The 7.6-mile Expo Line started its regular service this week between downtown Los Angeles and its last stop at La Cienega Boulevard, and I was among the thousands who jumped aboard on Sunday.

Regular fares on Metro’s first westward light-rail line are $1.50, but that weekend rides were free. Metro officials had logged about 44,000 boardings on Saturday.

On Sunday, the train was full, but not uncomfortably so, and riders seemed to be pretty excited to be a part of the Expo Line’s historic first rides.

We rode the train to its last stop at 7th Street and Metro Boulevard, passing Crenshaw Boulevard, the USC-Natural History Museum-Science Center complex, as well Staples Center and Convention Center downtown, among other sights.

With most passengers being Los Angeles natives, or at least longtime residents, it was a little surprising to see the excited reactions of riders as we whizzed past familiar buildings, boulevards and landmarks that they had no doubt seen numerous times before. But there was a sense of newness to the whole experience, and I found myself getting wide-eyed a couple of times as well.

Numerous groups took the opportunity to use the free rides as a family outing. Parents parked their cars, and they and their children piled onto the train, taking pictures and getting a little lesson in train history.

It wasn’t my first train ride, and it was pleasant to see that much of the usual riffraff that has come to be associated with public transportation was absent, as far as I could see. I could tell that other veteran riders were equally grateful. I’d be interested in riding again in a month to see if and how the dynamic changes.

At each stop there were friendly and helpful staff who were giving out pamphlets that included the Expo Line schedules and destination guide, which included the names and addresses of many dining venues near each stop. The staff were also available to answer questions and help ensure safety.

“It’s no secret that our economy is still suffering and that California is one of the states making a valiant effort to keep struggling businesses alive and create more jobs in our communities,” said passenger James Williams. “With the Expo Line in place, it has created more jobs and more opportunities for those who use public transportation regularly, and I feel it’s going to play an essential role for those who travel from the inner city to downtown for work.”

Trains will run about every 12 minutes between about 5 a.m. and 7 p.m., and less frequently late at night. The last run will be just before 1 a.m.

Two stations have yet to open–the Culver City stop at Venice and Robertson boulevards and a station near Dorsey High School at Farmdale Avenue. The Farmdale stop was added late because of concerns for pedestrian safety near the school. Those stops are expected to be completed before the summer.

Phase Two construction will continue west to Santa Monica. Trains will use the old Southern Pacific “Air Line” route west along the Santa Monica (10) Freeway and through West L.A. neighborhoods to Santa Monica, where dual tracks on Colorado Boulevard will end at a Fourth Street terminal, within sight of the ocean.

This final phase is expected to be completed by late 2015 or early 2016. The overall cost is projected at $2.2 billion.