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.
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 try 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!