By: Judi Jordan
It was surreal. On the morning of Friday May 20th the normally congested corner of Colorado and 4th street in downtown Santa Monica was void of cars. A lone, florescent-vested traffic cop stood in the center of the freshly painted zebra striped crosswalk, waving skeptical pedestrians across. Feeling more like a movie lot than a busy beach city, people meandered toward the big white marquee. Beneath the tent, a buzzing crowd of hundreds grew. A Latin jazz quartet played upbeat salsa in the parking lot as Santa Monicans of every description milled around a breakfast buffet of bagels, tiny blueberry muffins, fresh melon slices, and hot spinach frittata. Hungry people ate, thirsty people drank, and anxious people waited for the ‘show’ to begin. After years of bitter debates, politicking, noisy building, months of testing and, at recent count, three car/train/tracks collisions, the Metro’s Expo Line is a done deal, and cause for [self] congratulations. Evidently it took a state, not a village–of power brokers, to get those 6.6 miles of rail laid. High expectations rest upon the 1.5 billion dollar transport, funded by the 2008 Measure R sales tax.
A dozen of the most powerful and diverse people in California sat packed shoulder to shoulder on the small stage, smiling ear to ear at their accomplishment, reminding listeners that the controversial project was finished on time, and on budget. The ceremony itself ran less smoothly. As the event’s M.C., County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joked his way through persistent sound issues, five-time Olympic Medalist Janet Evans the champion swimmer from Fullerton, emphatically led the pledge of allegiance over the same troubled microphone, and soprano Malia Civetz, award-winning graduate of Thornton School of Music, previous White House performer and winner of USC’s international SoCalVoCal Championship, sang the entire Star Spangled Banner completely obscured behind the state flag of California [!], held aloft by LA Metro Protective Services Color Guard.
Wary of the microphone, Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vasquez did a shaky shout out in rusty ‘Español,’ to the obvious amusement of the Latinos seated to my left. Mayor Eric Garcetti braved the screeching feedback to share a sweet story of his grandparents’ first date on the last Red Line to Santa Monica, 63 years ago, encouraging riders to ‘fall in love on the Expo.’
Ultimately, the little imperfections of the launch kept bigwigs grounded, and speeches short. In the big budget world of California politics it was a quaint taste of Mayberry RFD, and for sixty minutes and change, Santa Monica was a small town again.
Here’s what counts: In 48 minutes you can be in Downtown LA. There will be 700 bicycles around the beach for public use, and Zip Cars abound for short hops from the Expo station to your door.