So How Much Does the Expo Line Actually Stop?
September 27, 2012 5 Comments
The Expo Line has gotten a lot of bad press for being slow. For stopping at lights. For stopping in between lights. Metro says they’re working on it, and having ridden nearly every day since it opened, I believe it’s gotten better. Or I’ve gotten used to it. Really, I think a little bit of both. I’ve accepted that random stops are going to be normal for a while, but I’ve also noticed they’ve become shorter and fewer as time has gone on.
In order to see how much time the train could save if Metro was able to completely eliminate stops (other than those at stations, of course), I did a little non-scientific research. For two weeks, I timed the amount of time the train spent stopped while not at a station. Here’s what I found:
Total Time Stopped
|Mon 9/10||Tues 9/11||Wed 9/12||Thurs 9/13||Fri 9/14|
|OUT to Culver||5:16||3:55||4:22||2:38||2:37|
|IN to DTLA||–||–||2:35||2:21||–|
|Mon 9/17||Tues 9/18||Wed 9/19||Thurs 9/20||Fri 9/21|
|OUT to Culver||3:19||3:58||3:25||4:32||2:28|
|IN to DTLA||3:33||3:12||4:06* (2:26)||6:59||–|
There are some holes in my data, as I didn’t ride Expo home every day (I told you this was non-scientific), but the surprising thing to me came in comparing the outbound and inbound trips. The Expo Line has mainly gotten bad press for it’s stops while heading inbound, or towards Downtown, but on many days, it stopped just as much or more on the outbound trip.
You’ll notice on asterisk (*) on Wednesday 9/19. That 4:06 includes 1:40 just after the 23rd Street station, when the train missed a complete light cycle because a biker was asking the operator some questions from outside the train. This is not a “normal” operational occurrence, so I’ve counted that as 2:26 in some of my calculations. On Thursday, 9/20, the train stopped for 4 minutes at the junction and 1 minute inside the tunnel approaching 7th Street. These long stops, while less common lately, are a major part of the complaints against the line.
Some Interesting Numbers
The average (mean) time stopped per outbound trip towards Culver City was 3:39.
The average (mean) time stopped per inbound trip towards DTLA was 3:47 (3:31 using the lower number on 9/19).
These numbers are very close, with less than a 10 second difference between inbound and outbound times.
When you use the median, however, and diminish the effect of the one longer extreme, the inbound trips actually have a significantly lower total stop time:
The median time stopped per outbound trip towards Culver City was 3:40.
The median time stopped per inbound trip towards DTLA was 3:22 (2:53 using the lower number on 9/19).
This calculation was particularly surprising to me because of the general consensus that stops are greater and longer while heading towards Downtown. As I sat on the train paying attention every day, however, I was particularly annoyed at how much the train stopped while heading away from Downtown — mainly because I had expected it to be so much faster in that direction and was facing the realization that it wasn’t.
Also interesting is the breakdown of how much the train stopped on the west side of Western versus the east side of Western. It is well documented that the majority of stops are in the space from Downtown to USC, with significantly less between Western and Culver City.
The median time stopped between DTLA and Western on outbound trips was 2:59.
The median time stopped between Western and DTLA on inbound trips was 2:18 (1:58 using the lower number on 9/19)
The median time stopped between Western and Culver City on outbound trips was 0:38.
The median time stopped between Culver City and Western on inbound trips was 0:43.
On outbound trips west of western, the bulk of total stopped time occurs between La Cienaga/Jefferson and Culver City, where it seems the train has to completely stop at the track crossover. On inbound trips, the train didn’t stop at all until it got to the Western Ave. crossing a number of times.
Metro can speed the train up by about 3:40 in each direction just by eliminating non-station stops. Of course, when you stop, you also have to slow down, and then speed up again. So, in reality, by eliminating stops the train will actually save more than 3:40.
That nearly 4 minutes could be the difference between riders making their Metro-to-Muni or Red Line transfers, getting to work on time, or catching their Metrolink train home. Above all, though, the perceived value of having a train that doesn’t spend 4 minutes stopped on the tracks will lead to more riders and less complaints.
To Metro’s credit, when the line first opened, trains would often stop for 4 minutes just at the junction on Washington. To have the total down to 3:40 is a vast improvement… but there is still room to get better.