I think public transportation is for everyone. Well, everyone who has access to public transit, everyone who has connections to and from where they need to be, and everyone who doesn’t have to schlepp stuff across town too many times during the day.
Okay, maybe it’s not for everybody all the time, and when it fails, it really fails, but when it works, it’s a thing of beauty!
From the first time that I used public transit in 1991 until now, routes have come and gone, metro stops have been moved or canceled, the fares have been raised, transfer tickets have discontinued for Metro to Metro trips, and our political leadership is more likely to support the needs of mass transit passengers with funding, political muscle and prioritization.
Using bus or the rail takes getting used to in any city, especially in Los Angeles and one has to be flexible to adjust to the many changes, especially in Hollywood, where the weekly street closures are making it sometimes difficult to find out what buses are going when and to where.
There are two types of large public transit authorities for local LA County trips:
- DASH: The DASH is operated by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. They cost $0.50 per trip ($0.25 for Seniors over 65, people with Disabilities and Medicare card holders, and the routes are usually local.
- METRO: METRO is the countywide transportation authority, providing a full spectrum of transportation services that include everything from freeway emergency service to bike paths along transit corridors. Its funding comes from sources that include the Federal government and sales tax.
METRO has several types of buses and knowing them will help you choose which to take for your various trips:
- “Orange” colored buses stop at every “station” (about two-five blocks each) For buses to stop, passengers will have to either push the STOP REQUESTED button on the bus or pull the STOP REQUESTED string that hangs by the windows. Some are traditional length and a few are long articulating buses.
- “Red” colored buses and they are also called Rapid, because they only stop about every 1/2 – 1 mile. Every bus in the 700 number is a Rapid bus. For example the 704 connects the East side with the West, 780 connects Pasadena with Hollywood, 733 the West Side to Downtown, etc. Many are long articulating buses while some are the traditional length.
- “Silver” colored buses are called the Silverline which connect cities and they often get on the freeway for the long trips. They stop every 2-5 miles, cost $2.45 per trip and they are fast however transfers can take time, so plan ahead!
Then there is the METRO RAIL which is identified by colors but the trains are not color-coordinated. METRO RAIL takes you quickly to your destination because the rail is dedicated, so it doesn’t get interference from local surface traffic.
- RED LINE: Takes you from from North Hollywood to Downtown Union Station.
- PURPLE LINE: Takes you from Downtown Union Station to Wilshire/Western.
- ORANGE LINE: Takes you from North Hollywood all the way to Warner Center in Woodland Hills.
- GOLD LINE: Takes you from East LA to Union Station and from there to Pasadena.
- GREEN LINE: Takes you from Norwalk to Redondo Beach.
There are three new lines that are under construction:
- EXPO LINE: This train is an extension of the PURPLE LINE. The EXPO LINE will make its first trip on April 28th, 2012 to the La Cienega station. Phase 2 of this line will be completed this summer, which will connect Downtown with Culver City.
- The CRENSHAW LINE and the SUBWAY TO THE VA (Subway to the Sea which doesn’t stop at the Sea. Blah!) are still under construction.
DASH buses are generally great for local trips and the fare is only 50 cents. These local buses don’t have bike racks.
Some DASH routes have been cut unfortunately, so don’t rely on old maps. Be sure to check the LADOT-DASH website for updated routes and information.
I hope you’ll give public transportation a try but before you head out, plan ahead:
- Wear walking shoes (you might have to walk a longer distance than usual if your bus stop has been moved due to construction or street closure).
- Carry dollar bills and quarters for fare.
- Have some water or juice on the road to keep hydrated, especially during the hot summer months.
- Have some reading material. Reading a book, newspaper, study materials, or a magazine is a great way to spend your travel time if you are not the chatty type.
- Have some hand sanitizer with you, especially during flu season. (But this goes even if you drive because flu is everywhere where people are, which means at work, at the grocery store, at networking events, etc.)
- A couple of foldable canvas bags to carry groceries or other stuff in. Plastic rips easily and it’s not very fashionable. You want to look good no matter how you travel.
Traveling with public transit can be super cheap when you consider the various costs of driving: Gas, parking, maintenance, insurance, and of course monthly payments if you lease or buy a car.
Here is the FARE breakdown for METRO:
Metro base fare: $1.50 per trip and $0.55 for Seniors, Disabled or Medicare.
Metro-to-Muni Transfer fee: $0.35 and $0.10 for Seniors, Disabled or Medicare.
Freeway Express add-ons for bus only freeway routes: $0.70 for Zone 1 and $1.40 for Zone 2 and $0.30 for Seniors, Disabled or Medicare for Zone 1 and $0.60 for Seniors, Disabled or Medicare for Zone 2.
Metro day pass is the best deal if you make 4 trips or more at $5 which is good until 3am the next day. Day pass is $1.80 for Seniors, Disabled or Medicare. This day pass can be purchased at Metro Vending Machines (usually at the rail stations and also at the Orange Line bus stations.) You can also purchase a day pass on board of a Metro bus but you need to have a TAP card for that.
Metro Silver Line: $2.45 and $1.15 for Seniors, Disabled or Medicare during peak and $0.85 off-peak times.
Children under 5 can travel for free with a fare-paying adult. Woot!
For more info about fares, TAP card, tokens and rules and regulations, visit metro.net/around/fares.
BIKES: You can travel any metro bus and metro train with your bike. Buses have two racks on front of the bus and Metro trains have designated spots for bikes. The Orange Line bus has three racks.
