Wednesday, June 20 at noon the train station at Culver City officially opened. Less than two hours later a friend and I tested the waters… or should I say the rails… on the Metro Expo Line running to the Metro Center at 7th and Flower in downtown Los Angeles.
It was an exhilarating experience. And brought my personal history full circle with transportation in this city. The first time my family moved to Los Angeles was in the early sixties. I remember riding the Red Car to downtown LA to shop at the department stores. Downtown was where you went for the full shopping experience back then. When we were ready to come home we had to stand on a painted island—no physical barriers at all except a stripe of paint—in between two lanes of traffic racing past. That was an exhilaration of a totally different kind indeed!
When we returned to LA a couple of years later, the Red Cars were history. We won’t go into that ignominious and infamous story here. But we are now paying dearly for it.
I never thought I would see rail transport come to West LA—let alone a short walk from my abode in Culver City—in my lifetime. It’s a miracle. I still think I am going to wake up one morning and read the story in the LA Times that train travel in our city is at least twenty years in the future!
Of course, I take the bus as much as possible but I grew up in England riding the train from one part of town to the other. It’s my favorite form of transportation. Fast, clean, efficient. I just returned from a visit to England and enjoyed riding the rails again.
So the journey on Wednesday from Robertson and Washington to the Metro Center was nothing less than amazing. I’ve been to this station at 7th and Flower many times over the years but arriving on the Culver City train was special.
TL and I walked out of the station on to busy 7th Street. I commented to my friend that it was like taking a spaceship to another planet… but an entirely interesting one. I happen to love downtown LA. It is full of life in every direction.
Years ago I was a Los Angeles Conservancy docent. I would bring my tour goers up 7th Street for the much-lamented, no-longer-available Marble Masterpieces Walking Tour. It was the best tour on the schedule but unfortunately dumped shortly after I left… okay, don’t get me started!!!!
My friend and I gazed in awe at the beautiful buildings from the glorious decade of the 1920s. The Conservancy has saved many of these architectural wonders from the wrecking ball. And I miss leading those tours…
We were walking towards Broadway but as we passed a non-descript alleyway we noticed an outdoor café. We ventured further and discovered the alley was infested with cafés of all denominations. We felt like we were back in Paris.
We only wanted some light fare so we settled on a sandwich shop. We ordered two sandwiches wrapped in Lavash bread which we thought was a good deal for $6.99 each, only to find out they came with a drink and fries. When the meal arrived we agreed it was enough for four people, but I managed to plow through and left not a crumb on my plate.
We sat and talked on this warm weekday afternoon splat in the middle of the Jewelry District. We couldn’t remember when sidewalk cafés became a phenomenon in Los Angeles but we agreed it wasn’t that long ago. Strange for a city that has such an inviting climate. But whenever that first restaurant hit on the idea to put tables out on the street it was like a plague that spread overnight. A good plague, of course!
Around 4:00pm we walked back to the station. When we rode the train in we were surprised how few people were traveling. But when the train pulled in to take us back to Culver City, people came tumbling out of the doors… where did they all come from?
I imagine it will take a while for the citizens of West LA to get used to the idea of leaving their cars behind. As much as I enjoy traveling on the bus system, I understand why some people don’t like to take the bus. But the train is a different story—being able to say you arrived by train is so much more classy!
(All photos copyright roslyn m wilkins)