Fred Gurzeler wrote a series of columns for CityWatch describing the long history of the former railroad on which the Expo Line will run. The right-of-way’s history can be traced back to 1875, when the Los Angeles Independence Railroad built the railway as a means to establish a new port in Santa Monica that would allow the railroad to compete with Southern Pacific Railroad. Passenger service by the Los Angeles Pacific began in 1908, with Pacific Electric Railway acquiring the line in 1911. As early as 1924, PE tried to abandon the line, citing perceived low ridership, only for regulators to deny the move, stating that the line should stay to serve future development. Despite said development actually coming in later years, PE stopped service in 1953.
However, freight service continued on the line even as the Santa Monica Freeway was concurrently built, over the objections of residential groups. Also, Southern Pacific, which acquired the remaining assets of PE, was fierce in keeping the line open exclusively for freight use, despite initial grumblings from officials and citizens to resume passenger service in some way. However, after some arm-twisting, Southern Pacific opted to sell off the right-of-way, which was the real turn of events for resumption of passenger service, according to Gurzeler. This action led to a chain of events culminating in the approval of at least part of the line in 2000 and subsequent construction. Despite opposition from Cheviot Hills homeowners, the success of then-built rail lines and their increasing popularity provided the support proponents needed to finally get the Expo Line going.
In light of this, Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern warns that the fight for the Expo Line has not ended. Even if all legal challenges have been quashed, residents must still work towards other solutions that can turn the line into a friendly neighbor. Alpern recognized that, unlike older generations that tend to flatly object to projects, the newer generation of Angelenos take a more nuanced view of transportation and tend to be pro-bike, pro-transit and pro-car. This in turn makes them more eager to develop solutions that balance the needs of all transportation users. That said, a recent meeting of Expo Line proponents made known their desire for more parking at stations, increased connectivity by means other than the automobile and landscaping improvements. These would require initiatives from the office of the LA mayor, according to Alpern.