The new Metro Expo line from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica restarted a long tradition of rail service to the beach. When the Expo line extension to Santa Monica finally opened in May, 2016, giddy Angelenos rushed to experience the thrill of riding the rails. They traveled from downtown all the way to the Santa Monica and the beach and then back to downtown (or vice-versa). It seemed easy-peasy. The Metro Central station truly was in the middle of downtown and the Santa Monica terminal was just a short walk to the pier and beach. No cars, no traffic, no parking problems-just sit and relax. Ahh…Sweet!
Well, I decided it was time for me to ditch the old CR-V and head to the beach by rail. So I called my traveling buddy George to join me, and off we went. Since all the excitement and media hoopla had finally died down (the grand opening for the completed Expo Line happened over a year ago) we knew it’d be quiet and not too crowded. We boarded the Expo line at the 7th Street/Metro Center station. It was mid-week so instead of riding along with beach-goers we found ourselves in the midst of students heading to school and folks rushing to and from work. We chatted with a few people. They were regulars by now, glad to have the Expo line, and like us, glad to be able to ditch car. To the beach? Nope, they just wanted to get to work, or school, or home, or whatever.
Since most of the ride was above ground we watched the neighborhoods change as we moved along. Mostly the homes we passed were just ordinary houses and apartments and the businesses-mostly small mom and pop stores. There were no super tall, gleaming skyscrapers out this way. It looked like this just about anywhere to the north, south, east or west of downtown LA. These were the neighborhoods we could barely see from the freeways.
As usual Santa Monica had a gray overcast- a pleasant relief from the summer heat. George and I walked around a bit, grabbed a snack, visited the pier and after a while headed back. We truly enjoyed the ride and congratulated ourselves on reaping the benefits of the Metro Expo: It was cheap and we didn’t get stuck in nerve-racking traffic.The stations on both ends of the line were convenient to the places we wanted to visit. Ahh…Sweet!
By the way, in case you weren’t aware of it. There’s a long tradition of rail service from LA to Santa Monica and the beach. But let me give you the short version: The Independence Railroad Company, incorporated in 1875, gave LA citizens (and freight) a fast train ride to the ocean (for either relaxation and commerce, or both). During the late 1800’s folks could take a train from LA to Santa Monica and vacation at the sumptuous Arcadia Hotel located right next to the ocean. See photo below:
(Photo above courtesy of University of Southern California Libraries and California Historical Society). The description provided with the photograph (Author, not cited):
” Photograph of the Arcadia Hotel and Bath House in Santa Monica, ca.1892-1898. The beach is at low tide. To the far right, the ocean can be seen crashing against the shore. Groups of people play or walk in the surf at right. Others sunbathe on the sandy beach. To the far left, a large four-story wooden hotel can be seen. The hotel has a turret on its roof. Along the base of the hotel, a tented pavilion is visible on the beach. Legible signs include: “Arcadia Bath House”, “Clam chowder”. A wind vane is visible in the extreme background at center.”
Although the hotel eventually disappeared, rail service to Santa Monica continued on in one form or another until after WWII. Just after the war Los Angeles fell deeply in love with automobiles and freeways. The famous red car lines that tied LA to the beaches (and far flung communities) were abandoned and dismantled to make way for those freeways and automobiles. For a closer look at the demise of the red car era, here’s an interesting LA Times article: www.latimes.com.
So go ahead and hop on the Metro Expo Line.Take the family and visit the beach. Kids love the novelty of riding on rails, and you’ll love cruising along knowing you won’t be crawling through traffic and then have to shell out lots of bucks to park. So, the whole family will love this relaxing trip to the ocean.
Below is the route used by Metro Expo. (By the way, it got the name from Exposition Blvd, the blvd that parallels the track for large part route). Just remember, as you glide along the way- you’re following an old LA tradition.
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Looking for more interesting places to take the kids and family? There are many County and City activites and venues in and around Los Angeles that offer fun and educational experiences for everyone. Click on these previous posts for great family outing ideas:
Metropolitan Features including information regarding:
– Los Angeles Zoo
– Griffith Observatory
– The Arboretum
– Exposition Park
– Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History
– Santa Monica Pier