Practical Life in Los Angeles

Transport in Los Angeles

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When pressed, residents of Los Angeles will offer the metro system as an alternative to driving, but in reality almost everyone drives in Los Angeles. The LA freeways are famous for being some of the first mass freeways in the United States, but are also notorious for their terrible traffic jams. Though it is extensive, the freeway system is a complex web of limited-access freeways and the mass amounts of people can quickly clog the roadways. To decipher this knot of roadways, the Thomas guide is an essential tool. The mass transit system and taxis are easy to find within the city, but they are often subject to the same delays one finds when driving. The graph below illustrates one of the basic problems with transportation in LA, everyone is on the road.

Both detailed maps and driving directions can be found at Mapquest.


It is entirely possible to get anywhere in Los Angeles by mass transit, but it may take longer then waiting in rush hour traffic. To cover all of LA the system tends to be rather unwieldy and getting anywhere takes some time. On the other hand, it is extremely inexpensive! One entry is $1.25 and a day pass is only $5 and is good for local travel all day. Be forewarned that bus drivers do not carry change so you must have the exact amount. Children under 5 are able to travel for free with an adult and senior citizens may pay a lower amount. All day passes can be purchased from the bus driver, at a self-service vending machine, Metro Customer Centers, Municipal transit stores, Continental Currency Services, Nix Check Cashing, some Ralph€™s markets, and some Von€™s markets. You can 1.800.COMMUTE to find somewhere near you. For Metro Rail and Metro Orange Line you must buy your ticket before boarding from the vending machines. There are no conductors to collect tickets or gates to pass through. Los Angeles Sheriff€™s Department fare inspectors randomly check to see that passengers have valid tickets or passes. Failure to pay can result in a fine of $250 or 48 hours of community service.

If you will be using public transportation frequently, passes can be purchased by the week or the month which can save you money. They can either be purchased on-line, or at Ace Cash Express, Cash It Here, Nix Check Cashing, Ralph€™s, Pavilions, Pay It Back Cashing and Vons. For a breakdown of prices:

Weekly Pass
Available in advance starting on Thursdays.
Monthly Pass
Available in advance starting on the 25th of the month.
Freeway Express Stamp
Bus only; maximum two zones
$18 per zone
EZ transit pass
Good for travel on Metro Bus, Metro Rail, Metro Orange line and many additional carriers
EZ Premium Stamp
May only be affixed to EZ transit pass
$18 per zone
Valid for base fare; sold in bags of ten
Money-Saving Tips
Buying a pass is often less expensive than paying the $1.25 base fare. The chart below can help you find the best pass value for your needs.
If you buy a: You save:
Day Pass ($5) after 4 boardings per day
Weekly Pass ($17) after 13 boardings per week
Monthly Pass ($62) after 49 boardings per month

Los Angeles's metro site offers an excellent trip planner and information on all routes. There is also a easy to use pocket guide offered in 10 languages here. For a detailed interactive map of all the rail line click here.

The Metro System offers nearly 200 bus and rail lines to take you wherever you want to go. An easy-to-understand numbering system helps to identify each line:

Metro Local service To/From Downtown Los Angeles 1-99
East/West routes in other areas 100-199
North/South routes in other areas 200-299
Metro 24-hour Owl Service 24 hour
Limited stop service 300-399
Express to/from Downtown Los Angeles 400-499
Express in other areas 500-599
Shuttles & Circulators (Provides Local service within one or two adjacent neighborhoods and/or jurisdictions) 600-699
Metro Rapid service 700-799
Metro Rail service Metro Blue Line 801
Metro Red Line 802
Metro Green Line 803
Metro Gold Line 804
Metro Purple Line 805
Metro Transitway Metro Orange Line 901
Harbor Transitway 903
Wilshire Rapid Express 920
Hawthorne Rapid Express 940


Metro/Bus:Los Angeles Metro


For travel outside the city, long distance passenger buses like Greyhound can get you almost anywhere. There is a terminal at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Comfort on the buses is fairly good, but the character of people can be negligible. Prices are often much lower then driving anywhere, but like riding intercity buses the frequent stops can make travel time just as long.


Amtrak is the main train service for Los Angeles. The system has undergone extensive renovation with $100 million being put into new passenger trains. The Pacific Surfliner is responsible for carrying passengers from San Diego through Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo. The station is located at 800 N. Alameda St. and the website is:

Metrolink is another train service that serves the surrounding counties and is centered in Central Station. The telephone is 1(800) 371-5465 and the website is



Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the main airport servicing La and is the fourth largest airport in the world. For information you can call (310) 646-2270 or go to their website at When you arrive there are Quick-Aid machines located around the airport to help you find transportation. Nearby Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport is also served by six major airlines.

Airport FlyAway Buses
The Union Station FlyAway service allows passengers to travel between Union Station and LAX every half hour.The fare is $4 one way and $8 for return. under 2, free, 2-8 $2 each way. and the bus is able to accommodate luggage and make the trip in 45 minutes during rush hour which is faster than any other available options. There is also the Van Nuys FlyAway fro travelers on their way between LAX and Van Nuys.


