The places you'll go

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This is a blog about travel in Southern California, particularly sans-car. I have faith in the Metrolink and respective transportation systems, but does anyone else? So here's a lay down of what to expect while using LA public transportation, how to get tickets, and how to get where you want to go!

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Sans Car Adventurer

So here it is; all you need to know, want to know, and might not want to know about commuting around Los Angeles sans car. Much of the information you will find below resembles material already in my blog, but in a much less rant-like, and more accessible form. It looks something like this:

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A positive, thorough Amtrak rant

Amtrak. Several word associations come to mind when I think of Amtrak, none of which are positive. We’ve all heard the horror story in the 90s when a toilet backfired onto an innocent passenger, and we’ve seen evidence of train and car collisions. Well, I recently had the experience of riding on Amtrak, from which I’d like to clear up some misconceptions and elaborate on how great it is.

Short summary of the upcoming rant for the impatient or otherwise employed-and-busy crowd
• Amtrak tickets are dirt cheap compared to the $4.00 gas prices or escalating airplane tickets
• Dealing with the train station > dealing with airports and security
• Seats are comfortable and spacious
• The view along the way is much better than looking out the window to see construction on the freeway (follow photographic scene excluded)
• On select travels, Amtrak provides free alcohol!
• Amtrak can run off schedule every now and then, but it’s still much more predictable than halted traffic in rush hour or major cities you are unfamiliar with.

My journey
Now, for those of you who have time and/or patience. I rode Amtrak for the first time because I had to go last minute to San Luis Obispo to attend an evening with the boyfriend’s family. San Luis Obispo, for those of you who haven’t visited, is absolutely beautiful. Nestled in the central coast between gorgeous beaches and green rolling hills, it’s a wonder that such pristine places exist so close to Los Angeles.

The total trip is approximately 200 miles away from Pasadena, an easy three-hour venture in the car providing there is light traffic. In the spirit of my sans car mentality as of late, I thought I’d explore my options with trains. I’ve never really taken an actual train anywhere, short of a quick trip on Germany’s Inner City Express. Thus, I had no idea what to expect of the trains here, especially Amtrak, and this is what I found:

Ticket prices
Tickets were surprisingly cheap, even with having purchased them the night before. To San Luis Obispo, a one-way ticket only set me back $30, or the equivalence of 2/3 of a tank of gas in my car. I can get roughly 350 miles in my tank, depending on driving conditions, so it wasn't completely unreasonable anyway.

There are many options for ticket discounts, such as 25% discounts for the “Student Advantage” discount (prior registration required) or a 10% AAA discount, which requires no previous registration other than listing your information when buying tickets. Unfortunately, the AAA discount is only valid when purchasing tickets three or more days in advance (not a problem for most, since I’m inherently incapable of planning ahead).

For longer journeys, prices jump of course. But even still, they rival the price of a plane ticket. Not to spoil the pleasant surprise of this Amtrak rant, but I’m probably going to look into riding home to Ohio on Amtrak, due to the fickle nature of the airlines at present).

Ticket Confirmation
Amtrak tickets must be printed out at the station, similar to the airport. You receive a confirmation page you print out and take either to the Amtrak counter for assistance, or to a self-serving kiosk.

Unlike the airport, there is no limit on how soon you must arrive to the station to print out your ticket. I’ve had countless occasions where I’ve had to catch a different flight from not being aware of the ever-changing check-in time restrictions at airports.

No, you can come to the train station and check in 5 minutes before the train leaves to print out your ticket and hop on if you desire. But let me tell you a little about this, since I actually did arrive with 5 minutes to spare. This was not wise, but nor is the idea of me trying to do anything important during brutally early morning hours. Nonetheless, it became obvious as I was trying a walk-jog in Union Station that I would miss my train- and thus my weekend with the boy’s parents (damn?)- if I went to print out my tickets.

Instead, I went immediately to the train platform in a hectic mess. I found the conductor, who was lingering outside the train yelling the cliché yet exciting “all aboard!” as they do in old movies. I explained the situation, showed him my prepaid ticket confirmation sheet, and somehow he sympathized and let me board the train anyway, telling me it happens all the time and that he could print out my ticket for me when the train stopped at the next station. I hate playing the ‘dumb college slacker kid’ card when I knew I was blatantly at fault for not allowing more time for myself in the morning, but I suppose misunderstanding that an additional ticket needs to be printed is a reoccurring mishap.

