This was my first time using the Metro Rail above and below grade system.
It worked well during my stay. I used it to travel between Union Station, Pasadena and the Wilshire central corridor. I also used it to connect to local buses and the FlyAway bus (highly recommended).
From Union Station to Pasadena (Gold Line) it is about 35 minutes travel time.
Pasadena to Mid-Wilshire I connected back through Union Station to the Purple Line.
****IMPORTANT: THE PURPLE LINE DOES NOT APPEAR TO HAVE ANY SIGNAGE IN UNION STATION SINCE IT SHARES TRACKS WITH THE RED LINE. SO JUST HEAD TOWARDS THE RED LINE!!****
***Also IMPORTANT: make sure to wait near where other people are standing. Some of the platforms are long (specifically in the Subway) so the trains do not fill-up the entire area. I almost missed a train because I was alone far forward of the actual train!!***
My recommendation would be Pasadena, you can take the Gold Line an be in downtown Los Angeles in 20 minutes. From Downtown you have access to red line _ to go to Hollywood - Blue Line to go to Long Beach. Buses go everywhere including Orange County. I live in the heart of the city and rarely drive it is a misconspection that you cannot get around without a car. Look at:
Unless you want to go further to Orange County or Ventura county you would have to take Metro Link. Pasadena is a nice community, lots of hotels, tree lined streets beautiful neighborhood, good restaurants (Old Towne) and a few B&B's etc.
Don't pay attention to those who condemn Los Angeles's transit system. They probably never rode on a Los Angeles subway or light rail train. Here's my experiences as a regular user of the Los Angeles mass transit system. First of all I, like most drivers in Los Angeles got tired of driving in congested traffic anytime of the day and night. It got so bad that I decided to try the Metro Rail system. After the first time riding the subway from Hollywood to the Los Angeles City Center I became hooked and now I use the trains to get to places in Los Angeles I used to drive to. I even went to places I never been to like Universal City, Downtown Long Beach and Old Town Pasadena. I admit though that the trains don't go everywhere however the Los Angeles MTA is working on that problem building and expanding rail lines but until then it is still better to ride Metro trains and buses than driving.
While I'm not the sort of person who normally enjoys proving people wrong, I am going to do just that here. When planning my trip to Los Angeles I was told by EVERYONE that I needed a car. I have to admit I panicked a bit because I don't drive and would not have a car and needed to be able to get to the places I wanted to see by public transportation. So, I Googled, I checked out Virtual Tourist etc... What did I find? Los Angeles has the third largest public transportation system in the country. Not only would I be able to get around the downtown LA and Hollywood areas, I would also be able to get to Van Nuys, Long Beach, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica and even San Diego (with transfers) etc... I think because their transportation system is so new and developing and expanding at such a rapid rate, that people just don't know about it.
There are Super Shuttles and of course taxi and Limo services to get you from LAX to Union Station which is the main transportation hub in downtown LA. Super shuttle can cost from about $17.00 on up and taxis charge a flat rate of $43.00 from the airport to Union Station. Limos are totally out of my reach so I didn't even inquire. Of course if you are staying at a 5 star hotel there is free shuttle service - again, out of my reach.
However for people like me who travel on a budget there is the Flyaway bus service which is pictured above. These buses run about every 10 minutes from LAX to Union Station and back. I think that there is also another one that services the Beverly and Wilshire areas though I can't be sure. You can catch the Flyaway right outside the LAX Ground transportation area. It costs $7.00 of which you pay when arriving at Union Station. These buses are really nice. They are much like Greyhound and very clean and comfortable. They also accommodate your luggage whether inside the overhead bins or below. Surprisingly it only took 40 minutes to get from the airport to downtown LA. It also provides the scenic route with all the palm trees surrounding the freeway and the gorgeous skyscrapers when entering the downtown Los Angeles area. Once at Union Station I payed for my ticket then hopped on the Metro Red Line train for a 15 minute ride to Hollywood. It was a breeze.
I met a woman at Union Station who lives in LA, hates to fly and had to get to San Diego in order to catch her cruise ship to Mexico. She could have flown in a matter of minutes but because of her fear of flying she took a bus to Union Station was going to hop on Amtrak to San Diego and from there to her cruise ship. All in all she told me the entire trip would take about 2 hours at the most. That's not bad for public transportation. I was thrilled to see all the various places I could travel using their system and can't wait to get back down there to visit and experience more and more of Los Angeles. So, if anyone ever asks you how to get around LA - YOU DO NOT NEED A CAR!
