SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) — For the first time in decades, a commuter train pulled into Santa Monica Friday, carrying passengers within steps of the beach.

The much-anticipated Metro Expo Line Phase 2 extension stretches from Venice and Robertson boulevards in Culver City to a station located at Colorado Boulevard and Fourth Street in downtown Santa Monica.

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The $1.5 billion, 6.6-mile extension introduces seven new stations to transit riders, with stops in Palms, West Los Angeles and the area just north of Santa Monica College.

Commuters can connect with the Blue, Red and Purple lines to Long Beach, Union Station, North Hollywood or the Mid-Wilshire area from the Seventh Street/Metro Center, located at Seventh and Flower streets.

According to Metro, three stations have paid parking lots costing transit riders $2 per day as part of a two-year pilot program that is being introduced in response to anticipated high demand for parking spaces.

Monthly parking passes for the lots are being sold online. Commuters who purchase these permits will have access to select spaces on a first-come, first-served basis from 4  to 9 a.m. weekdays.

To introduce passengers to the new line, Metro offered free rides on the entire Expo Line from noon through the end of service Saturday.

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The ride from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles is expected to take 46 minutes, according to Metro officials.

CBS@’s Amber Lee spoke to thrilled customers who enjoyed making some of the inaugural rides.

“I’m very excited,” said Santa Monica resident Gretchen Humbert, “I’m on my way to work so this is great.”

The best thing about the ride, she says, is the ability to multi-task — something she can’t do while driving.

“it will save me some time but it will also let me do some stuff while I’m on the train and not be stuck in traffic.”

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