Point being, the conductors were an estimated 800 times more receptive to human error than airport attendants are (not that I fault them for taking safety precautions, I’m just saying…)

Seats and space
One notable plus of riding on Amtrak versus any airliner is the amount of space each passenger has. The particular train I was on had only two seats instead of the usual 3 to an aisle. Also, the leg space was phenomenal! In addition to reclining seats, a footrest could be elevated.

On-board treats
Though my train ride was only 5.25 hours, a food car was open the entire time to purchase snacks. After a few hours, a sit-down lunch was offered in the dining car, which I unfortunately declined. I must say, I am a fan of having options at all hours instead of once during your flight, if at all anymore, on planes.

Boozin’ for cruisin’
My favorite part about riding Amtrak is their promotional deal for free drinks! Hey, I’m over 21 and might I remind you not driving, so I must say there’s something to be said about enjoying a cocktail while cruising around. Anyway, check the Amtrak website for participating trains, but the idea is that many overnight trains are offering up to $100 in free drinks. Whatever it takes to boost ticket sales, right?

Between snacks, drinks, and foot room…
The actual ride itself was pleasant. The route to San Luis Obispo was aesthetically pleasing; most of the journey took place on the Pacific coast or through rolling hills. I’d imagine that most other journeys are more beautiful than the view from driving on the interstate.

Along the way, the conductor would announce interesting points of interest along the way, just as airplane captains do…one in every 50 flights. There was also a “viewing car” which had comfy seats and tables arranged around even bigger windows than in the passenger cars.

In summary...
Amtrak is the way to go. No, I’m not a paid representative. I’m just a financially strained college student who is afraid of flying and appreciates the prospect of free alcohol. The only downside I can possibly think of is that the train arrived in San Luis 20 minutes late, which was really no deal to me, but I’m really stretching to try to think of all possibilities to make this review seem balanced.

Go Amtrak! Go Metro! Go travel!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rock Out to Go Green: Earth Day 2008

Calling all green-minded rockers!

As most of you know, Earth Day is just around the corner. Next Tuesday, April 22, people will be celebrating healthy lifestyles and visions of the present and future. Many will choose to walk or bike instead of taking the car to run errands. Some will plant small trees or flowers in the ground. Some will be conserving energy. And some will be rocking out, Earth Day style!

But Lesley, how is music related to Earth Day?
Usually, it really isn’t. The closest I get to being one with the earth with music is when I listen to U2 (which is rare, but isn’t Bono the quintessential do-gooder?). Despite my feeble attempts of linking music to environmental activism, the clever folks at Metro are three steps ahead of me.

Metro Earth Day concert at Union Station at noon!
The Metro is hosting a free Earth Day concert by the band Canon, a “green” rock band. I haven’t personally heard of Canon, since majority of the music I listen to is mid 90’s music written by the depressed youth of Seattle. But Canon is a band I’d go see based on the simple fact that the music scene is getting heavily involved with improving the environment. From the reviews of Canon, it appears to produce sounds similar to Muse and Radiohead, and their single, “The Hourglass,” is an anthem to environmental awareness.

This reward system is yet another attempt of the public transportation system of Los Angeles to promote awareness of it’s, well, existence. Metro riders already either are entirely aware of the benefits of commuting, or don’t know the extent of their actions, yet promote a greener lifestyle by default by their commuting. But there is a large portion of Los Angeles residents who remain unfamiliar to the benefits of commuting, the many ways to do so, or the overall ease.

The concert will be held in Union Station, which, as every one of my blogs has indicated, is the mecca of public transportation. I’ve never actually driven to Union Station since it’s in the confusing part of downtown (not to imply that the rest of downtown is a piece of cake to navigate through). But perhaps this logic is shared among others who are interested in going to the event, so people will embark on a Metro ride to the station, see how easy and convenient it is, and become more frequent riders. Who knows if this will actually recruit more riders, but you’ve gotta hand it to the Metro people for trying new angles.

In my eyes, music is fantastic. Riding the Metro and other public transportation is great. Earth Day is cool. And Union Station is fabulous. I haven’t had a chance to explain my supreme approval for Union Station because I am usually too focused on where I’m going instead of appreciating where I am at the present (profound application to the philosophy of life, too, eh?). But really, Union Station is great because it’s nearly impossible to get lost, it offers restaurants and services for those who are waiting for larger train rides, and it’s a historic relic of the old transportation days of a booming metropolitan city.

