Public Transport in Los Angeles
Destinations,  North America,  USA

How to Use Public Transport in Los Angeles

Last Updated on October 25, 2022 by Lina

Los Angeles is known as the world’s greatest car city. Therefore, the majority of people I spoke with assured me that renting a car is definitely a must. However, despite all the information I received about the traffic in LA, I decided to explore the city just by using public transportation. To show you how easy and beneficial it was, I wrote this blog post about how to use public transport in Los Angeles.

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a certain percentage of a sale if you purchase after clicking.)

The entire public transport system mainly consists of buses, light rails, subways and shuttles stopping at every corner of the city. To get around I mainly used three services: Metro, DASH and FlyAway.

TIP: Before you go to Los Angeles, don’t forget your travel insurance to cover non-refundable travel expenses. I use the simple and flexible one from World Nomads to be protected against unforeseen events.

Metro

First of all, “Metro” in Los Angeles is the name of the regional transit service which means it’s NOT subway only. Initially, I thought I can go everywhere just by taking the underground train. However, there are only two subway lines:

Subway System

Red Line: The original subway line starts from Union Station and goes all the way up to North Hollywood. It includes stops near Grand Park, Grand Central Market, Walk of Fame and Universal Studios. I mainly used this subway line because my accommodation was located near the Walk of Fame and thus the station was close by.

Purple Line: This subway line shares the red line tracks from Union Station until the stop Wilshire/Vermont and then continues its way to Westwood. Unfortunately, so far it ends in Koreatown already since the rest of the track is still under construction. Apparently, it should be completed within the next five years.

Bus System

Besides these two rather poorly developed subway lines, Metro operates a large network of buses. With almost 200 different lines, it is by far better to use than the underground train and brings you from one end to the other.

Moreover, the majority of these bus lines provide access to Metro Rail stations as well.

The entire bus system is basically divided into four different kinds of services: Local, Rapid, Express and BRT (bus rapid transit):

  • The orange-painted Metro Local line stops at all significant streets everywhere in the city.
  • The red-painted Metro Rapid has special transponders and therefore gets preferred by traffic lights which makes it move faster than other buses. However, this line offers fewer stops than the orange line.
  • The blue Metro Express stops all along the freeway systems.
  • The Metro Silver Line (BRT) connects South Bay and Downtown LA
  • The Metro Orange Line (BRT) goes from North Hollywood to Woodland Hills

The good thing is you can find bus stops at almost every corner of the city. No matter where you are, there will be a stop approximately 5 – 10 minutes away from you. At least that’s what I felt.

Moreover, what really helped me with finding the next bus stop was Transit. It’s a really helpful app that shows you the exact location of the next bus stop. Additionally, it tells you what kind of transportation is the fastest to go somewhere.

Another great source to find and book bus tickets is Wanderu. It’s perfect for anyone traveling in LA on a budget!



Light Rail System

The third and last service Metro offers is the Light Rail System. These trains are a bit slower than subway lines and often take the same road as cars.

Nevertheless, they’re still an efficient way to get around. In total, the system consists of four different lines:

  • The Blue Line was the first line built and runs from Downtown to South LA and Long Beach.
  • The Green Line starts at Norwalk and goes to South Bay, including a stop near LAX. However, you still have to take a shuttle to go to the airport.
  • The Gold Line connects East Los Angeles and Azusa in San Gabriel Valley.
  • The Expo Line is the newest light rail line and runs from Downtown LA all the way to Santa Monica Beach. I used this line to go to Santa Monica and it didn’t take me more than 45 minutes to get there.

How To Use Metro Services

Before boarding any bus or train, the first thing you need to get is a TAP Card. This card is available at all rail or subway stations and you need to pay $1 surcharge for it.

Now you have the choice to either just buy a single ride which is $1.75 or fill your card with day passes starting at $7.

I spent a week in LA so therefore I loaded a 7-Day pass on my card that cost me only $25 and was valid for all public transport systems in Los Angeles operated by Metro. As soon as you want to take a ride, the only thing you need to do is to hold your TAP Card against one of the marked terminals.

That’s it. Super easy, affordable and you can keep the card for your next visit.

Click HERE to find a current Metro Map.


DASH

In addition to the Metro bus system, the company LADOT offers another great opportunity to travel by bus. DASH is a very cheap and frequent bus service taking you all across Los Angeles.

