A Little Travel Snobbery…Los Angeles Public Transportation Doesn’t Suck!

Right here and now I am going to cop to my own travel snobbery…I used to never ride public transit in the US. That’s what your car is for…

Over the past year I gamely embraced the adventure of using rickety chicken buses in Central America, open-air tuk-tuks in SEA, bikes throughout Amsterdam and yet last week I scoffed and whined at the idea of being forced to ride the metro in LA.

New York? Of course you ride it there.

Same with Chicago, DC, and Boston. I was fine with the idea of catching a train or bus in any of these cities.

But I lived in LA for two years and for no other reason than assumption and ignorance I assumed the LA metro transit sucked as hard as the legendary freeway gridlock (which counts out riding the public bus as well unless you want a very real exercise in patience). I never even once used the LA metro system while I lived there for two years.

Oh, how my life could have been so much better. It was so simple.

Tourists Posing at the Hollywood Walk of Fame

I ducked underneath the raised cameras of tourists near Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, side-stepped the wackily clad actors on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, grinned at the people crouched on the ground and modeling next to handprints and footprints, and then escaped down a wide staircase and was rapidly in an environment that I recognized – public transportation in the form of LA’s incredibly simple subway system.

Hollywood and Highland Metro in Los Angeles

LA’s metro system doesn’t even begin to compare with the extensive network of London’s tube system or the vast color coding (nightmare) that is the Times Square stop in NYC.

Traveling LA on Public Transit, Metro Style

Instead I had just one option at this stop; there are only a handful of subway lines to choose from but as a tourist it totally covers all of the popular areas although it doesn’t even begin to touch on the whole of LA County. If you’re passing through LA briefly you’re likely well covered (it leaves from LAX airport and runs into downtown or Hollywood!). As a local I would have had a very effective way to get to auditions if only my travel snobbery hadn’t prejudiced me against the subway.

It’s color coded just like most subway systems. It’s clearly marked. And it’s simple.

It’s all you could ask for really.

I made it from a couch in Hollywood to another couch in Pasadena, during LA’s legendary Friday rush hour traffic, in just 50 minutes. And my friends on either side were saved some incredible traffic frustration.

Los Angeles Union Station

Compare that to the last audition that I ever went on in LA, where I sat in 2:00pm (ie. senseless) traffic for 2.5 hours going HALF that same distance and in fact never made it to my destination before I got so frustrated, teared up, pulled off the road and sat at a restaurant eating instead of my going to my audition.

Life could have been so very different.

No worries though, my travel snobbery has been beaten into submission.

LA’s metro system rocks.

If you go there, use it. You will love it too.

Quick Travel Tips: Los Angeles Public Transport

How much: One-way is just $1.50. All day pass is $6.
Where: Check the routes at: http://www.metro.net/ and you can buy your fare cards inside any of the metro stop stations.
Extra Tip: Stick to the metro if you can, the buses will still be stuck in gridlock!

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16 Responses to A Little Travel Snobbery…Los Angeles Public Transportation Doesn’t Suck!

  1. Jaime November 11, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    Transit systems in any city can seem daunting, and most people don’t think of navigating LA in that fashion, however, it truly is such an easy way to get around the big city. People just have to put their fear of public transport aside and try it out!

    • Anonymous November 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

      It’s so true, the fear of public transportation is a very American trait –
      we are simply not used to using it!

  2. Anonymous October 18, 2010 at 7:11 am #

    That sounds pretty reasonably priced too. In Tokyo I paid close to $1 a minute for public transport in places. Although it is reliable, car’s aren’t used so much here anymore as the public transport is so good and cycle paths are abundant.

    • Anonymous October 18, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

      A buck a minute! That is wildly expensive, holy cow, that definitely makes
      LA seem cheap in comparison – but good to know that the public transit is
      awesome, that’s a place that it’d be great for more cities around the world
      to reach.

  3. Emily @ Maiden Voyage October 17, 2010 at 11:37 pm #

    How did I not know that LA had a Metro system??? I knew there were commuter rails outside the city, but had no clue the city itself had a subway system. I’ve been there twice and we rented a car and drove everywhere (and walked around in certain areas). How funny that all tourists know to ride the Metro in NYC, but it is little-known in LA. I’ll have to give it a shot next time :)

    • Anonymous October 18, 2010 at 12:40 am #

      Those same commuter rails go underground when they hit downtown and
      Hollywood! I was amazed by the discovery. I’m not convinced that you could
      easily go *everywhere* you want without renting a car, but you could
      certainly do most of it and save the hassle of driving and parking :)

  4. Booklady October 16, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

    Thanks for your LA transportation review. You make it sound almost enjoyable.

    • Anonymous October 18, 2010 at 12:34 am #

      It is actually so nice to be able to sit back and relax rather than stuck in
      gridlock traffic – taking the metro has actually transformed my opinion of
      visiting LA now that I discovered it!

  5. Nomadic Chick October 16, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    Wow, the one way is incredibly cheap, even in Canadian dollars. Isn’t it nice when you make a great discovery?

    • Anonymous October 18, 2010 at 12:33 am #

      I know right! I am so glad that I used it because it makes visiting my
      friends in LA a whole so much easier and nice, before this discovery I
      always felt the need to rent a car!

  6. Maria October 16, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    I love this post! Great that you changed your mind about public transport in LA. :) One of my favourite things to do when I visit a foreign country is trying out the public transport.
    When I worked on the ship, we berthed in Long Beach and I spent a few days travelling around greater LA using public transport. There was some sort of tram/train from Long Beach to LA, and from there I changed to the underground to visit hollywood etc. Loved it!

    • Anonymous October 18, 2010 at 12:32 am #

      That’s always my attitude as well in a new country, so it really was a
      bizzare form of snobbery to never use it in LA – I didn’t even know that
      they had something going out to Long Beach – that makes it even better! :)

  7. Lori Henry October 15, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    What?? I had no idea! I guess I just never thought of public transit in LA as an option…

    • Anonymous October 18, 2010 at 12:30 am #

      I really hadn’t ever heard of someone using it until this time around – it
      wont take you everywhere, but it will def come in handy if you’re visiting.

  8. Audrey October 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    I remember visiting a friend in LA years ago and her husband used public transport there. Her attitude was, “Well, he’s British. He doesn’t know any better.” We were visiting from Prague and thinking how sad it was that more people didn’t take public transport around the city.

    Now I’ve got something more to add to my wish list next time I visit LA!

    • Anonymous October 18, 2010 at 12:28 am #

      It’s sad that that is completely a normal attitude in the states; I’m glad
      to give you guys something to look forward to since most ppl have LA on
      their “never visit unless forced to” list! It really is super simple if
      you’re going somewhere on the route – I was amazed :)

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