Outside the fact that nearly everything is filmed in Los Angeles these days, I like to believe that Union Station is viewed in several movies because it exemplifies what one expects of a train station; brown leather seats, large clocks, great architecture, and pretty tiled floors.

Enough on Union Station, I want to know more about “green” bands!
Good, me too. Actually, there are several major bands that in one way or another help the environment.

, an environmental news magazine, lists several bands that contribute concert profits and general income to support green ideas. Money is donated to organizations working on climate change, renewable energy, environmental education, local farmers, and many more.

Of such bands and musicians, my favorites are Pearl Jam, Perry Farrell (of Jane’s Addiction), Barenaked Ladies, Moby, Guster, Thom Yorke (of Radiohead).

Other bands highlighted in the article are: The Roots, Sarah Harmer, Green Day, Jack Johnson, Willie Nelson, KT Tunstall, Sheryl Crow, Cloud Cult and Bonnie Raitt.

In addition to all these artists who, for some of them, I wouldn’t expect, there are also several music festivals which contribute to the green scene. Such annual concerts include Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo.

To read the full Grist article, go here

To learn more about the Earth Day concert, visit the Metro website

Friday, April 11, 2008

Getting to USC

Sometimes the crushing realization comes to us University of La Verne kids that our small-town school community doesn’t have all we need. Fortunately, we’re only a train ride away from one of Los Angeles’ primal academic and cultural hubs: The University of Southern California.

On more than one occasion, I’ve found that the ULV library, and the La Verne library don’t have what I need to craft a well prepared research paper, and I’ve been directed to one of USC’s libraries.

Even besides my nerd reason of travel to USC, there are other reasons why one might need to go there. Perhaps you are looking into grad school. Perhaps you want to see a play. Perhaps you want to attend a fabulous campus party. Perhaps you are attending a convention. Or perhaps you’re in the area and want to visit the on-campus Wolfgang Puck Express. There are many reasons to go, but here the problem: how to get there.

Unlike La Verne’s modest sized campus, USC is spread throughout an intimidating portion of downtown(ish) Los Angeles, which even strikes a sense of panic in yours truly. I’d be considerably more inclined to utilize all of USC’s resources if I knew exactly where I was going- on campus, as well as the route to get to, so here are some tips to making the trek less frightening and more of an adventure. Sans car style.

In this blog:
• Free shuttle to and from USC and Union Station
• Shuttle schedule and stops
• What to do if you can’t get aboard the USC shuttle at Union Station
• What to do if you’re traveling outside of the USC shuttle times

What’s the fastest, easiest way to USC?
Answer: the free USC bus shuttle at Union Station!
Here's how to get to USC using the free shuttle service, and then I'll break it down and explain step-by-step for the confused.

1) Take Metrolink to Union Station ($7.25 each way on weekdays, $5.50 weekends)
2) Board the USC shuttle outside the Union Station exit at the Patsaouras Transit Plaza
3) Exit at the JEP house (after a stop at 34th and McClintock Ave.)
4) Take USC shuttle as needed

Taking the Metrolink
Again, find the newared La Verne Metrolink stop at 205 Santa Fe Street in Pomona. Resort back to my second blog about all you need to know about the Metrolink.

Is the free USC shuttle only for USC students? Or can anyone ride it?
But here’s the deal with the USC shuttle. First of all, it’s technically for USC students/faculty. And technically, that does not mean us. But a friendly USC department of transportation lady explained that that the drivers rarely check IDs, and seemed to encourage me to take the bus anyway full knowing that I’m not a student at the school.

She pointed out that since most of us look like students anyway, the drivers rarely ask for proof. I even asked about teacher-aged bus riders, and if they would be more prone to an ID check, but she again replied that the drivers shouldn’t discriminate.

So what’s the deal with the shuttles?
The shuttle that I’m concerned with runs to the UPC (University Park Campus) – not to be confued with the HSC (Health Science Campus), which is smaller and three miles northeast of the downtown “main” campus. The shuttle runs between three total stops. Union Station, 34th St. & McClintock Ave, and your destination: the JEP House(Joint Educational Project House), which is on the Northern side of the USC campus at Trousdale and 34th Street.