Taxi stands are easily found around Hollywood and near attractions, but can also be arranged for by asking at a hotel, restaurant or nightclub before leaving. There are about nine main companies (listed below) and can be identified as safe and insured by the official City of Los Angeles Taxicab Seal. The fare should be standard and according to the chart below, with the exception of some flat rates between LAX and downtown. Beware that there is a surcharge for taxis originating at LAX. For updates on current taxi fares and the latest in LA taxi news check out: or call LADOT customer service regarding complaints or commendations, please call 1-800-501-0999.

All Passengers Ride for Price of One

1. $2.65 Flag drop (First 1/7th mile).
2. $0.35 For each additional 1/7th mile ($2.45 per mile).
3. $0.35 For each 47.5 seconds waiting time and/or traffic delay ($26.53 per hour).
4. $42.00 Flat fare for trips between LAX and downtown.

Area bounded by Alameda St., Santa Monica Fwy., Harbor Fwy., Cesar E. Chavez, Union Station and Chinatown.
5. $2.50 Surcharge for all trips originating at LAX.
6. $15.00 Minimum fare for trips originating at LAX (In addition to the $2.50 surcharge)

List of approved companies and contact information:

Bell Cab
Comments/Complaints (800) 830-0551
Service Requests (888) 235-5222 or (800) 666-6664
Business (310) 676-1500
United Checker Cab Company
Comments/Complaints (310) 715-1968
Service Requests (310) 834-1121
Business (310) 715-1968
Beverly Hills Cab
Comments/Complaints (310) 837-0260
Service Requests (310 or 800) 273-6611
Business (310) 837-0260
United Independent Taxi
Comments/Complaints (213) 483-7669, Ext. 3029
Service Requests (213) 483-7660 or (310) 821-1000 or (800) 411-0303
Business (323) 462-1088
Checker Cab
Comments/Complaints (310) 330-3720
Service Requests (310 or 800) 300-5007
Business (310) 330-3720
United Taxi of San Fernando Valley
Comments/Complaints (213) 483-7669, Ext. 3029
Service Requests (818) 780-1234 or (800) 290-5600
Business (323) 462-1088
City Cab
Comments/Complaints (818) 252-1670
Service Requests (818) 252-1600 or (800) 750-4400
Business (818) 252-1670
Yellow Cab
Comments/Complaints (310) 715-1968
Service Requests (310 or 213) 808-1000 or (800) 200-1085
Business (310) 715-1968
Independent Taxi
Comments/Complaints (323) 666-0050
Service Requests (323) 666-0050 or (800) 521-8294
Business (323) 666-0040


The Catalina Express is the only year-round boat service to lovely Catalina Island. The trip takes a little over an hour and costs around $65 with upgrades and discounts available. There are up to 30 round trip daily departures from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point to the cities of Avalon and Two Harbors. The flexible schedules allow passengers a full day of travel choices from early morning departures to late night returns.


Driving in LA

Trying to navigate the convoluted and congested freeways can be a battle, but an overview of the system can help acquaint you with the best ways to get around Los Angeles. Three interstate highways converge in the Los Angeles area: I-5 approaching from Canada in the north, I-15 from Las Vegas to the west, and I-10 connecting Los Angeles with Arizona and the Southwest. State Highway 1, the Pacific Coastal Highway, skirts the city along the ocean. The freeways which run roughly north-south are odd-numbered and those which run roughly east-west are even-numbered. The 10 freeway runs from Santa Monica through the west side to downtown and east LA. The commute along the 10 from the west side to downtown can vary between 20 to 40 minutes depending on traffic. The 405 follows the coastline from the Valley to San Diego and can be particularly horrific during rush hour and on weekend afternoons. The 101 runs from downtown LA through Hollywood and the Valley and is the worst roadway during rush hour and early evening, but it is thankfully not too awful at any other time. To get up-to-date information on the road, tune into AM Radio 1640 and 980 which have traffic reports every six to ten minutes.

There are a few upsides to driving in LA. Freeways and streets are usually well marked and the majority of drivers are well mannered. There is less honking than some big cities and if you use your turn signals, someone will probably let you change lanes even in traffic. Be forewarned that there are a shortage of left turn lanes, so there may be 5 cars turning left in intersections after the light turns red. There is also the issue of a "free right turn" in US driving laws which allows drivers to turn at a red light if the coast is clear.

Rental Car

Most major car rental companies have outlets at LAX and the other area airports. It is easy to reserve a car by phone or online before your arrival to ensure availability. If renting a car from LAX, know that the lots are off-site. A shuttle will pick you up in front of the terminals, look for signs. Their are also courtesy phones available at the arrival terminals to call for pick up.

Los Angeles Rent-A-Car
Telephone: 1(800) 441-7368

Telephone: 1(800) 654-3131

Lucky Rent A Car
Telephone: (310) 641-2323

8620 Airport Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Tel: 310-641-2323
Fax: 310-641-1113

Telephone: 1-800-331-1212

Gas prices tend to be extremely high in Los Angeles and there are several websites dedicated to finding the cheapest stations.

To check traffic conditions on-line: Traffic Advisory, Los Angeles & Orange County Traffic Report, LA Traffic Report

City Map:
Road Map: MapQuest

Update 12/09/2018


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