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Yes, Virginia, There is a Metro in Los Angeles

Public transportation options are real!

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Are you surprised to find out that Los Angeles has a metro train system? Don’t worry – I think a lot of residents of the city didn’t know about it before the Women’s March, either. But we have one!

Technically, we have had some elements of a train system for a very long time, but it is just within the last year that some lines have expanded to include beach city stations and service to points east of Los Angeles. More trains routes are on the way, including one that will run from downtown, down Wilshire Boulevard, through Beverly Hills and Century City and into Westwood. That one is going to be a game changer for anyone working in Century City from points east, or trying to get to UCLA.

We took our first test run on Labor Day weekend to Santa Monica. Normally, a trip to the beach on Labor Day weekend is something I would avoid. The traffic alone makes me antsy, and I’m not big on crowds. But it did seem like a perfect time to try the system. I bought my TAP card, loaded it with cash for the round trip at the kiosk (each way is $1.75 for most trips), and we were on our way.

Our trip to the beach was on a very new looking train. The system was super clean and fairly quick. It wasn’t packed, but there were definitely people giving it a go (the Expo line hadn’t opened that much earlier, so it was still a new travel option). We talked to the metro police, and they indicated that people seemed to be enjoying the trains and that there had been very few problems. At the stations we visited, there were no blocked entries, but the metro police will stop people at random to check the TAP cards for last payments to make sure people aren’t jumping on trains without paying. The fine is quite high, so trying to cheat the system out of $1.75 is truly not worth it.

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What are the downsides? The system is new and doesn’t really have connectors to join the lines outside of downtown. There are also limited stations. Right now, we have to drive to one and park (there is free and plentiful parking at our local station). If I wanted to go to a spot serviced by the red line (like Hollywood and Highland), I’d have to take the Expo line train all the way into downtown, change trains and go back out to Hollywood. That’s not super efficient for most people.

When would I use the train? For major events, particularly those at the beach or downtown, we will choose the metro. There are also museums downtown that give discounts or a free second admission to anyone who takes the train (plus, you don’t have to pay museum parking prices). I heard stories that Uber rides downtown during the Women’s March were as high as $160. While the trains were packed, they were still the best option going (and if these numbers are right, 592,000 of you gave this a tryΒ for one reason or another on the 21st). I imagine for major sporting events at the Staples Center, it’s also a great deal. I know that there are Amtrak packages to take fans of the Angels down to Anaheim for under $10.

LA is trying to get back to the days of public transport. While I hated my daily commutes when I worked in New York, I recognize the value of having options. There is even a proposal to bring the streetcars back to downtown, and there is chatter about the metro extension connecting with LAX (which would be a huge win). These are baby steps, I know. But they are important steps for a population that is being forced to live farther away from their jobs than ever before because of housing costs, and for anyone who dreams of a day where they aren’t stuck on the 101, 10 or 405 freeways.

Are you a visitor to the city and staying in Santa Monica? Grab the train in downtown Santa Monica heading into downtown Los Angeles and explore. It’s a quick and cheap way to see a part of the city that would be a pain in the ass for someone new to the city to navigate. And for local, give a shot. You’ll be surprised at how much fun being a tourist in your own city can be when you don’t have to navigate traffic.

Need a metro map? Here you go!

20 Comments on Yes, Virginia, There is a Metro in Los Angeles

  1. Woah! I had no idea that there was a metro system in LA. I was there mid last year and we always had to Uber around, because we didn’t really know that there was an option to take the metro system. And it sounds so affordable at $1.75 per ride. I can’t believe that rides with Uber costed up to $160 during the women’s march!!

    • PatriciaSteffy // February 1, 2017 at 4:52 am // Reply

      They really are making progress! The purple line will probably be the biggest change because it will hit not only UCLA, but also the Wilshire corridor. Now we just need connecting stations so you don’t have to go into downtown in order to get north or south, and we will be in business!

  2. I lived in LA most of my life and we really needed this! I haven’t used it before but it’s a great way to get around! It’s super cheap too!!