Where on Earth do I find the shuttle at Union Station and where exactly is it dumping me off?
Board the USC-bound shuttle at Union Station’s bus area in the Patsaouras Transit Plaza, bus zone 4. As with the Fly Away service, you are going to exit Union Station on the end near the Red Line entrance.
Shuttle Schedule
Allegedly the shuttle runs from Union Station to USC in the mornings, and in the afternoons it runs the other way, from USC to Union Station. Why not simultaneously run the shuttle both ways, you ask. Honestly, this makes no sense to me, either. But stay tuned for alternative routes to and from USC and Union Station, to be found in the last portion of this post.

Note: this particular shuttle only runs Monday through Friday.

On the hour, every hour starting at 7:00 a.m., then 3:25 p.m., 3:45 p.m., 3:55 p.m., 4:05 p.m.

To Union Station:
4:25 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 4:45 p.m., 4:55 p.m., 5:05 p.m., 5:20 p.m., 5:35 p.m., 6:00 p.m., 6:10 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:05 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m.

For more info, visit the USC transit web page

Arriving to the JEP House on the USC campus
USC’s campus is pretty hefty, so your best bet is to download a pdf map from their website. Below is an overall idea of where you’ll be getting off at USC

Using USC's campus shuttle
There is also a campus tram that runs at this USC campus. For an interactive tram map, click here.

There are three main shuttle routes on the UPC campus during the weekdays. Shuttles run from 7:30 a.m. till 11 p.m. or 12:00 a.m., depending on the route.
To see specific weekday routes: Route A, Route B, Route C, click here
Below those three shuttles, find the weekend shuttle which runs from 10:30 p.m. to 2:45 a.m.

Further Questions about USC’s free shuttle service?
Call the USC Transportation Services at (213) 740-3575. They are quite helpful.

But what happens if I ride the tram the one day that they’re asking for a valid USC student ID?
It’s always good to have a backup. This also is ‘Plan B’ for if you’re traveling outside of regular USC shuttle hours. At this point, you turn to the downtown-specific bus system: DASH. The DASH route you’re interested in to get to USC is Route F.

Route F runs downtown every 10 minutes from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Here is the breakdown of taking the DASH bus to get to USC, which will be dissected into explanatory paragraphs:

Getting to USC from Union Station using DASH
1) Once at Union Station, get on the Metro Red or Metro Purple line (free if you rode in on Metrolink)
2) Ride for 2 stops, exit at 7th Street/Metro Center
3) Find yourself at 7th Street and Flower, or walk to Flower from Hope.
4) Board the Route F bus (cost: $.25)
5) Exit
6) If needed, board USC campus tram

Break it down!

Arriving at Union Station, getting to the Metro
I list this route as a backup because you must take an extra step. Here’s what to do:
When arriving at Union Station, instead of promptly getting on a bus, you must first travel two stops on the red or purple line. Signs for the Red Line are visibly marked at Union Station. If you traveled in on the Metrolink, you don't need to purchase a subway ticket for the usual $1.25, score!) Enter the Wilshire-bound purple subway or the North Hollywood-bound red subway: either will do. Union Station is the starting point for both the red and purple line, so you don’t have to worry about boarding a train that’s going the wrong direction.

Exiting the Metro
Go two stops and exit at 7th Street.

Getting to the DASH Route F stop from the Metro exit
When exiting the train, you have the option to exit 7th street at Flower or Hope. You will want to exit onto Flower. If you accidentally exit on Hope, don’t worry! When you’re standing on the corner of Hope and 7th, take a right onto 7th, and the next intersection will be 7th and Flower, which is where you want to be when you’re getting aboard the DASH: Route F.

The DASH Route 7 bus info
The bus arrives at Flower and 7th every ten minutes, starting at 5 past the hour.
Here be a schedule for Route F

There are only six remaining stops on this line once you board, and depending on where you want to go to at USC, you may choose a different exit. But not all stops take you to USC, so it’s really important to choose wisely between 2 stops: Vermont at Exposition, and Jefferson at Hoover. Now, I'm still somewhat confused because the Route 7 map leads us to believe that there are more than these six stops (after boarding at 7th & Flower). Confusing? Yes, that's why I know few who actually take the bus. But a last resort is a last resort.

Where to exit the Route F bus onto the USC campus
It all depends on where you’re going. Remember, USC’s campus is slightly larger than La Verne’s, so if you’re pressed for time you probably want to be in the closest area to your event instead of walking through the entire campus (and running risk of getting hopelessly confused).
So here’s the breakdown of the stops on the DASH Route F line, and a list of prominent buildings near each stop.

