For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Jul 27 2017
by Lauren Chin

What Every Los Angeles College Student Should Know About Public Transport

By Lauren Chin - Jul 27 2017

With college comes independence and the freedom to explore and travel beyond campus boundaries. Although services like Uber and Lyft have become extremely popular in the absence of owning your own car, they can rack up large expenses in the long term, and as any college student knows, money is not an endless commodity. Los Angeles’s public transportation system may not be as efficient or desirable as other major, more compact cities, but with a little planning and patience, you too can learn to master it to your advantage.

Lauren Chin

1. Benefits

Ask any Angeleno what the worst thing about traveling is, and they’ll automatically say traffic. However, the Los Angeles rail systems forgo that by following separate paths from roads and sometimes traveling underground to create more efficient paths across the city. The bus system runs as early as 5:00 a.m. to as late as 10:00 p.m., and the rail system runs as early as 4:00 a.m. to as late as 3:30 a.m. the following day. Fare is constant, so you never have to worry about surging prices or running out of cell phone battery to call a ride. Another bonus: By using public transportation, you reduce your carbon footprint.

Stops and stations can also be found around notable landmarks and points of interests in the city including, but not limited to, theaters, museums, shopping districts and beaches. This makes it easy to explore the city and be better acquainted with it. Even better, you don’t need to spend any more precious time and money to find a decent parking spot to visit these popular locations.

Lauren Chin

2. Basics of Los Angeles Public Transport

The Los Angeles County Metro has both buses and rail systems going throughout the city of Los Angeles and its surroundings. Each bus route and rail line follow a distinct path; buses have more frequent stops suitable for going between blocks whereas the rail system, more popularly known as “the metro,” is better for going past longer sections of the city. Each one-way trip only costs $1.75, and fare can be loaded repeatedly onto a TAP card, so named because you tap it to pay your fare every time you enter a new bus or rail station, that can be purchased for $1. Another hack: Buy the $7 one-day pass and take as many Metro rail and bus trips as you’d like in any direction.

3. Planning Your Trip

The different routes can be overwhelming at first, but there are helpful tips and tools to prevent a transportation disaster. Metro lists the stops and routes of all of its rail and bus lines. Metro also has a Trip Planner to help you find the nearest stations to and from your destination and provide a timetable and help you calculate your exact fare. Google Maps also offers real-time directions to get to your destination; just click on the tram icon labeled “Transit” and receive several routes ranging from the fastest to the least amount of transfers. Keep it on during the trip to monitor your progress. You can also pick specific timing to better narrow down your desired path in advance.

Lauren Chin

4. Rail System

Los Angeles has six rail routes that are great for making a trip to the other side of the city and even the county. Depending on the total length of the route, each line takes about an hour to go from one end to the other. By paying the $1.75 fee, you are entitled to unlimited transfers for up to two hours as long as you don’t double back in the direction you came from. This system is especially useful if you commute to a city college or want to visit other schools as many of the stops are nearby and even named after them, such as Grand/LATTC (Los Angeles Trade Technical College), APU/Citrus College (Azusa Pacific University and Citrus College), Atlantic (East Los Angeles College), Jefferson/USC (University of Southern California), Highland Park (Occidental College) and 17th Street/SMC (Santa Monica College). Construction to expand the Purple Line is currently underway to extend to University of California, Los Angeles.

Lauren Chin

5. Popular Destinations Nearby

Red Line: Union Station, Grand Park, Music Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Broad, Grand Central Market, Pantages Theater, Universal Studios, Walk of Fame, Hollywood and Highland Center

Purple Line: Koreatown, The Wiltern (Future: UCLA, Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

Blue Line: Watts Towers, The Queen Mary, ShoreLine Aquatic Park, Junipero Beach, Long Beach City Beach, Belmont Shore Beach, Rosie’s Dog Beach

Green Line: LAX, Plaza Mexico

Gold Line: Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Arts District

Expo Line: Staples Center, Exposition Park, Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica State Beach, Third Street Promenade


6. Bus System

Similar to the rail system, the bus routes go from the initial stop to the final destination and loop back around. However, different lines have differing frequencies and routes to go to similar destinations and stops. Before boarding at a stop, check if you are correctly boarding by looking at the number of the bus and the final destination shown on the scrolling screen across the top front of the vehicle.

The Silver and Orange lines are busways with fewer and less frequent stops. A cross between the rail and bus systems, they are faster for getting to a stop that is further off from your start point.

The local service lines serve particular parts of the city and its surroundings and are great for traveling across specific neighboring areas such as the 501 bus that travels across the northern tips of Los Angeles from North Hollywood to Pasadena. Some buses also travel down large segments of main city streets such as the 720 bus that runs down Wilshire Boulevard and has stops at the UCLA, LACMA, the Greyhound bus terminal, Hammer Museum and Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

There are distinctions from the rail system: Buses can take cash fares. In order to transfer to another bus, ask the driver for a transfer ticket or your TAP card will be charged on the next boarding.

Now with all this local knowledge, go forth and explore the City of Angels.

Lead Image Credit: Pexels

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Lauren Chin - Occidental College

Lauren Chin is a sophomore at Occidental College interested in life sciences and music studies. She plays in the college band and orchestra and loves the outdoors, sports and making music covers. Follow her on Instagram @luckylauren32 !

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