California is a very large, diverse state. Public transportation is available in almost every county in the state, but its effectiveness varies. The San Francisco Bay Area has the most effective system for a variety of reasons and Los Angeles, less effective, and again for various reasons. The article below discusses and provides links for the four largest metro areas in the state.


San Francisco Bay Area

Here, you'll find the best public transit systems in the state, starting with the MUNI system, which includes the famous Cable Cars, buses and the muni subway and light rail systems throughout the city.  The BART Commuter Rail system is a long distance commuter system that services San Francisco International (SFO) and Oakland (OAK) Airports.  Plus there are many more rail systems in the Bay Area, including Cal-Train, ACE, Santa Clara Valley, and more. Plus there are Ferries that get around the Bay area, plus Private companies that offer mainly bus tours of the area.

Check the Top Questions on the San Francisco forum for full descriptions of the Muni system, its fare system, visitor passes and directions to popular visitor sights from the city center. 

Los Angeles 

The two best neighborhoods for public transit are: Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES has 2 public transit hubs:

a. UNION STATION -- an historic, architecturally-signifcant building adjacent to Olvera Street and Chinatown (both, popular tourist destinations) in the northeast corner of downtown L.A.  The station is a transfer point for:

Above-ground trains ( and to:

  • the north -- Santa Barbara, Oakland (San Francisco area) and many other destinations
  • the east -- San Bernadino and other California cities as well as stops in many other states)
  • to the south -- Anaheim/Disneyland area, San Diego and many other cities.

Metro rail trains to:

  • the northeast (Gold line trains to Pasadena)
  • the east (Gold line trains to East Los Angeles)
  • the West (Purple Line Trains to Koreatown)
  • the Northwest (Red line trains to Hollywood/Universal City/North Hollywood)

Buses to all points in the L.A. metro area and beyond.  Some of the more popular routes include:

  • Union Station Flyaway Bus which expresses to/from LAX every 30 minutes (or less frequently at unpopular hours).
  • Santa Monica #10 bus expresses to Santa Monica (runs every 30 minutes most of the day).
  • Metro #704 bus goes to neighborhoods to the west of downtown including Echo Park, Silverlake, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and eventually, Santa Monica

b. 7TH STREET / METRO CENTER STATION -- Transfer point between the red, purple and blue line metro rail trains.  The station is in the center of downtown.

Metro rail trains are as follows:

  1. Eastbound Red & Purple line trains go to Union Station
  2. Westbound Purple line trains go to Koreatown.  The line will eventually extend to Beverly Hills and other stops, ending in the Westwood neighborhood, not far from UCLA (the University).
  3. Northwestbound red line trains go to Hollywood, Universal City and North Hollywood.
  4. Southbound Blue Line trains go to Long Beach which offers a free bus known as the Passport in its Tourist areas along with a number of water taxis costing between $1 and $5 per ride.  Info at:
  5. EXPO Line trains go to USC/Exposition Park (Natural History Museum, etc) and onto the city of Culver City.  The line then continues to the City of Santa Monica with the terminus adjacent to Santa Monica Pier.

Buses to many points in the L.A. metro area and beyond.  Some of the more popular routes accessible from bus stops that are a short walk from 7th St/Metro Center include:

  1. Metro 460 bus to southern districts and cities, eventually reaching Disneyland (a cheap way to reach the theme park but not quickly: the 460 takes between 1 hour, 45 minutes and 2 hours to go from 7th St/Metro Center Station to Disneyland).Quicker options include trains departing from Union Station, followed by a short taxi ride or bus ride to Disneyland).
  2. Rapid 720 Bus to neighborhoods to the west of downtown including Koreatown, Beverly Hills and eventually Santa Monica.
  3. DASH E to Santee Alley/Fashion District

HOLLYWOOD has one major transit hub at the corner of Hollywood Bl & Highland Av.  There's you'll find the following conveyances:

Red line trains to downtown (south) as well as Universal City and North Hollywood (north).

Buses to all points in the metro area.  Popular routes include:

  1. Metro 217 and 780 buses to West Hollywood (Sunset Strip), Farmers Market/The Grove and LACMA (and other museums)
  2. Metro 222 buses to Warner Bros and Bob Hope Airport in Burbank

Also private services, such as Starline Tours (and other tour companies), provide escorted as well as unescorted tours to popular attractions. (no relation to the red line metro rail) offers walking tours of Hollywood.

NOTE: CENTRAL L.A. and the WESTSIDE are served by Metro buses. Metro rail and above-ground service do not serve these areas except as follows: The Expo Line (metro rail) connects 7th Street/Metro Center Station in downtown L.A. with Culver City on the west side of L.A. and is soon to be continuing onto the beach community of Santa Monica).

Detailed info about using the public transit system in L.A. including routes, costs and schedules:

L.A. County Public Transit website (see the previous link for tips on using this site):

Metrolink (above ground trains to outlying areas) website:

Amtrak (above ground trains to outlying areas) website:

Starline Coach Tours website:


The Anaheim/Garden Grove (Orange County)

The Anaheim-Garden Grove Resort area has good public transportation through a variety of agencies, depending on the desired destination. The main public bus system is the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) bus system, which offers bus routes throughout Orange County. There is also Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART), which serves the visitor areas for the theme parks, convention center and sports venues. Anaheim is also served by Amtrak and Metrolink (commuter) trains. Stations that serve the Anaheim area are the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center/ARTIC  (ANA) and the Fullerton Train Station (FUL). 

The transportion is very effective on short trips around the resort area, but can be time consuming to other locations.

Here are two top Questions from the Anaheim Forum that discusses Public/Mass transit in the area.

San Diego

The San Diego Metro area is another large area that has good public transortation.  The San Diego Trolley is a light rail system that covers a small area of the county, but also has service to the Mexican border.  The main transportation hubs are Santa Fe Station in Downtown San Diego and the Old Town Transit Center, both of which have Amtrak, Coaster (commuter rail) and Trolley service.  San Diego is also served by a county wide bus service, The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (SDMTS).


* Note, due to the Americans with Disabilities Act, most public transportation vehicles will be wheelchair-friendly and the websites of the various agencies will have sections where they discuss accessibility issues.

Other Areas of California

Public transportation is available in a surprising number of lightly populated rural areas. For example, the Redwood National Park area has two good local bus systems, the Humboldt Transit Authority / Redwood Transit System and the Redwood Coast Transit.  In the Gold Country, Calaveras County and Amador County provide bus services. For more information about public transportation in rural areas, look up the county or largest town in the area.