Why We Love L.A.’s New Train to Santa Monica

GOOD’s marketing manager shares what it’s been like to spread the word about Los Angeles’s historic new train line.

If you’re at all familiar with Los Angeles geography, you’re probably aware that getting from east to west (or vice versa) usually requires a harrowing drive on one of the most congested freeways in the world—“the 10.” But last Friday, Los Angeles County Metro’s Expo line expanded its reach to Santa Monica, offering the first train to the popular Westside coastal city since 1953.

Completely connecting downtown Los Angeles with downtown Santa Monica through public transit represents a shift to a more sustainable, predictable alternative to a car-dependent lifestyle. That’s a pretty big deal in a city notorious for its smog, traffic, and long commutes—which might be why you’ve read about it on CityLab, Bloomberg, Forbes, or Fast Company.

New decals for small businesses in Santa Monica point out the walkable minutes to train stations or bike shares.

I know it’s been a big deal for me. I grew up taking trains around Chicago and moved here from Seattle about two years ago, and I’ve really missed what it was like to live somewhere with a fully realized public transit system. Yet already the expanded Expo line has made this vast, complicated city feel like home, giving me the chance to spontaneously explore distant leafy side streets and hidden vibrant neighborhoods.

At GOOD, we’ve been pushing for this kind of quality-of-life upgrade for everyone since we were founded in 2006, especially alongside our friends at LA2050, an initiative from our co-founder Ben Goldhirsh. And for the last several months, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with the City of Santa Monica on a new mobility campaign called GoSaMo to get citizens excited, equipped, and adopting the City’s extended mobility network, from its Big Blue Bus to Expo Light Rail, Breeze Bike Share, reimagined pedestrian walkways, and more.

Street banners in Santa Monica.

Throughout the summer, we’re working to help citizens learn the transit basics with a new info hub, bus ads, and light pole banners with phrases like “join the pool party” and “rush hour can be happy hour” that we hope make people smile. We’ve also had a great time partnering to create digital campaigns and curated tours with trendsetters like 5 Every Day and WeWork, window decals that give local businesses a chance to brag about how close they are to an Expo station, and the launch of Santa Monica’s first-ever open streets event, Coast.

Santa Monica councilmember Kevin McKeown

The Metro estimates that around 100,000 people boarded the Expo during this past opening weekend. Venturing out to revel in the energy of its opening weekend, I definitely got swept up in the enthusiasm. And I wasn’t alone: Stepping towards the 26th Street/Bergamot station, I was surrounded by crowds of people thrilled to have a chance to head to the beach by rail. There was a beautiful melody of urban sounds—the crossing gates coming down, the train whisking by, the occasional toddler shrieking with excitement.

This is something new for Angelenos. Something that, like most good things in life, will take a little patience and practice to figure out. I think you’ll love it as much as I do (and if you do, be sure to post something with the hashtag #gosamo), but you don’t have take my word for it. See what L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl has to say.

via Michael Belanger / Flickr

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