How to Explore Los Angeles Using Public Transportation

metro-rapidWhen it comes to getting from point to point using public transportation in Los Angeles, you “go Metro.” The Los Angeles Metro system is made up of Metro Rail, Metro Rapid and Metro Local.

The ever expanding Metro Rail network is quickly becoming a popular alternative to braving the LA traffic. LA’s Metro Rail system includes the Metro Blue, Green, Red and Gold Lines. The Metro Blue Line runs north and south between Long Beach and Los Angeles. The Metro Green crosses the the Blue Line running east and west between Redondo Beach and Norwalk (curving south near LAX). The Metro Red Line meets the Blue Line in Los Angeles and provides service through Downtown, Mid-Wilshire, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley where it meets the Metro Orange Line transitway. The Metro Gold Line connects with the Red Line at Union Station and runs northeast to Pasadena.

metrorapidThe Metro Rapid is LA’s special rapid bus transit system. Featuring the latest in transit technology, Metro Rapid buses are equipped with special transponders that cause traffic signals to favor the bus; green lights last longer while red lights are shorter.  Making fewer stops, Rapid buses only stop at major intersections and transfer points.

The Metro Local is LA’s bus service which includes local, limited-stop and shuttle bus services. Metro Local buses have route numbers that indicate the type of service offered.

To plan your travel route, visit the Metro Trip Planner and simply enter information about your trip. Locations can be entered in one of four ways. Landmarks (Union Station) and intersections (Hollywood/Highland) are two simple ways to indicate your location or destination.

For example:

When I type that I want to travel from the Santa Monica Pier to Hollywood and Highland at 10am, the results show that the 9:37am Metro Rapid Express 920 heading north from OCEAN AV/COLORADO AV connects to the Metro Rapid 780 at FAIRFAX AV/WILSHIRE BLVD and arrives at HOLLYWOOD BLVD/HIGHLAND AV at 10:45am for a total of $2.50.

When I type that I want to travel from LAX to the LA Convention Center, today at 10am, results show that there is a bus for $6.00 that leaves from the TOM BRADLEY TERMINAL at 9:31am and arrives at PATSAOURAS PLAZA/BUS BAY 9 at 10:20am. Here you have 10 minutes to change to Metro Express Line 445 from PATSAOURAS PLAZA/BUS BAY 7 which arrives at the FIGUEROA ST/PICO BLVD at 10:47am for $1.25. As you see, for a total of $7.25 you can travel from LAX to Downtown LA in 1 hour and 15 minutes.

5 thoughts on “How to Explore Los Angeles Using Public Transportation

  • This is so funny that you posted this today — I just used and to plan my trip this Saturday to go hiking in Griffith Park. The LA Metro system is kind of a let down if you’ve traveled in Europe or even other big cities like Chicago or NYC, but since I don’t have a car (I only live there in the summer, for internships) it is good enough to get around when my skateboard is going to take too long. Just be prepared for trips to take a while, and always try to be there a few minutes before the bus is scheduled to leave! A few times last summer my bus to work came close to 5 minutes early, and the drivers don’t wait around. Also, if they don’t see anyone at a stop, they won’t stop to let anyone on. (You can signal to the driver that want to get off, though, by pulling a cord above your head.)

    Thanks for the post! Very informative about the different sorts of options you have in LA. One more, that many people don’t know about unless you live there, is the Beach Cities Transit. This goes from LAX down to Redondo Beach (at least, I am not sure if it goes any farther). Really convenient if you want to get to the beach cities (Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo, and then El Segundo sort of counts)!

  • It would be really nice to have something efficient on the West Side.

    Unfortunately all of the LUCE (land use circulation element) proposals for the light rail do not include enough statistics as to how this will improve life + traffic in Los Angeles.


    Jodi Summers
    The SoCal Investment Real Estate Group
    Sotheby’s International Realty
    Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. -Theodore Roosevelt

  • Very interesting. While it certainly is possible to travel in L.A. via public transportation, I find it generally ineffective and time consuming. In my experience, a trip that would be a 30 minute drive will take double that on buses and require several connections. It’s one of the most maddening things about living here, particularly on the Westside. While one should certainly explore public transportation options, if you’re visiting L.A. and are only here a short time, I think renting a car is going to allow you to cover more ground at your leisure.

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