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Forget all the negative information about public traffic in LA. It's just as good and safe as anywhere in the world. Take the bus and metro and see it's fairly reliable and that drivers are friendly and polite (towards every person!). Same goes for security people. Just take that bus, stop complaining and meet the world!
There are over 200 metro bus lines and 6 metro rail lines in the Los Angeles area that are run by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). You can get to almost anywhere in the developed parts of Los Angeles County on Metro and/or on other local transit services. Some transfers are quick and easy; others, less so. Detailed information, along with a trip planner, can be found here: http://www.metro.net/default.asp
The metro rail lines are:
1. Green line Metro Rail (above ground): Runs east/west between Norwalk and Redondo Beach with a stop at LAX (Note: the Green Line's trains do not service the beach itself; you must transfer to a Bay Cities Transit bus to reach the beach.. Similarly, the LAX station for the Green Line is not at LAX. A shuttle bus meets the train and transfers passengers to the airport.
2. Red Line Metro Rail (underground): Service between Union Station (Downtown), Mid-Wilshire area, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley (Universal Studios and North Hollywood).
3. Purple Line Metro Rail (underground) Service between Union Station (Downtown), Mid-Wilshire area and Koreatown.
4. Blue Line Metro Rail (mostly above ground): Runs north/south between Los Angeles and Long Beach.
6. Expo Line Metro Rail: Runs from downtown L.A. to Culver City and, eventually, will continue to the ocean.
Other Public Transit LInes:
Orange Line Metro Transit Way (from North Hollywood to Woodland Hills/Warner): Metro names this line with a color (Orange) like the metro RAIL lines but classifies it as a "transit way". It operates like a rail line in that it runs on a separate "right of way" (its own roadway) but it uses buses.
Santa Monica, Venice and much of the "'west side" is accessible only by bus. Sometimes, more than one bus needs to be taken. Unlike the metro rail, the metro buses are affected by automobile traffic, making the ride longest during rush hours (weekdays between 6 and 9 in the morning and between 2:30 and 7:00 in the afternoon and evening).Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus #3 runs frequently along Lincoln Blvd (a street which is sometimes referred to as 'Route 1'), connects easily to the Culver City Bus #1 directly to Venice Beach, and also goes directly into Santa Monica. The #3 also services LAX via the LAX "Transit Center" a bus depot adjacent to LAX, accessible to LAX passengers via a free shuttle bus that serves the adjacent parking area for the airport. The shuttle bus is known as the "Parking Lot C" shuttle.
Some buses stop at almost every corner -- These buses are numbered between 1 and 299. Other buses stop at only "popular" stops which make the rides faster. These buses are numbered above 299.
The fare is $1.75 for each Metro bus or Metro rail ride and must be paid in exact cash. A DAY PASS is available on all lines for $7. Seniors/Pensioners (those 62 or over) pay $1.80 for the DAY PASS. You need to purchase a reuseable TAP CARD on which to load your PASSES. Single fares on Metro buses may be paid in cash (without using a TAP CARD). Single Fares on Metro Rail lines must be paid using a TAP CARD. Detailed info about the Metro system, the use of TAP CARDS, the types of passes that are available and the places at which to purchase TAP CARDS and PASSES can be found in this article: Getting Around Los Angeles
You will have to pay a surcharge over the $1.75 single fare or in addition to the Day Pass, if you have presented one, if you board a bus that goes outside the "local territory" of Los Angeles and enters one of the "outer zones". It is not likely that you will take one of these "outer zone" routes but, if you do, the driver will alert you as to the surcharge.