Even though the TAP Card is not valid for this service, it’s still a great and inexpensive alternative as a single fare costs only $0.50.

Therefore I used it a couple of times, for example after I watched the sunset at Griffith Observatory because there’s a DASH stop only a few meters away.


FlyAway

As the name may tell you already, FlyAway is a non-stop bus service to LAX departing from seven different stops in LA. Departure time varies, but it leaves approximately every hour from a specific stop somewhere in the city.

Fares are between $8 (Hollywood) and $10 (Westwood) for one way. You can either buy tickets online or simply pay directly on the bus.

Here’s a little side note you may find useful if you consider taking the FlyAway bus to or from the airport: The buses are old. Like, really old. Thus the entire drive was a completely bumpy ride.

Fun fact: Our driver even advised everyone with a sensitive stomach to leave the bus before departure.


Why You Should Use Public Transport in Los Angeles

As you can see, it’s super easy to get around in Los Angeles just by using public transport. Now you probably wonder why you should take the bus or train if a car is much more convenient.

Here are some reasons why I recommend you to go for public transportation:

  1. You can save a lot of money. The costs of using public transportation are way less than renting a car. I paid not even $45 for the entire week.
  2. You can save time and nerves. Especially during rush hour, I would highly recommend you to switch to public transport. You don’t want to waste your precious time in traffic jams.
  3. You don’t have the struggles of finding a parking spot which can be a real challenge in a city like LA.

I hope you found this blog post helpful and maybe consider taking public transportation the next time you’re in LA. Although its reputation isn’t the best, I can honestly suggest exploring the city by bus, subway, or train.

Moreover, if you have any other questions or want to have some more detailed information just send me a message! 🙂


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Do you want to travel like me?
Here are some of my favorite travel tips and resources:

Flights: I prefer using CheapOair or Skyscanner to book flights. The destination everywhere feature is perfect for finding some cheap deals!

Accommodation: Booking.com is my favorite site to find some great hotel deals. I do love staying at a local place as well, thus I book an Airbnb every now and then.

Travel Insurance: There are many reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having one. I use the simple and flexible one from World Nomads to be protected against unforeseen events.

Tours: I love taking tours to explore destinations like a local. My favorite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.

Camera Gear: I use a Nikon D5300 camera with an 18-105 mm and a 10-20 mm wide-angle lens to take my photos.   


22 Comments

  • Sarah Mark

    I have never been to LA but whenever I see it on TV there just seems to be cars everywhere! From what you’ve described it seems so much easier to use public transport. Your post is so detailed if I ever visit the city I will definitely know how to get around.

    • worldoflina

      Haha that’s exactly how it is. Especially during rush hour it’s very bad and it takes you half an eternity to go somewhere that’s actually nearby.
      For me it was really convenient and easy to use. Sure the entire network is by far not that good as for example in many European cities but with the right information it’s good to use.
      I’m super happy you find it useful! You need to tell me how it was afterwards! 🙂

  • Anna

    I visited LA as part of a 9 day road trip in California sto we rented a car (split between 4 persons it was the cheapest of our expenses). Still I used bus to get from LAX to Venice Beach before my friends arrived (so we could hire the car) and returned to LAX to meet them. The difficult part was to get from the airport building to the bus depot. After asking 5 people I found my way!! Personally I could not imagine visiting LA without a car and we were lucky with the traffic thankfully!

    • worldoflina

      Haha that’s exactly what people told me so I really startet worrying. Thus I looked up everything and planned a lot 🙂 So it was really not that bad.
      Would love to go back to LA and get around with a rental car so I can compare it ?

  • Shannon Phillips

    I went to Cali last summer and would have much rather have wanted to take public transportation over renting a car (especially after reading this!) such a good read, thanks for sharing girl!

  • Emma Haydon

    Hi! Thanks so much for this article. I’m going to LA in March next year and planning to travel around purely on public transport, so it’s really helpful and very reassuring to find that it is possible 🙂 thanks.

    • worldoflina

      Hey Emma! Yes it is definitely possible, it will sometimes take a bit longer than with the car ☺️ But during rush hour it’s way faster ? Have a good time and let me know if you have questions ☺️

  • Rhonda Albom

    I am embarrassed to admit but I didn’t know that LA had a public transit system and I have been there several times (always with a car). I am most surprised there is a subway.

  • Bliss Eatts

    I’d always been told that you should hire a car in LA, so this is a great guide to show that you don’t actually need one.

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