    • PatriciaSteffy // February 1, 2017 at 4:21 pm // Reply

      I was really surprised how cheap it was! Certainly beats parking fees at the bigger venues and events downtown or at the beach.

  3. When I was living in LA, I took the metro a couple of times and it really beats sitting in traffic. I hope LA continues to expand their metro line πŸ™‚

    • PatriciaSteffy // February 1, 2017 at 4:22 pm // Reply

      Me, too! I know they are talking about doing one over (or through) the hills and into the Valley. Of course, it will probably be 15 years before it is done, but I can imagine that being a huge help.

  4. Wow! Did not know that there was a metro service in Virginia. You have packed in a lot of information which is quite useful to everyone. We love to travel by Metro wherever we go if available, as this is a great way to understand the local people and culture too.

  5. I hope they do bring the streetcars back. As a tourist, I find the public transport so much easier because it let’s me just get on and off without too much possibility of getting terribly lost. I def didn’t realize LA had a train. Haven’t been to LA though so that’s probably why. I’ll have to check it out when I go… if they don’t have the streetcars which I just love riding.

    • PatriciaSteffy // February 1, 2017 at 4:24 pm // Reply

      I hope they bring back the streetcars, too! Oddly enough, there used to be a whole system that went along Santa Monica Boulevard to the beach. Only the tracks remained when I first moved here (the system itself had been dead for decades). They tore them up not 10 years ago, and now, of course, they realize how useful that system really was.

  6. That’s awesome! I had heard they now have a metro that goes out to Santa Monica but it’s great to know all of the ins and outs of it. They say everyone drives in LA, but that can’t be true now.

    • PatriciaSteffy // February 1, 2017 at 4:27 pm // Reply

      Because it is difficult to go North to South on the trains, and the stations aren’t as frequent as developed systems like NY, DC, SF, etc, people do still opt to drive to most places. But it is changing. And certainly when there are major events, people are starting to look at the trains more affectionately.

  7. That’s so funny that people in LA didn’t even know it existed. I hate driving so use the NYC subway system often. I think its our buses that are really unknown. It make sense people would use it to go to the beach or major events where parking and traffic could be a nightmare. St. Louis is kind of like that. They have a small metro so people drive to it, park and use it to avoid crazy traffic and parking.
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    • PatriciaSteffy // February 1, 2017 at 5:45 pm // Reply

      I’m really hoping that they start building connecting routes and more stations so that I don’t have to drive to the nearest station (because in most situations, I’d be tempted to keep driving rather than getting on a train). But for big things, we will definitely use it.

  8. Anything that helps take a few cars off the road gets a thumbs up in my book! Although it would be useful to have more stations to avoid having to drive to the stations πŸ˜€ Its kind of a chicken & the egg scenario – I suppose they have to be sure people will use it before they build more!
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    • PatriciaSteffy // February 1, 2017 at 6:33 pm // Reply

      Exactly! And I really do hope that people start using it more and more. The traffic here is often insane — if public transport can make that less so, and give a break to our air quality, it gets a thumbs up from me!

  9. I always thought LA would be a city with a nice major train station. I had no idea it was on the newer side!

    • PatriciaSteffy // February 2, 2017 at 2:11 am // Reply

      Once upon a time there was a more useful public transport system here, but residents really embraced the car. Then, I suppose, the sprawl made it less feasible somehow? I’m not really sure what the thinking was behind getting rid of it. I’m just super happy that they are finally expanding it!

  10. I’m
    So glad that cities are adding mass transportation. Houston has it too but only in the city … I guess it is hard to find room for it in big cities like LA. Such a great way to get around: wish there were more cities with this option!!!

    • PatriciaSteffy // February 2, 2017 at 4:24 pm // Reply

      The process has been fascinating, if somewhat frustrating, to watch. Many of the extensions are underground, so that has slowed things considerably. Still, glad they are making the effort and still have expansion plans!

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