All Metro train stations have bike racks and some also have bike lockers. If you plan on parking your bike at the train station, be sure to strip it of lights and bags and secure the front and back wheels AND the frame as well as the bike seat. (Visit illuminateLA for tips on how to secure your bike.)
Some tips if you travel with your bike:
- When taking your bike into an elevator, please make room for other passengers.
- When taking your bike onto the escalator, be sure to balance yourself. Some people will push past you and might bump you. So either make room for others to pass you or “be” wide enough so they can’t push past you.
- When walking your bike up or down stairs, leave plenty of room between you and people in front of you. If they stop suddenly, you don’t want to bump your bike against them.
- The train cars are marked on the outside, so you can find your bike area. (Tip: front car always has the bike area right behind the driver. Next car has the bike/luggage area on the opposite side. The third car has the bike/luggage area facing the second car, etc.)
- Some Metro stations have a yellow pad on the ground towards the center of the platform. This yellow pad is indicator for the blind for where the door will open. This is also the area where most passengers will get in since most stairs to the platform lead to the center cars. The center cars therefore are more packed than the end and front cars. Best to go to the front or the end of the train if you have a bike.
- Don’t block doors or walkways when boarding the train. This is important because in an emergency you will not only block your own exit but also that of your friends, family and your fellow travelers. Use the designated large area that is in every Metro car. If people stand or sit on the floor in these designated bike/luggage areas, ask them gently to move, so you can store your bike without blocking the doors.
- Before you put your bike on the rack in front of the bus, strip it of loose stuff, like tools, a bag, etc, so nothing will fall off during the bouncy ride. Also, lock the back wheel to the bike frame with a U-Lock, so the bike can’t be ridden away if someone were to grab it off the rack.
- Before you step off the curb to put your bike on the rack, make sure the bus has come to a complete stand still and make eye contact with the driver so he can acknowledge that he has seen you. Then place your bike on the rack closest to the driver (the inside) if the rack has no bike on it.
- When on the bus, stay at the front, so you can keep an eye on your bike. This way you can see if someone would want to steal your bike, but also, you will remember to take it off the rack when you are ready to leave (it happens quite often that cyclists get off the bus and forget about their bikes).
- When ready to get off the bus at your destination, get off the bus through the front door. Tell the driver before you exit that you are going to take your bike off the rack, so he will know to not move the bus until you lifted your bike off the rack and you are safe.
- If you drop something while loading or unloading your bike, do not bend over to pick it up. You’ll disappear from the bus operator’s view and he will assume you are gone.
For more info on bikes and the Metro, visit metro.net/bikes.
Watch this YouTube video about Bike Safety and download this pdf flyer about bike theft awareness, both of which were created by the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force. If you are looking to refresh your biking skills, take the free Confident City Cycling classes from Sustainable Streets.
Now that you are ready to head out to the streets to find your nearest public transit, here are some fun destinations:
- RED LINE stops at the NoHo Arts District where you’ll find the Academy of TV Arts & Sciences, at Universal Studios, in Hollywood for all the great Hollywood destinations including the Pantages Theatre at Hollywood/Vine, the El Capitan, the Wax Museum, Amoeba Music, Arclight Theater, Little Armenia and Thai Town. It also stops at the Wiltern Theatre, at MacArthur Park (be sure to stop by at Mama’s Hot Tamales), at LA’s Civic Center where you find City Hall, the Courthouse, Downtown’s monthly Art Walk, the Japanese-American Museum, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Mark Taper, MOCA. The Red Line ends (or begins) at Union Station which is across the street from LA’s birthplace, Olvera Street.
- PURPLE LINE: Great stops for all the Downtown destinations that the Red Line goes to as well as the Wiltern Theatre, and Korea Town.
- GREEN LINE stops at the Toyota Sports Center, the Lynnwood Shopping Center as well as Plaza Mexico, and almost gets you to the airport. (I still favor the Flyaway from Union Station when I’m going to the airport. You can catch the Flyaway from Irvine, Van Nuys and Westwood as well.)
- BLUE LINE stops at the Staples Center, LA Live, The Convention Center, the Grand Olympic Auditorium, the Alameda Swap Meet, Roosevelt Park, Watts Towers, Compton City Hall and Courthouse, the MLK Jr. Memorial Mall, Wilson Park, as well as the Veteran’s Memorial Park, Lincoln Park and the Long Beach City Place and the Found Theatre. There’s no better way to get to LB than on the Blue Line.
- GOLD LINE stops at Victoria Park, the Pasadena Playhouse, Pasadena, the Fremont Center Theatre, Meridian Ironworks Museum, LA Police Historical Museum, Highland Park Rec Center, Heritage Museum Square, and Chinatown. It stops at Union Station where you can visit Olvera Street and connect to all the other metro lines.
For more destination tips, visit metro.net/around/destination-guides.
For more info about Metro, to get timetables, to find out about meetings and projects, visit metro.net.
There are lots of opportunities to get out and give Metro a try. There are Bus or Rail stops in every neighborhood. And if you are interested in Sustainable Streets news, visit our friends site la.streetsblog.org. If you live outside of LA, find your local news on the top header on that site. Lots of cool news, events, and opinion pieces posted daily.
I’m looking forward to seeing you on the Metro and hear your stories on the Casting Networks Facebook page.
This article appeared in the on-line magazine for actors The Networker, in April 2012.