You can’t or don’t want to drive in L.A.?
No worries, visiting Los Angeles without a car is totally doable with this comprehensive guide to Los Angeles public transportation.
“…wait, WHAT?? You are taking the BUS?? Are you fucking KIDDING ME???”
Welcome to Los Angeles! This was my friend Tracy’s reaction the first time I told her I was gonna take the bus. And everyone else reaction, to be honest.
For some not-very-clear reasons saying “bus” in L.A. Is like saying Voldemort in Harry Potter…simply something unpronounceable.
Yet, visiting Los Angeles without a car is
impossible totally doable if you can’t or don’t want to drive (and a much more sustainable option as well).
There are a few very common misconceptions: first, that the Los Angeles public transportation network is pretty much non existant (False!); second, taking the bus is so dangerous that you are probably going to be killed (So Very False!); last, that buses are very dirty and smell bad (there are exceptions, but in general False).
The thing is, Los Angeles (and California in general) culture is so carcentric that most of the locals have never taken the bus once in their life, so you shouldn’t listen to them. You are going to hear it, so just be prepared and nod…then go ahead and take that bus!
Here it’s a comprehensive guide to Los Angeles public transportation: visiting Los Angeles without a car will never be a problem again!
If you are planning on relying on public transportation while in Los Angeles, it helps to be located in a central, well linked neighborhood.
You might want to look for a hotel in Hollywood, Santa Monica, Westwood or Mid-Town so it’ll be easier to move around.
Los Angeles is like any other big city, some neighborhoods are safer than others: avoid going to rough places after dark, just listen to your guts whenever and you won’t have any problems. I constantly took the bus while I was studying at UCLA and never had issues.
Pay a little more attention at night time, if you are a girl alone and/or you feel uncomfortable, you might want to sit or stand close to the driver.
It’s hard to figure out which bus to take and where to take it: wo tools I find very useful to see how to get from place A to place B are the Metro Trip Planner (very easy to use) and the Go Metro Los Angeles V2, an app to use on the go (it’s downloadable on the AppStore and GooglePlay).
If you prefer, Google Route Planner on Google Maps does the trick as well (it works all around the world!).
THE BUS NETWORK
The Los Angeles bus network allows you to get pretty much anywhere in the city, but it can be difficult to navigate as it is actually composed by the city Metro company plus other municipal bus operators such as Big Blue Bus and other I’ve outlined below.
A general tip: remember to bring the exact change when you board a bus, drivers won’t give you any money back.
METRO BUS SYSTEM
Bus tickets costs $1.75, $2.50 if you board a Metro Express bus; if you plan on using the network quite a bit, it might be convenient to buy either a Metro Day Pass ($7) or a 7-Day Pass ($25).
You can’t buy a transfer to another Metro bus system but you can actually buy a transfer to a Big Blud bus or to other networks’ buses if you need to board it within 2 hours: just tell the driver that you need a transfer, it will only cost you $0.50.
There are 3 different types of Metro bus lines (I know, it sounds complicated but really it’s not), in total the network includes 200 different lines driving all around the Greater Los Angeles area.
You recognize the different types because they are painted differently:
- Metro Local buses are orange and make many stops on the way; pretty much they stop on each block, which means it can take a long time if you have to cross the whole city (going from Westwood to Downtown Los Angeles take 1 hour 15 minutes).
- Metro Rapid buses are red, make fewer stops so are much faster
- Metro Express buses are blue, and they are the fastest of all because they run on the freeway (stops are very far from each other of course).
In general use these to cover long distances, while choose the Metro Local and Metro Rapid if you don’t have to go too far.
The Dash Transit provides short distance rides in Downtown and other Los Angeles neighborhood. DASH website says that “each route is designed to serve travel within that neighborhood and to connect to other regional transit services such as Metro Rapid and local routes, Metrolink and Metro rail lines”.
From a tourist point of view, you can use it especially to travel around Downtown, as tickets cost 50 cents.
Look at the schedules on DASH website.
BIG BLUE BUS
When you see a Big Blue Bus you recognize immediately: as the name says, it’s bright blue!
The Big Blue Bus is the Santa Monica bus operates linking multiple destinations, including Downtown Los Angeles, Mid-City and LAX, to Santa Monica and the rest of Los Angeles Westside (which includes Century City, Westwood/UCLA and Venice)
For example, you are in the Westside and need to go and get the Metro Rail, you can just take a Big Blue Bus 7 to Pico station and transfer there.
When it is possible, I strongly suggest taking a Big Blue Bus rather than a Metro one: they are more modern, usually faster and cheaper (a one way ticket costs 1$).
For $ 0.50 more you can purchase a transfer ticket which allows you to board free of charge in the following 2 hours a Metro Bus, Metro Rail or a bus of these other compaies: Beach Cities Transit, Culver City Bus, Foothill Transit, Gardena, Montebello, Santa Clarita Transit and Torrance Transit.
You CANNOT buy a transfer ticket if you have to board another Big Blue Bus, in this case you will have to buy two single tickets.
CULVER CITY BUSES
If we talked about blue buses before, this is the time of a fleet of buses painted bright green.
Culver City Buses serve only the Los Angeles Westside area (Blair Hills, Century City, Culver City, Mar Vista, Marina Del Rey, Palms, Venice Beach, Westwood and Westchester).
For informations and the schedules look on the Culver City website.
Some of the routes are very similar to the Metro buses’ ones, but taking a Culver City Bus costs $1, and transfers to another Culver City Bus only $0.25 (always to be asked and to be paid for when you board the first bus).
You can also ask for a transfer for another company’s bus, in this case the transfer costs $0.40 (for example, if you need to take a Culver City Bus then a Metro Bus or a Big Blue Bus, the ticket in total will cost $1.40, still cheaper than a single Metro Bus).
Just so you know, there are many other municipal companies in the Los Angeles Area serving specific areas and cities (did I tell you that the greater Los Angeles is actually an agglomerate of different cities?), but they are usually outside the tourist routes.