As for transfers, METRO only issues transfers for other bus companies (known as 'Municipal Lines" or "Muni Lines"), e.g.. Santa Monica, Culver city, Foothill, etc. for 35 cents (10 cents for disabled passengers). To transfer from a Metro bus or Metro rail train to another Metro bus or metro rail train, you must either show a DAY PASS or pay a SINGLE FARE on the first bus or metro rail train by USING A TAP CARD. When you use a TAP CARD to pay your fare -- even if the TAP CARD only has sufficient fare for one ride ($1.75), you may use the TAP CARD to pay for onward transfers on Metro as long as the onward transfers are taken within 2 hours of the commencement of the first transfer and do not head back to your starting point. Again, detailed info about Metro can be found in this article: Getting Around Los Angeles
This includes transferring from one metro rail train to another metro rail train. There are no free transfers unless you use the TAP CARD as illustrated in the previous paragraph.
Here are a few bus services that can be particularly useful to the visitor.
DASH operates short distance buses in many parts of the city of Los Angeles. In Downtown Los Angeles, on weekdays, six different DASH lines crisscross the area, serving destinations such as Little Tokyo, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Pershing Square. The DASH system is popular in many neighborhoods besides downtown L.A. There are 27 routes in total. They're great for short trips within the local area.
Line 720--MTA Wilshire Rapid bus--The Wilshire Rapid bus is a very frequent (as often as every 3 minutes during rush hour) bus line connecting Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, the Wilshire Bl museum area (the Los Angeles County Art Museum. La Brea Tar Pits, Page Museum, Petersen Automotive Museum), Koreatown, and Downtown Los Angeles and Montebello. Because the Rapid only stops at major streets and gets preferential treatment on traffic signals, it is far faster than a regular bus. Regular METRO fare and transfers apply
Lines #217 and #780 -- These buses follow similar routes and are handy for tourists since they connect Hollywood with the Beverly Grove area. Popular stops include the corner of Hollywood Bl & Vine St, the corner of Hollywood Bl & Highland Av (both of these intersections have red line metro rail stations), the corner of Sunset Bl & Fairfax Av (transfer there to the #2 bus westbound to the Sunset Strip), the corner of Fairfax Av& Santa Monica Bl (transfer here for the #704 bus westbound to Beverly Hills and Santa Monica), the corner of Fairfax Av & Wilshire Bl (get off here for LACMA -- the L.A. County Art Museum -- the Petersen Automotive Museum, the Page Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits. You can also transfer, here to the Line 720 bus mentioned above (eastbound into Koreatown, downtown Los Angeles and Montebello; westbound to Beverly Hills, Westwood, Brentwood and Santa Monica).
Big Blue Bus (Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines): The Big Blue Bus is the City of Santa Monica's efficient and cheap ($1) bus service. You can transfer from a METRO bus to a Big Blue Bus for 50 cents. Transferring from a Big Blue Bus to a Metro Bus will also cost 50 cents. You must pay these extra fees on the bus from which you are transferring. You will be given a "transfer ticket" from that bus which you will present to the driver of the subsequent bus in order to gain admittance. Most transfers expire 2 hours after they are provided. From Downtown Santa Monica (near the 3rd St. Promenade) this bus company offers routes that connect to Venice, Westwood, UCLA, Century City, and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), as well as providing freeway express service ($2) to Downtown Los Angeles. Call 310-451-5444.or visit http://www.bigbluebus.com.
LAX Flyaway Shuttles: From Union Station in downtown there is an easy shuttle directly to LAX for only $7. It leaves every 1/2 hour during the day and every hour during late night/early morning. There are additional Flyaway buses between LAX and the following neighborhoods: Westwood, Van Nuys, Santa Monica and Hollywood. It may be possible to check your luggage (for your DOMESTIC flight) at these 5 stations before boarding the bus to LAX. Check with your airline to make sure that they are participating in the Flyaway Baggage Checkin program.
METRO has maps of the rail system and bus system. Go to www.metro.net and look in the lower left corner under the heading "HOW TO RIDE" for a list of maps. Metro rail trains run every 12 minutes (or more frequently) every day (some lines close down around midnight), . Bus lines running on main streets run almost as often as the trains but they do run later than the trains in most cases.