The entire campus map is too large to put here, so go to the USC map & directions web site and download a pdf of University Park Campus Map, and from here you can look up specific buildings.

Bus Stop: Vermont at Exposition
Important buildings near this stop:
• Parkside Arts & Humanities Residential College
• Seaver Science Center
• Hughes Electrical Engineering Center
• Lindhurst Galleries
• Wong Conference Center
• Loker Hydrocarbon Institute
• Andrus Gerontology Center
• Public Safety
• Denney Research Center
• Technical Theatre Laboratory

Bus Stop: Jefferson at Hoover
Important buildings near this stop:
• JEP House
• Shrine Auditorium
• Stoops Education Library
• Leavey Library
• College Academic Services
• Social Work Center
• Instructional Media Services
• Norris Cinema Theatre
• Social Sciences
• Student Union
• Commons
• Newman Recital Hall
• Annenberg School for Communication
• Everybody's Kitchen

If you need to get somewhere else on campus that isn’t around one of these two stops, resort back to the campus tram.

Things to consider about your USC trip:
• If you are taking the Metrolink into Union Station, it's important to remember the schedule so you don't become stranded in downtown LA. The last train leaves back east promptly at 7:50 p.m., and you'd better be on it.

• The USC Union Station shuttle only runs to USC in the mornings, and to Union Station in the evenings

• The USC Union Station shuttle only runs on weekdays. For weekends, resort to the Metro & Dash Route F combination

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Getting to the airport sans car

I’m willing to venture that one of the most lamented drives is the journey to and from the airport, especially the oh-so-far-away Los Angeles International Airport. This drive encompasses everything commuters hate: long distance, traffic, anxiety of being late, and a pre-orchestrated carpool arrangement. Or if one is not so lucky to designate a driver for pick up or drop off, hefty airport parking will run your wallet empty. For reference, the last time I parked at the airport, via ‘The Parking Spot,’ my bill was over $100 for five days of parking. Did I mention that this isn’t even located in the airport vicinity? You have to take a shuttle in addition to driving to the parking structure.

As frustrating as it is to drive to LAX from La Verne, or even Pasadena, where I live, it is sometimes a necessity. This is why I’m pleased to share my newfound airport commute, the LAX Flyaway! There isn’t a comprehensive website for the service, which is probably why many aren’t aware of it. I just went to Union Station and winged it, and happened to find this amazing service, so allow me to share my findings.

What is it?
The LAX Flyaway shuttle is a bus that runs from Union Station, Van Nuys, and Westwood to LAX. It doesn’t seem to enticing yet, but let me explain.

When can I go to the airport?
The bus operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Finally! Something that’s open all night in LA! For most of the day, it leaves Union Station (or the other 2 locations) every 30 minutes, on the hour and half hour. From 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., it leaves every hour on the hour.

Driving & Parking Directions
From La Verne, take the 10 West. Merge onto the 101 North. Exit on Vignes Street. Turn left at Gateway Plaza. Parking is located under the Patsaouras Transit Plaza (there will be signs). Parking will only set you back $6 a day (nice break from the $20-something-a-day near the airport) Of course I’m going to suggest taking the Metrolink into Union Station, but if you must drive, it’s pretty straightforward.
This is my favorite part. It costs $4 each way to and from LAX!! Children 2-12 are $2 each way. For a limited time, the Flyaway service was having a promotional deal where if you rode into Union Station via Metro or Metrolink, showing your ticket would allow you a free commute to the airport. I’m uncertain how long that was going on for, but just in case it still is, keep your ticket stubs!

Getting to the buses from Union Station
Once in Union Station, travel down the corridor in the direction that points you towards the red line. You’ll know you’re in the right direction when you get to the end of the station and you see this:

Exit the building on the lower level, and follow signs that say ‘Flyaway.’ There will be a brief walk up to the bus plaza. Again, Union Station is heavily labeled so you won’t get led astray. Once you approach the bus area, there will be a small kiosk next to the busses where you purchase your amazingly inexpensive ticket.