The Metro Red Line was my mode of transportation while in LA. It is the same as BART which services the Bay Area with a couple of exceptions. First, these Metro lines operate on an honor system. In other words, there is no one there to accept your fare and you could basically just walk right in down to the train platform without paying. However if security decides to ask for proof of payment and you cannot show proof, you are slapped with a $250.00 fine.
When entering the station there are kiosks where you buy your ticket and are very easy to use. Your ticket is good for about 2 hours which means you can transfer from one line to another without paying again. From Hollywood to Union Station which is the main hub station in downtown LA it costs only $1.25 I was thrilled over that. It costs much more here where I live.
The other aspect I liked was that these trains are fast and efficient. It only takes 15 minutes from downtown LA to Hollywood. If you drove, depending on the time of day it would take in excess of 20 minutes and then there's the parking problem. I also found these trains to be on time which was important to me while traveling back to the airport. They run every ten minutes on the Red Line. The Hollywood and Highland station is pretty cool. When you enter the station to go down to your train there are lights above you which resemble lights on a movie set. I would have loved to see this at night but I forgot to check it out.
There are several lines to include the Gold and Purple among others which service a wide area of Los Angeles county. In all I think there are eight separate lines which take you wherever you need to go. While there I used the Red Line to travel between Union & Pershing Square stations in downtown LA to Hollywood. These lines are constantly being updated to include a wider service area.
For more detailed information visit http://www.metro.net
The metro trains makes it easy to get around and does connect to several attractions. The trains are much more frequent than the bus. It may be best to substitute buses with a taxi instead.
A day pass on the train is now $5. Now although there is no ticket agent at the train station there is a machine where you will buy your passes. You can also get them at some hotels. There is no turnstyle at the station. However, the sheriff might come on the train to see if you paid your fare. If you do not show the ticket then I believe the fine is $700. It may be best not to risk it.
The Metro Gold Line is the newest light rail to be completed by the struggling MTA. The comfy train runs from East Pasadena to Union Station, Downtown, and differs from the other light rails in a few ways: The safety concerns raised by the Blue Line(more collisions and pedestrian accidents than any other rail in the U.S.) demanded the Gold Line have long stretches of uninterrupted right-of-way. The result is an efficient, scenic source of public transit between two major Los Angeles hubs. And, unlike the Green Line that runs between lanes of the 105 Freeway, the Gold Line rambles through historic neighborhoods and feels like a true community lifeline - whether increased ridership justifies the line is still up for debate. But, as commutes averaging 13mph continue to clog the city, you can guess on the future of Metro.
Any visitor can utilize the Gold Line for travel to the tourist-heavy "Old Town Pasadena", as it connects to all other metro lines the Red Line at Union Station and the Blue Line at 7th/Metro.
On a local note, pay attention to the protest signs as the trains enter South Pasadena(Mission Station). They brazenly demand that the trains slow to 20mph and "No Horns, No Bells". Now, this is a community that engendered sympathy from me and many others for its 30 year battle to keep the 710Fwy from being linked up through their city - and wiping out Craftsman homes and the small town character. Here's my beef with South Pas. - you can't have it both ways. Sixty years ago, coal-fired locomotives roared through this town on the exact same tract - a far cry from the smooth, quiet, electric-motored metro running through, today. And, one would argue, that an anti-freeway stance, then coupled with a hostile metro stance, holds no water. You few bad apples - you embarass your city.
There. It's off my chest.
For $5 (day pass), you can go to several exciting destinations around LA. Single journey costs $1.25.
There are themes per station, so you expect the Chinatown station to have those dragons and Hollywood Station to have film reels and camera. Take the Metro Red line to the following destinations:
Universal City - Universal Studios
Hollywood Highland - to see the Hollywood Sign, Kodak Theater, Mann's Chinese Theater, Walk of Fame
Hollywood Vine - L. Hubbard Life Exhibition, Walk of Fame
Union Station - Amtrak central station, El Pueblo (Mexican community with souvenir shops, church)
one will see a real part of Los Angeles, that part which is not the fake, idealized part of the city that includes glamorous Hollywood areas. Instead, what one sees outside the Metro side windows is a rough reality of L.A.
The Blue Line is a great connection to travel from L.A. to Long Beach without the car. It must be said that it is not the prettiest. This is the most crowded and, therefore, noisiest ride of all of the Metro rail lines. Also, it is the least scenic line but the convenience of it makes up for the garish views of graffiti, unkept neighborhoods and polluted riverwater.
Metro Blue begins in L.A. at 7th and Metro (or 7th /Figueroa intersection) and ends at the Long Beach Transit Mall. During the trip, areas of South L.A., Compton and Willowbrook are reached which are almost strictly for local interest. A major Blue Line destination for certain tourists is at Artesia, where the Commerence Casino is just steps away.
