A few weeks ago, I was poking around on the MTA website and I noticed that in addition to the online trip planner, there’s an 800 number to call if you need help while you’re out and about. I programmed it into my cell phone, figuring it would come in handy. Later in the week, I was sitting on a bench, waiting what seemed like ages for the bus to come, and I decided to call to double check the schedule. Instead of an operator, I got a computerized voice: “The number you have dialed cannot be reached from your calling area.”
At first I figured that’s just what I get for keeping my NYC phone number, but then I realized if they’re blocking out of town numbers from calling the helpline, they’re also blocking most tourists from getting transportation advice on their cell phones. So I decided to complain.
When I first wrote in asking the MTA about their policy, they responded that the helpline is only available within their service area. So I wrote back, and pointed out the whole not-helping-tourists angle. And what do you know, it worked! Their reply:
When calling from Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties, you may reach the Telephone Information Center at 1-800-COMMUTE. When calling from other areas and other area codes, you may reach the Center at 213-626-4455.
I just tested it out, and sure enough, this number works on my cell phone. Woohoo! The helpline hours are pretty limited (Monday-Friday 6:30am-7pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am – 4:30pm), but I usually avoid public transportation at night anyway for safety reasons. The MTA doesn’t promote the alternate helpline # on their website (at least, not that I saw), so if you have a non-LA area code and you ride the Metro, you might want to write it down.