This blog, The Pedestrian is an online guide to living in Los Angeles without a car.
If you're going to walk in a city as vast as LA, you're going to need some help. Unless you're lucky enough to live within steps of your workplace, grocery store, gym, and favorite bar, walking alone won't be enough lead a satisfying pedestrian lifestyle. Thankfully, the City of Los Angeles has a cheap and well-funded solution to the sprawl problem, and it's called the LA Metro.
Not too long ago, telling somebody that LA has a functioning subway system was enough to elicit incredulous looks. The city drew up plans for the LA Metro back in the 1970s, when rising fuel costs and a local population swell caused lawmakers to scrutinize the sustainability of car dependence. It was decided that a supplement to the city's public transit buses was needed, and from there, construction on a subway system began. The Metro had opened its doors to riders in 1990 and has since expanded to six rail lines servicing neighborhoods as far flung as Pasadena, Santa Monica, and Long Beach.
In this post, we'll cover the cost, reliability, and rules of the LA Metro, as well as the best neighborhoods for Metro coverage.
I. Metro Prices
Compared to major cities like New York and London, LA's subway system is a deal. All LA Metro fares and passes are loaded onto a plastic TAP card (pictured above) that you can purchase at Metro ticketing machines for a one-time fee of $2.00. A single ride fare includes transfers and is valid for two hours. When entering the Metro, you simply press the TAP card to a turnstile pad (also pictured above) and you're ready to go.
Here's the LA Metro pricing breakdown:
One thing you'll quickly discover upon using the Metro is that it's possible to enter some stations without pressing your TAP card to the turnstile. The LA Metro uses the same honors system found in Berlin, wherein ticket inspectors roam the subway system inspecting riders' TAP cards at random. So what happens if you get caught without a valid fare or pass? Read on.
II. Metro Rules
In all LA Metro stations, you'll find a sign like this one posted. Each of the pictured activities is forbidden on Metro trains and station platforms. And the penalty for noncompliance is quite steep: depending on the severity, a violation can yield a fine of up to $1,000 or one year of jail time.
Here are the infractions that can leave you holding a citation and suddenly feeling a lot poorer.
- Entering the Metro without a fare
- Eating or drinking
- Playing loud music
- Biking or skateboarding
- Sitting on station stairs
- Taking up multiple Metro seats
- Feeding pigeons
- Wielding weapons
The only rule I've actually seen enforced is the first one. Routinely, during rush hour, Metro ticket inspectors will park themselves at busy stations like 7th Street Metro Center with their TAP card readers ready. Sometimes they'll board the train and walk the aisles, checking to ensure that everyone has a valid fare or pass. The few delinquent riders I've witnessed getting nabbed have looked profoundly miserable. Always pay for your Metro rides if you don't want to be in their shoes.
III. Metro Reliability
The best thing that can be said about the LA Metro is that it's quick and easy. The average wait time for a Metro train is 5-10 minutes during standard business hours and 10-20 minutes during late night service. Most of the Metro lines are either underground or elevated, allowing you to breeze by mile after mile of LA traffic with a satisfied smirk. (The Expo Line is the only Metro line subject to street traffic delays, and they're usually minimal delays at best.)
The Monday-Friday hours of operation for each line are listed below: the weekends often include extended service hours.
Next time, we'll take a look at LA's enormous bus network. But for now, happy riding.