By Gary Walther
The new Expo Line is the latest expansion of the Los Angeles rapid-transit system, a game changer for Shutters-Casa habitués: A freeway without the traffic (and all the how-long-will-it-take anxiety) to downtown. The train takes 45 minutes, give or take, even in rush hour. (I boarded at 9:30 am and arrived at the 7th Street Metro Center, the transit hub, at 10:16 am.)
So now, if you are an art connoisseur, want to catch Dudamel before he decamps, or just see what sort of there there is downtown (impressive), you have a Yellow Brick Road. Walk to the Colorado and 4th Street Expo station (10 minutes or so) and the train to 7th Street Metro Center. Then take the nice walk to South Grand Street, LA’s new Museum Mile, on Bunker Hill. It’s the site of the Disney Concert Hall (“A rose made of shards of broken Delft china,” said Frank Gehry, its architect), MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), and the new Broad museum, which houses Otium in the garden adjacent, one of LA’s best restaurants. (Whoever thought of staying at Casa or Shutters and going to lunch or dinner downtown? Now you can.)
Nearby is the Bradbury Building (1893), the city’s oldest landmark and notable for its five-story atrium court, fine cast-iron work, and bird-cage elevators. Off to the right, on your way up Bunker Hill, is a profile that will be familiar to Dragnet fans, the LA City Hall, shown at the start of the show and emblazoned on Sergeant Joe Friday’s badge.
Essentially, the Expo Line makes LA more like New York or London. You can get there, reliably.
But there’s also the pleasure of the ride.
Expo gives you a new appreciation for Los Angeles. Who knew there was a giant Natural History Museum? Who knew that the USC campus
was so beautiful, a Harvard in sunny tan brick? There are odd surprises along the way: The LA Int’l. Fencing Center; a training facility for telephone lineman near downtown; and the Santa Monica marble yard.
Besides the hits listed above, my day-in-downtown included these nuggets:
Where does Wilshire Boulevard begin? At the One Wilshire Building (of course) at Wilshire and South Grand Avenue.
Where can you see a giant photo of the 1937 Academy Awards dinner? At the Millennium Biltmore, which has a time-capsule, Old-Los-Angeles lobby—swags and putti, pilasters and parquet, and a frosted-glass skylight. That photo, along with many others, is in the hallway leading to the restrooms. Oh, and lower left is Cecil B. DeMille and lower right, a very young Henry Fonda.
Where to have a sky-view lunch? At 71Above, a glass-walled eyrie 71 stories above downtown. I turned down a table at the window edge because the view is so vertigo inducing. But six feet back you have LA unrolled before you: The Hollywood Sign off to the right, freeways zigging and zagging (and glittering windshields making them appear like a diamond necklaces), Mid-Wilshire sticking up like a Monopoly symbol, the Blue Whale just a glint in West Hollywood, and to the left, at eye level about a mile away, a wide-body on final approach to LAX. As lunch progresses, the flights from Asia on A380s and 747s start to arrive, coming down Wilshire and then making the turn above and before the building.
And then, back to the beach—fast—at rush hour. And in this, the Expo Line resembles jet travel, except for the fare. A complete change of scene, in 45 minutes, for $4.50, $1.75 each way, plus $1 for the TAP fare card. It’s a ticket to ride.