Escaping Union Station By Car


I’m usually pretty good with driving. I rarely get lost, even on my own, even before I got the BlackBerry with Google Maps in it. I’m also quite good at navigating. But every time I try to go in & out of Union Station, I have the worst time finding my way home! Maybe it’s because the station is designed for mass transit to go in and out, and not small, personal vehicles. Or maybe it’s just because I haven’t figured out the secret exit which would allow me to go north and west, back to my SiFi apartment, quickly.

The worst case of this was when, still slightly asleep, I dropped off a friend at the Union Station Flyaway on Monday morning – at 6am. I took her right to the Patsouras transit plaza, to avoid any confusion on where the bus was leaving from. That’s why I got on the ramp labeled I-10 by mistake, before realizing it wasn’t Vignes St like I thought. However, NOWHERE did I see “get on this ramp and you are stuck going east for ten miles, in a lane you are PROBABLY not supposed to be in.”

Next thing I know, I’m trapped in a carpool/bus lane, praying I don’t get a ticket for being a solo driver, and wishing frantically for an exit. It’s like a nightmare, driving further and further in the wrong direction, and just hoping to find a way to go back west before the freeway stops for rush hour. I’m fairly certain carpools are allowed in that express bus lane(see map, above), and it seems like it would be very helpful next time we visit friends in the Inland Empire…but I had absolutely no idea that one wrong turn could keep me going east as far as the Alhambra city limits before I could get out of it.

The next time I went to Union Station, to drop off another friend that afternoon, I parked underground. Then I exited on Cesar Chavez St., thinking I would just go north on that to the 101 on-ramp by Chinatown. Except I could only turn east on it, not west…and I couldn’t get off the street until I found myself on the wrong side of the LA river. So I took Mission Road back up along the river, cut over to the downtown side by the Cornfield, and eventually got back onto the 101 to go home.

Seriously though, is it that I am retarded in escaping Union Station? Is it that I am the only non-employee who takes a car there? Is it that I just don’t know the roads well enough around the station (I know it well on foot, or bike, or bus, or train…just not in a car) How does one go to Union Station, take one’s friends directly to the transit plaza…and NOT GET LOST??

7 thoughts on “Escaping Union Station By Car”

  1. I made the same mistake recently, in a rental van that had just been tagged on in Echo Park, with a captive crew of a dozen Getty Multicultural Interns.

    Lets just say we were all completely confused once we were locked into the lane, and I don’t remember seeing either signs that said anything other than exit before I got onto the Flyaway, nor any signs on the Flyaway that were helpful in explaining where we were, where we were going or how far until the exit.

  2. I’ve driven to Union Station a couple of times and never had any trouble. I’ve always dropped folks off on the Alameda side, which makes it easy to get back on the 101 or Temple to drive home.

  3. Jillian, I did the EXACT VERY same thing about two years ago!

    From my blog 11.04.05:

    …So I dive a right into the motorcourt because I don’t want the freeway, follow the motorcourt lane around and next I’m back out at some other end facing a signal that’s not working and a sign that says left turn only.

    I make that left turn and then I’m confronting an s-shaped entry into a single lane that’s walled and fenced on both sides and bordering a freeway. Now not only do I not know which direction the freeway’s going in, but I don’t even know what freeway it is.

    Help Mr. Wizard!

    Scooting into that lane in hope that it’s a backway to surface streets I have some familiarity with and use for, all is soon lost: I’m in a freaking carpool lane that stays walled and fenced and unexitable for mile after mile after mile. There is no way out, and if I had to under oath I doubted if I’d be able to retrace my steps as to how I got in.

    After about four miles, highly embarrassed to be a single occupant vehicle with multiple-occupant-occupied vehicles both in front and behind me (I’m sure shaking their heads and probably on their mobile phones calling 911 to report my ass), the lane’s walls finally fall away and I’m on the 10 East already beyond Cal State L.A. with the center divider to my left and a double-double yellow line to my rightthat screams “do not cross!”

  4. no problems entering or exiting from either side of the station…it’s the damn underground parking that left me driving in circles for quite literally 10 minutes once.

  5. I work next door, and I get lost too. If you want ot go west, just pull out of Union Station(onto Alameda) make a left, make a right at the first exit (past the parking lot)(don’t go over the fwy!), and that will put you on the 101 west, and you can take the 110 or 10 west from there. Hope that helps.

  6. Well, I was going to say I didn’t know where “SiFi” was, but Google brought me to your earlier blog entry (What Neighborhood Is My New Apartment In?), so now I know. :-)

    Assuming that westbound 101 is sufficient – I figure you already know how to get from the freeway to your apartment :-) – here are the routes you’d need, via Google Maps:

    Patsaouras Transit Plaza to WB 101

    EB César Chávez (Union Station garage exit) to WB 101

    Does that help?

    Amusingly, I tried to make a map of the route you took onto the El Monte Busway, but Google Maps thinks the busway is for buses only, and absolutely refused to let me drag the route vector onto the Busway.

    They also think the Patsaouras Transit Plaza – aka “Gateway Plaza” – is a two-way loop, so their initial directions involved driving backward through the Plaza. Probably NOT the best idea. :-)

    The trick, though, as you come around the south end of the Transit Plaza loop, is to take the Left Turn Only lane that loops you back up the northbound side of the Transit Plaza, NOT the Right Turn Only lane that dumps you into the Busway.

    (If you want to avoid the freeway, let me know. I’d be happy to suggest good surface-street alternates.)

  7. Signage in LA sucks in general. (Through lack thereof or faulty presence). It often actually misinforms – due to poor positioning, ambiguity, lack of visibility, etc.
    (the nearest example to me being a portable, sidewalk stand, road sign warning of roadwork ahead. It’s height and location block visibility needed to safely make a turn out of The Brewery Arts Complex. – yay! our tax $’s at work).
    Even a native such as myself, familiar w/the area and facility to which you refer, I found I had to ignore the signage and follow instinct.
    I often imagine how much more complex it all would be to a foreign visitor…
    tsk, tsk, L.A.

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