One will see many garish views off the Blue Line capturing harsh reality in the southern part of the city. It is a good thing to see the full picture of a destination.
*Note: The linked Blue Line Map is a little deceiving. The straight line leading up to 7th/Metro doesn't reflect how the light rail cab actually travels. The cab makes a turn after the Washington stop and another after Grand , heading towards Pico.
Los Angeles has two major sides : east and west. There is a tendency for travelers to go west, which is justifiably more fun and glamorous. However, highlights of the east do get somewhat ignored out of ignorance, fear or both.
So, here, I recommend that travelers go east by way of Metro Gold Line to discover Chinatown and the Southeast Museum (dedicated to indigneous indians) which are both just a few steps away from Gold Line stops. The Chinatown stop is pictured here. From the train, historic Lake Arroyo (Seco) is visible.
Los Angeles is a large city and the metro system is too small to reach easily all locations. It is better developed in the north-south direction than east-west. Nevertheless it is a good means of transportation integrated by a decent bus system that can take you slowly almost everywhere. Most famous spots can be reached by metro in a relatively short time such as Hollywood, Universal Studios, Downtown, El Pueblo, Chinatown. Little harder but still ok to reach Ghetty Center and Griffith Observatory or the coast at Venice-Santa Monica. If you want to visit other places it is better to rent a car that will allow you also to move freely at night. In any case it might be an interesting experience to spend at least one day moving around LA using the metro and bus system. You can seat, relax, watch all the sorroundings and explore all the neighboorhoods of LA.
If you move by public transport I strongly suggest you to use the "Twelve minute" map available on-line at the MTA site (see link below) or find printed verions in almost every hotel. It's a quick map with all transportation lines and stops where you should wait less than 12 minutes for your bus.
You'll need a car for lots of sights in LA, but the reality is that you can also hit a week's worth of activities on the surprisingly clean and nice subway/light rail system. The buses here are horrid, but set aside a day or two to catch the touristy stuff by subway. There are stops in Hollywood, at Universal Studios, Old Town Pasadena and Koreatown. The daring can even take the train to the Watts Towers (safe in the daytime) or down to Long Beach (the Aquarium, Queen Mary and the ferry to Catalina Island). Visit the MTA website, which offers a great online guide to attractions near subway stops. Surprisingly, only visitors from the UK seem to have picked up on riding the subway, but those that have usually leave LA with a completely different view. There are also a couple of super bargain hotels near subway stations that are clean, nice, safe and (thanks to the subway) allow for visiting of a week's worth of activities without renting a car. A great example is the Ramada Inn Wilshire in Koreatown, only a block from the Wilshire/Western subway station. ExperienceLA.com also offers a great itinerary for a day spent on the new Gold Line which begins at Union Station (near Olvera Street) and travels to Pasadena. Very picturesque ride, including crossing the infamous conrete berm that is the LA River. Best way to take a day-trip into Old Town Pasadena.
A lot of people say avoid public transportation in Los Angeles, which should not be necessarily true. Traffic and parking hassles tire even local Angelinos pretty quickly. For a visitor, it can only be much worse. The Metrorail system allows direct access to Universal Studios, Grauman's Chinese theater and Hollywood Blvd., Downtown Los Angeles including Olvera Street, Chinatown, and Disney Hall, LAX (with a shuttle) and other areas like Downtown Long Beach and Pasadena.
If one has time, it makes a lot of sense because of the size of the city to stay near a Metro stop in Downtown, Hollywood, Wilshire District, or other area and use the system for a few days and then maybe head to a different hotel in Santa Monica or elsewhere on the Westside and then rent a car for the areas that are not Metrorail adjacent (which would mean the beach areas, Beverly Hills, Melrose, and other areas). This way you save a lot of time and money and don't spend your days fuming in traffic (if you stay the entire time in Santa Monica, you'll be caught in traffic going just about anywhere outside of Santa Monica).
The trains and stations are new and modern and compare favorably with just about anywhere in the world, even if the growing system is still too small for the city. Busses aren't too bad for short trips as long as you don't have to transfer (good for going down Wilshire for instance). A day pass is only $3 and allows for trips all day all over LA County, which in my opinion is one of the best values in all of the United States.
For anyone interested in seeing some of urban and poor LA, head down the Blue Line to Long Beach, which was rebuilt on a line that was previously used in LA's original transit system. It is perfectly safe on the train, despite the rough neighborhoods that it goes through. It goes within a couple of blocks of the Watts Towers.