From iconic Beach Boys tunes that celebrate hot-rodding to freeway interchanges that are compared to artistic sculptures to institutions like the Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles has long celebrated the car as a symbol of freedom, status, expression and style. But, LA also has an efficient and effective public transportation system that provides Angelenos and visitors alike with a great way to view the region from a different and more collective perspective.
Endless Possibilities: Metro Bus
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is a world class transportation system that provides safe, clean, reliable, on-time, courteous service throughout LA. Metro buses, which cover a geographic area of more than 1,400 square miles and carry about 1 million passengers per day, have 180 separate routes that serve about 16,000 bus stops throughout the region. In short, they’re everywhere. Users can check out a plethora of maps and tables and can even use the website’s “Metro Trip Planner” tool to carve out a particular itinerary by visiting www.metro.net. And, for those looking for the hybrid car-bus-rail experience, there are more than 100 Park & Ride locations throughout the region.
What’s new: Starting in 2012, Metro started selling $5 unlimited, all-day passes that can be used on buses and trains. Also for 2012, Metro has reinstated direct express bus service to Dodger Stadium from Union Station, with game ticket holders riding free. Pre-game service starts 90 minutes prior to first pitch and run at 10-minute intervals before the game.
Exploring the City: Metro Rail
With the 1990 opening of the Metro Blue Line between Downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach, Metro embarked on a train system that now includes about 80 miles of track and 86 stations and serves more than a quarter-million passengers a day. While Downtown LA serves more or less as the heart of the network, each of the half-dozen Metro Rail lines has its own set of attractions. Blue Line riders can explore Downtown Long Beach’s revitalized retail and entertainment district. Green Line passengers can get to Los Angeles International Airport via shuttle bus, as well as to Redondo Beach. Union Station, Chinatown, South Pasadena and Pasadena are among the places to check out off the Gold Line. And the Red Line gives visitors access to Universal City, Central Hollywood and Los Feliz, while letting passengers ride the same line made famous by Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reaves in the movie “Speed.”
What’s new: In April 2012, the 8.6-mile Expo light-rail line running between Downtown Los Angeles and Culver City opened to the public, giving Metro Rail riders direct access to and from USC, Exposition Park and the Crenshaw District. That line will be extended another 6.6 miles into Santa Monica by 2015.
Widened Scope: MetroLink
For broader access to the region in and around Los Angeles, Metrolink provides eight train routes, spanning from Ventura County in the northwest to Orange County in the south to San Bernardino County in the east. Some of the communities served by Metrolink include Burbank, Glendale, Pomona and Northridge. The network also provides direct access from Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport to Downtown LA. Another bonus is that most of the lines run through Los Angeles’ Union Station, an architectural star in its own right and the filming site of dozens of classic movies. And for day-trippers looking to head south, Metrolink hooks riders up to Amtrak, where passengers can head to San Diego via a train route that runs along the Pacific Coast south of Orange County.
What’s new: In 2011, Metrolink added a dozen so-called “bicycle cars,” where about 30 passenger seats have been removed in order to create enough space for as many as two dozen bikes. Those cars will be rotated throughout the network to best serve demand.
Center of the Action: DASH
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation operates more than two dozen DASH bus lines serving Los Angeles proper, including five routes for Downtown Los Angeles alone. Districts like Hollywood, Leimert Park, Highland Park, Studio City, Watts, San Pedro and Koreatown are well-served by the DASH buses, which cost just 50 cents to ride. DASH also has 14 Commuter Express lines, providing efficient weekday access to Downtown LA from areas such as the San Fernando Valley, Venice, Redondo Beach and Palos Verdes.
What’s new: DASH runs a special shuttle that connects riders from the Metro Rail Red Line station in Los Feliz to the Griffith Observatory on Saturdays and Sundays.
Two-Wheeled Motion: Bike
When it comes to public transportation, it doesn’t get too much more public than riding a bicycle on one of LA’s roadways, but that’s getting to be a progressively safer and more enjoyable prospect. The City of Los Angeles, which has about 600 miles of bike lanes, devised a plan in 2011 to add 40 miles of bike lanes every year to ultimately bring its total to about 1,700 miles. While dedicated bike paths like the ones lining Santa Monica Beach, Venice Beach and the San Gabriel River are some of the better known routes in the area, there are Class II dedicated bike lanes all over the region, including the many that criss-cross Santa Monica and others in parts of Brentwood, Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Calabasas, Silver Lake, Long Beach and Lakewood.
What’s new: 2010 marked the first-ever CicLAvia, in which traffic and parked cars are removed from certain streets for part of the day, giving prospective riders a safe passage through the city. (The concept is based on so-called Ciclovias that have taken place in parts of Latin America over the past three decades.) The first two events involved shutting down more than seven miles of road between East Hollywood and Boyle Heights for about five hours, which attracted more than 100,000 riders. More CicLAvias are being planned on a quarterly basis.
One Last Ride: Angels Flight
Self-proclaimed as the world’s shortest railway, Angels Flight, which connects Downtown Los Angeles’s Historic Core to the top of Bunker Hill, marks the continuation of the City’s first funicular service, which ran a few blocks north of its current location from 1901 to 1969. The current, 298-foot-long line offers riders a great view of the Historic Core and the Jewelry District below via its two extremely funky cars. Not to mention the fact that it’s a great way to avoid one steep walk.