train reaches its final destination at La Cienega and Jefferson — just east of Culver City.

Among the first riders was 18-year-old DJ Martinez. He and his little brother hopped on Expo from South L.A. for a ride to a favorite skate park in Culver City.

"We woke up early to get on this train," Martinez said, "because it’s the first day and we’re excited to see the train in our neighborhood."

Martinez said he's been riding Metro his whole life. "I got put on a bus by myself for the first time when I was in third grade. It’s cool! It’s better than driving down this street all the time. It’s faster."

By 10 in the morning, the opening weekend festivities kicked into full gear. Wearing a blue tutu, jewelry and a mask, performer Lauren Dobbins-Webb of the Watts Village Theatre Company approached the Exposition Park platform with two musicians and another actor in tow:

"So myself and another masked actor, we’re just kind of exploring and inviting other people to wonder what’s going on," Dobbins-Webb said. "And then he and I will also be telling a story together, focusing on the meaning of exposition, and the exploration of the new line, and the newness of all of the stops along the way."

After a little bit of gesturing, some dancing and plenty of flute, Dobbins-Webb and her troupe boarded the westbound train for the next performance.

While plenty of passengers came for the sights, or to hear the music and eat the food, others had more practical motives. Jessie Alvarez lives in Gardena and has a long commute to get to work.

"I rode the bike to try and catch the Metro," Alvarez said. "I actually work in Culver City, so I’m looking for alternate routes to get to work. So I’m gonna try the Metro out to see how it works. Today’s just a trial run for me. I battle the traffic all week, so this is something new that I’m gonna try."

If the Expo Line passes the trial, it’ll cost Jessie Alvarez $1.50 one-way starting Monday — and save him a lot of hassle, too.