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Businesses along new Expo Line hoping to cash in

Reporters and officials on a test ride of the Exposition Line near 7th Street/Metro Center station in Downtown Los Angeles in March.
Kevin Ferguson/KPCC
Reporters and officials on a test ride of the Exposition Line near 7th Street/Metro Center station in Downtown Los Angeles

Trains along the Expo Line are zipping thousands of L.A. commuters to work Monday, the first workday for the latest addition to L.A. Metro’s light-rail system. And businesses near the 8-mile track across the middle of L.A. are hoping Expo means big bucks.

The Angelenos who took advantage of free Expo Line rides over the weekend may have spotted Chris Ferrell spinning a large colorful sign advertising pizzas near the station at Jefferson and La Cienega.

“Trying to just bring them in, you know," Ferrell said. "Whatever it takes to get them in so they can try out products. Hoping that they like it and start coming back.”

Ferrell works for Pamore Pizza. The small shop’s located in a small strip of businesses where you can look out a window and see the elevated trains: “You know the Starbucks people are getting their people ready. Arby’s, New Berry — everybody’s getting ready for it.”

It takes about a half an hour to get to this destination from 7th and Figueroa in downtown L.A. where service begins. The route shares tracks with the Blue Line until Washington Boulevard. That’s where Expo trains split off and head to the edge of Culver City by way of Exposition Boulevard.

“We need that. It’s going to be good for the community,” says Cary Earle who started South L.A.’s Earlez Grille decades ago with his brother. People often stop by this familiar favorite to grab a hot dog or burger. The restaurant sits near the new route at Crenshaw and Exposition.

“It’s going to bring a lot of jobs, it’s going to bring a lot of money, it’s going to bring a lot of people to the community that don’t necessarily come to this community,” Earle predicts.

“The next decade could really be a threshold changing decade for rail transit in Los Angeles,” says Professor Marlon Boarnet, who studies transportation and urban planning at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.

Boarnet expects the new Expo Line will help bring significant economic benefits to South L.A., similar to what happened when the Red Line station opened at Hollywood and Vine more than a decade ago.

“Hollywood has kind of come back," Boarnet said. "It was really a neighborhood that had lost a lot of its glamour and it is on its way back. I think that’s an example of how these major transportation infrastructure investments can provide some element of a catalyst.”

Boarnet says he’s working on an Expo Line travel behavior study. He predicts it’ll take at least a couple years to determine exactly how the new commuter rail service affects L.A.’s economic landscape.