But Lesley, I don’t want to ride in a dirty, smelly LA bus.
You won’t have to! Contrary to my prior expectations, and probably yours as well, the Flyaway bus is actually quite comfortable. For starters, it is a charter bus, not a city bus (yes, this means the type of bus with the comfortable headrests and cloth seats, usually decorated with some outdated rainbow graphic). The lights dim as you leave the station, the seats are spacious, and most importantly, since your fellow passengers are only airport commuters like yourself, you don’t have to worry about weird smells, passed out people, or threats of muggings or other undesirable inner city bus exposures.

How long does it take to get to LAX?
From my experience, it doesn’t take long at all. I boarded a 7 p.m. bus, with an anticipated hour and a half to spare before my flight, yet it only took 35 minutes. Granted, this is a heavy traffic area, in a heavy traffic time of day. But the bus has the advantage of riding in the carpool lane. For the first time in my life, I actually had an extra hour to spare at the airport before boarding for my plane. I’d recommend leaving an hour before your check in time though, just to be on the safe side.

Departing the bus at LAX
The driver will stop at your terminal, so be sure to know what airline you’re traveling on. They help get your baggage from the storage area, too. I’m not sure if tips are expected, but my driver seemed appreciative of the dollar I gave her (come on, you’ve spent only $4 thus far!)

So to recap, the Flyaway system is brilliant. I’m never going to burden anyone with driving me to the airport ever again, or put myself in financial shambles from doing a park and ride. Besides being completely affordable, it’s just good to have a stress-free commute to the airport, a place of high anxiety for me anyway. So do yourself a favor and try it out next time. Hooray for Union Station!

the LA Metro Subway System

The Metro is the public transportation system for Los Angeles, primarily in form of light rail and bus. While the bulk of the Metro services are not available to the La Verne area, this is the way to get around town once you’ve rode into the city on the Metrolink.

(Note: when I say “Metro” from now on, I am referring to the subway system, because honestly, I still find Los Angeles buses intimidating. Besides, many Los Angeles hotspots are accessible via subway plus light walking).

Perhaps another reason people choose not to use the Metrolink is due to the anxiety of navigating through the subway system once they reach downtown. This is a true shame because the Metro is a lot cleaner and straightforward than the unfamiliar rider would believe. The Metro is a great, inexpensive way to get around town if you need to ditch the car. And like any journey, it feels like a mini adventure. So get onboard!

Tickets cost $1.25 per line. Unlike the wonderful New York City subways, one ticket does not allow underground transfer to multiple lines. Oh no, in LA, one $1.25 ticket is required for each train.

It has come to my attention that a metro ticket is direction specific, but there is a two hour time limit. As far as I know, this means you can exit the subway and board again within the two hour time span and continue on the same route. 

The system is lax, so it may seem as if people can take advantage of the system. For starters, there is no turnstile to pass through. There is no ticket validation system. It seems like anarchy. One wonders what the incentive is to even buy tickets in the first place due to how easy it is to enter the train. But as with the Metrolink, random ticket checks may happen at any time, resulting in a hefty fine and public embarrassment. So take a minute and buy a ticket at the machine.

Ticket Machines
Machines are present at or nearby all subway platforms. If you can work one ticket machine, you can work any:
1) Select type of ticket: one way, daily pass for Metro and bus, or Metro to Muni transfer ticket
2) Insert cash or tokens (no credit cards, at least as far as I know)
Added bonus: change for tickets if provided in form of dollar coins!!

Remember- if you rode in from the Metrolink and are thinking about purchasing a Metro ticket, don’t! Your Metrolink ticket entitles you to one free line ticket or one bus ticket.

Weekly prepaid tickets are also offered in the Metro Customer Center at Union Station, downtown Los Angeles.

Map and Train Lines
To view more information on a specific line, including parking information and the street address of each stop, click on an individual line below.
Red Line
Purple Line
Green Line
Blue Line
Gold Line

Train Schedules
Ok, another comparable downside of the LA versus NYC subway system is that ours is not in
operation 24 hours a day. But to be fair, most of LA isn’t in operation 24 hours a day, either. Most trains run until 1 a.m. on the weekdays and 12 a.m. on weekends (though backwards that may seem). And besides, the Metro picks up again within the hour of 4 a.m., depending on the weekday or weekend.

When they are operating, the subways are pretty speedy. If you miss your desired subway, another will arrive within fifteen minutes (or 20 if late at night), allowing you plenty of time to get to know your fellow metro travelers on your platform.

Each line has a separate schedule of times and locations available on the train.
Schedules for each line can be looked up here, on the Metro website. Navigate to the bottom of the page, then click on the corresponding line to download a schedule for departure and arrival
times for weekdays and weekends/holidays.

