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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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! 🙂
Like it? Pin it!
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.