Even before the Los Angeles Metro Rail System premiered in 1990, the virtues of a subterranean travel option in our car-crazed, widespread city were a source of hot debate. Now, more than a decade later, ridership tops 360,000 daily and rapid rail transit continues to expand toward the sea.
Whether opting out of stressful commutes, making do without a car or simply choosing to gad about town in a whole new way, LA’s Metro Rail is a transportation option worth exploring. And with 80 stations and six lines crisscrossing the city seven days a week from approximately 5 a.m. till midnight, there’s most likely a way to get where you want to go.
The following guide should help make your rail riding experience just a little easier.
Figure out where you want to go and what line will take you there
While rail line maps can be found in every station, do yourself a favor and consult a map before setting out. Metro.net even offers a Simple Trip Planner that makes plotting your underground journey a no brainer. The rail lines are named after colors and feature many stops along the way.
The Red Line runs you from Downtown to North Hollywood, cruising through Hollywood and Mid-Wilshire. It’s possibly the most heavily travelled line in the system.
The Purple Line travels between Downtown and Koreatown/Mid-Wilshire.
The Blue Line connects the Downtown Financial District and Downtown Long Beach.
The Green Line is the only fully elevated line in the system and transits between Redondo Beach and Norwalk, including LAX.
The Gold Line moves between East LA and Pasadena.
The E or Expo Line is the newest addition to the rail system, connecting Downtown and Culver City, running through the attractions of Exposition Park. There are plans to extend the line to Santa Monica by 2016.
Trains leave every 10 to 15 minutes, every 8 to 10 minutes during rush hour, and every 20 minutes at night.
Get to your starting point
Metro Rail stations are marked by a pillar bearing the color of the line on which the station stands. If you’re arriving by car, look for signs indicating a nearby Park and Ride lot. There are more than 100 of them near stations and most are completely free but monthly pass holders may want to consider paying for a reserved spot. Once you’ve ditched your wheels, look for the marked escalator and head down under.
Purchase the right pass for your travel plans
If you’re buying a single pass ($1.50) or an unlimited daily pass ($5), follow signs for ticket fare vending machines and make sure to bring cash as most machines do not accept credit or debit cards.
Paper tickets have recently been phased out. Travelers must now apply fare to a reusable plastic TAP card with a one-time $1 fee. Weekly and monthly passes must be purchased at Metro Customer Centers and a variety of retail outlets (Get a complete directory). A seven-day pass costs $20 and the 30-day pass is $75 so make sure you do the math to ensure the most economical choice. Discounts are available for seniors, the disabled and Medicare recipients but you must apply in advance for a special TAP card.
‘Tap’ your card on the turnstile’s blue circle as you walk through and if you have a weekly or monthly pass, make note of your kickoff tap. Los Angeles County Sheriff deputies do random inspections so if you try to board without sufficient funds or dare to hop the turnstile, you risk a $250 fine and 48 hours of community service.
Feel free to hop on and off and enjoy the sites and attractions along your route. Just keep in mind that if you’re traveling with a single pass, you’ll have to pay every time you get back on the train, including returns and transfers.
Other helpful tips
If you’re traveling with a bike, wheelchair or stroller, look for the appropriate label on the door of the roomier, designated car.
There’s no eating smoking or drinking allowed on trains or in the station so finish up before you board.
Consider downloading the app itransitbuddy-LA Metro Rail, available on iTunes for 99 cents. If you’re a first time or seasoned rail traveler, this nifty tool will help you navigate the system and provide up to the minute train departure info.
Customer Service at (323) GO – METRO (323-466-3876) is extremely helpful, with real, live agents to assist you from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekends.
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012-2952
Noelle Wright is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.