To read the schedule
first make sure you are looking at the right weekday (times on weekends/holidays are different than M-F days).

Then verify the direction you want to go: it should say in large letters at the top if the direction is northbound, westbound, etc.

Next, locate your departure stop at the top horizontal line. Departure times are listed vertically, beginning at the top of the page with the morning hours, leading down to the evening.

Here's a sample portion from the Gold line:

Navigating your way around
Once you get on the Metro, don't worry! It's hard to get confused. Once you approach the track, simply look at signs to tell what direction the track is going. Resorting to your Metro map, find the first and last stop on the line. Then platform or the train will say the last stop in either direction, letting you know which way it's going. As the train is approaching, it will also display the last stop of the current direction on the exterior of the first car.

Once onboard, all of the train walls display a linear map of stops for that line. Some trains are even equipped with a working light map, displaying the approaching stop. Also, outside station signs are visible from the trains, so you can identify where you are in your journey. The conductor announces each approaching stop as well, though sometimes it's difficult to understand what they're saying, so stay alert and keep an eye out for where you are in your commute. It's that easy!

Ticket Discounts
The Metro are savvy people, they know that discounts yields increased use. Thus, senior and disabled tickets are offered. But probably more relevant to La Verne, the Metro offers student discounts! Monthly unlimited passes are only $36, which in itself is les than it costs to put a tank of gas in my car. The process for a monthly student pass is relatively easy once you sort through the forms, so allow me to simplify:

1) Print out and complete the application below
Be sure to include:
- a $1 application fee in check or money order, made payable to Metro (ridiculous, I know, but someone’s gotta get paid)
- a current 1” x 1.25” full face photo stapled in the right place on the application
- a photocopy of a valid photo ID, driver’s license, school ID, or passport
- Proof of full time enrollment (at least 12 hours), such as a transcript.
2) Mail or hand deliver this bundle of goods to:
Metro Reduced Fare Office
Mail Stop 99-PL-4
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012
3) Then in 20 business days or more (ugh), you’ll get your Metro ID card.

And there you have it: a basic understanding of how to get around using the subway in Los Angeles. It seems like a lot of information at first, and might possibly confuse you. But the way I see it, if you can conquer the Los Angeles freeway system in your car, you are capable of doing just about anything.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Metrolink: Fares, Locations, and Tickets

Of the few methods of alternate transportation I'll be discussing, the most prominent way is traveling on the Metrolink. The Metrolink is one of the fastest and most comfortable ways to travel between downtown Los Angeles and San Bernardino. Operating seven days a week, it proves to be an optimal way to travel, and so, so easy to do once you get the hang of a few basic concepts.

Where is the nearest Metrolink platform in La Verne? How do I get there?
The nearest station to the University of La Verne is in Pomona (north), just under two miles away. It is located at 205 Santa Fe Street, Pomona Calif. 91767, and to get here, head east on Bonita for 1.4 miles, turn right on Garey for 0.2 miles, then turn right on Santa Fe Street, and you find yourself in the parking lot.

Once you arrive here, it becomes evident through the high volume of parked cars that commuting via Metrolink is a popular choice for many in the area already. So why is it that when I ask fellow students at ULV if they ride it, I receive blank stares? We are required to take an internship while in undergrad, and many students travel closer to Los Angeles, so are they not aware that the train is an option? Are they intimidated by the unfamiliarity? Are they unwilling to part with their cars? Or are they unsure what to do when they get into Union Station?

Here are some common questions and concerns that the new rider will have. Or perhaps one needs a little refreshing. That's right, go on and get back up on that there train.

How do you purchase tickets?
There are numerous ways to purchase Metrolink tickets, namely by machine, located at the Pomona station. The ticket machines are almost too easy to operate:
1) Select origin and destination
2) Select the type of ticket (hold on, explanation coming soon)
3) Select the number of tickets you want
4) Select your payment option: machines take cash, American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and debit card. Score!
5) Pay via said payment selection
6) Get the ticket and receipt!

What are these ticket types you mentioned in step #2?
Riders may purchase tickets for one way, round trip, 10 trips, and monthly passes. There are a few things to consider when choosing the best purchase for your schedule. For instance…

Purchasing one-way tickets: as the clever title would suggest, these tickets are to be used for one trip and one trip only. When you buy the ticket, you have the ability to choose which station you are heading to, as the fares vary by distance (Union Station is the last stop, so it is the most expensive). These tickets are valid within three hours of buying them, so if you’re looking to stay at your destination or have a ride back later, this is the ticket for you!

