How to Get Around Los Angeles Without a Car
Angelinos love their cars, and they’re masters at scheduling their lives around which freeway to avoid at what time of the day. But there’s only one way to get from point A to point B in this town, right?
Not at all. L.A.’s web of mass transit and for-hire services can get you to, from, and around wherever you may be headed. The trick is in knowing what’s best for your particular destination.
It seems like there’s as many drivers for hire in L.A. as there are non-working actors. Coincidence? It does make sense in terms of supply and demand. Would Seth Rogan take a bus to work?
The city’s 2,300 registered taxis aren’t too hard to find, especially in the Downtown, Hollywood, Wilshire, and West L.A. districts. Fares start at $2.85 plus $2.70 per additional mile. However, you’ll pay almost $30 per hour of waiting time. That could really add up in L.A. traffic.
The countless independent cab operators (literally countless: they’re unregistered) will quote you a flat fee, but the risk of scam and even danger may make you want to think twice before climbing aboard.
Uber and Lyft also use a flat-fee model, which may be why they’re edging the taxi industry off the road. Just summon your car with a tap of the app (free downloads for both). It’s worth noting that the price is competitive with or more favorable than cabbing it. Sure, traffic issues are the same no matter who’s driving, but that’s the price many will pay for time and convenience.
L.A. has more Uber and Lyft users than any other American city; around here it’s usually the best option for door-to-door service. However, riding the rails is a better bet when traveling within the Downtown hub, as we’ll explain shortly.
Car sharing services are a great option for those who prefer to get around on their own terms. Reserve a Zipcar (zipcar.com/find-cars/losangeles), pick it up at one of dozens of L.A. locations, and off you go. The price ($7 an hour or $59 a day) covers gas, insurance, and 180 free miles a day. You’ll also have a one-time $25 application fee no matter what plan you use.
We’re partial to the DASH bus (ladottransit.com/dash), operated by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. The system gets you all around Downtown and to 27 neighborhoods throughout the city, and it’s hard to beat the $0.50 fare. With more than 30 different routes, DASH will get you to L.A.’s most popular destinations: the Arts District, MOCA, Disney Hall, Staples Center, Chinatown, Studio City, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory, and more.
DASH buses run every 7–30 minutes, depending on the route. Because traffic can be a bit, shall we say, unpredictable in L.A., real-time arrival information is available at ladotbus.com. Be sure to check the schedule if you’re riding on the weekend. Not all routes operate on Saturday and fewer yet on Sunday.
Behold the behemoth of mass transit, the Metro (metro.net), serving a whopping 1,433-square-mile area. How do they do it? With 170 bus routes, 1,600 bus stops, two subways, four light rail lines, and 93 rail stations. We highly recommend the Metro Trip Planner (metro.net/riding/trip-planner) to plan your itinerary. It gives you not only bus and train schedules but also walking directions to the appropriate transit stop.
Metro Rule 1: Metro operators don’t carry money. You’ll need a TAP card (Transit Access Pass), available at Metro stations or some 400 vendors around L.A. (taptogo.com).
Technically, the Metro Bus can take you anywhere in Los Angeles County, and fares start at just $1.75. But it can be a l-o-o-o-n-g ride. There are three lines: local buses are Orange and stop at almost every block along their routes. Red ones are called Rapid buses and stop less frequently, thus quickening the pace. Stops on the Blue Metro Express are even fewer and farther between.
Metro Rule 2: When riding the rails, forget everything we said above about colored routes. Red and blue buses have nothing to do with red and blue trains. Except for orange, sort of. The orange bus extends the red train line, which ends at North Hollywood. Oh, and don’t even think about confusing the Metro Express bus with the Expo rail line. Read on…
The Metro rail system is the most efficient way to travel between typical points of interest within the Downtown hub. The Red Line and the Purple Line are subways; they shuttle riders to places like the Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, Grand Central Market, the Arts District, Koreatown, the Civic Center, the Los Angeles Contemporary Arts Museum, and U.C.L.A.
The light rails (Gold, Green, Blue, and Expo lines) overlap with their underground brethren in some places and then go their separate, far-flung ways: Santa Monica, Long Beach, San Gabriel and San Fernando Valley, and, with a transfer, LAX and Redondo Beach.
Good news for London West Hollywood guests: the free CityLineX shuttle bus connects riders to the Red Metro station during peak hours on weekdays. Once Downtown, you can easily get to the other train lines.
Again, it depends on your destination. The free CityLine shuttle bus—not to be confused with the CityLineX shuttle—runs right by the London West Hollywood roughly every 15–20 minutes, Mondays through Saturdays, and winds all around West Hollywood. (Info on CityLine and CityLineX can be found at weho.org/services/public-transportation-transit-options/cityline.)
The Big Blue Bus (bigbluebus.com) links Santa Monica to neighboring areas in western L.A. for only $1.25. Big Blue also has the Rapid 10 line ($2.50), an express route between Santa Monica and Downtown. Day passes are a steal: $4 for unlimited local trips.
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Metro Bike Share (bikeshare.metro.net), one of the fastest and most aerobic ways to get around L.A. 24/7. Just stop by at one of the 65 kiosks (mostly in the Downtown area), swipe your TAP or credit card, choose your bike, and go! But don’t forget the helmet! When you’re all cycled out, return your ride to any Metro Bike station. Single use is $3.50 for 30 minutes.
As always, your concierge can help with logistics or any questions you may have. Happy trails!