Sample fare: one way from Pomona (north) to Union Station (LA);
$7.25 weekday
$5.50 weekend
$3.75 senior/disabled
$3.75 youth weekend

Purchasing round trip tickets: Same three hour limit as the one-way ticket, and the returning trip must be taken on the same day. Ideal for commuting during high traffic times, such as heading west to LA in the morning and returning east in the afternoon/evening rush hour(s).

Sample fare: round trip from Pomona (north) to Union Station (LA):
$13.50 weekday
$10.25 weekend
$6.75 senior/disabled
$6.75 youth weekend

Purchasing 10-day trip tickets: These work as ten separate one-way tickets, and are conveniently packaged in one plastic-like ticket. The 10-trip tickets don’t have to be used in 10 consecutive days; you have 90 days to travel. Something cool about these tickets: they don’t have to be used by the same person. If you are traveling with a friend, you may use the one ticket, but it must be validated twice. What does this mean? Each trip must be validated by machine, which are located on all platforms. Much like those neat parking self-validation machines in some grocery stores, you stick the ticket in and it writes the date. I highly recommend validating your ticket every time, though security isn’t strictly enforced. You could try to risk it, but mind you, conductors do occasionally come through the train to check tickets, and I doubt the cute “oh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware there was a validation machine, have mercy on my soul” will work.
Sample 10-trip tickets from Pomona (north) to Union Station (LA):
$60.75 regular fare
$30.50 senior/disabled

Purchasing a monthly pass: Just as it sounds: a pass for the whole month. Unlimited travel within this time, which is cool for the summer or for internships when people are heavily traveling for said internships. Purchasing these tickets requires a bit more effort than purchasing them at the station ticket booths. They are sold at Union Station from the 20th of the current month to the 10th of the new month, and must be signed to verify them. No validation machines required! While they’re non-transferable, they do pose the best value because, well, they’re unlimited, AND it makes the rider eligible for the Rail 2 Rail program.

Sample monthly fare from Pomona (north) to Union Station (LA)
$192.00 regular
$96.00 senior/disabled

Rail 2 Rail program: free for use with monthly Metrolink passes! This train line is the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, and goes from Oxnard to Oceanside. But more on this exciting addition later.

What do I do after I get to my destination? Am I stranded?
No! With your purchase of a Metrolink ticket, you are entitled to a free ride on one additional line. This means that if you take the Metrolink into Union Station, you can connect to a subway or bus line to bring you closer to where you need to go. This part gets tricky, so stay tuned for information on the Metro and how to get where you want to go!

Passes by Person:
In addition to automatic vending machines, you can purchase tickets in person if you are a first timer and intimidated by the machines or the vast riding options. You can do so in La Verne at City Hall: 3660 D Street. Or you can purchase them at Union Station as well.

Passes by Mail:
I don’t believe there should be anyone who opts for mail to deliver them...anything anymore, really. But wonders never cease, so Metrolink tickets may be sent through this primitive exchange system. Only 10-trip and monthly tickets may be purchased this way, and to do so, fill out a Metrolink “Pass By Mail” form, which you can get at any ticket outlet, by calling (800) 371-LINK, or printing it from

Lesley, I want to travel to somewhere besides Union Station. Options, please!
The additional stops on the San Bernardino line are as follows.
The Metrolink San Bernardino line includes 13 stops, including Union Station and San Bernardino (last or first stop, depending on which way you’re looking at it). Click on a city to se exact platform location and other important information.

Union Station
Cal State LA
El Monte
Baldwin Park
Pomona (north)
Rancho Cucamonga
San Bernardino

What is the schedule like?
As mentioned previously, the schedule fluctuates depending on day of the week. The standard schedule is from Monday through Friday, with trains running from 5:40 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. east and westbound. To calculate an exact schedule, click on the weekday schedule below, or visit the schedule on the Metrolink website

How do I calculate fares for other stations, and for other ticket options?
Now that's a lot of information. To calculate fares for each location and ticket selection, go to the Metrolink Fare Calculator

So that's the basics. Now that you've got the hang of it, look forward to future posts about how to get to awesome places in Southern California!