Los Angeles Bus Virgin No More

5545909_d1b4513496.jpgHelp please.

I live on the Westside and I’m selling my car (it’s 15 years old, has 175,000 miles on it and will soon need more work done to it than it is worth). I’ve lived in Los Angeles since 1985 and have had various cars here since 1986. The first time I rode a bus in Los Angeles was last Sunday. The second time was yesterday.

Now, this won’t be as challenging as it sounds because fortunately, I work at home and my commute is already made on foot. And technically, I won’t be car-less as my husband and I will share his, and when we are more flush with cash, we may buy another one. (Or at least swap out his 12 year old car for something spiffier, like a Smart car or something.) He works at home as well.

But when I do need to get around town, I would like to take public transpo. I have figured out a few very simple routes on the Big Blue Bus but have not found an easy way to map a route from here to Hollywood or Los Feliz using multiple bus lines. (I live where the Santa Monica, Culver City and LA buses intersect.) What is the easiest way to figure this out?

More thoughts on Carless in West LA after the jump.
(photo used with permission by Blogging.LA’s very own Will Campbell.)

Bicycling is something I’m not quite ready for. I can do the occasional trip to the post office or tennis courts nearby on my fat-tire beach cruiser, but I’m intimidated by riding in traffic across town, no matter how many great posts I read by Will and others on the subject.

I am considering the Motorboard. LA Green Girl had a great story about buying one and using it. I could relate to that and would like to try one out as well. Does anyone else have one that they like for more than the occasional weekend jaunt?

Being nearer to subways and rail would be great, but moving is not an option at this time. And alas, while I live 2 blocks from the EXPO right of way, there is no train there yet, no matter how many meetings I go to about it, it is still years away.

Any and all help and input would be a great help as I transition out of car-world.

27 thoughts on “Los Angeles Bus Virgin No More”

  1. The MTA site doe a pretty decent job, although it sometimes helps to spend some time looking over the maps as well. I’m thinking more and more about selling off my car and having my family go down to a 1-car household, although there are still those occasions when it’s handy to have two cars (like this Saturday when she’ll have her mom in town while I spend the day watching the best picture nominees in Burbank (the closest theatre that’s doing the all-day screening). And my car is only 14 years old, it should last another 5 or so no problem.

  2. The motorboard sounds like fun, but I’m pretty sure you’re not legally allowed to ride anything motorized on the sidewalk which would leave you with the same issue you have with biking. I’m sure people get away with it, and I doubt you’d ever actually get ticketed, but it’s something to think about.

  3. One other quick tip, the 720 (Wilshire) and 704 (Santa Monica) are pretty much the premiere cross-town options from the West side to downtown and points in between.

  4. Oh how a I want a smart car, just like make it yellow with a black tridion…perfect for buzzing around town when you look like a bumble bee.

  5. 213 626-4455 is the MTA phone number. Call them and they will give you routs. I recomend you order bus maps as well (or go on line, but I love having the big, shiney paper, pre folded maps that I don’t need to use my printer ink to print out.
    I take the 704 from my home in Silver Lake to my gig in Santa Monica. Yea, it does take time but not much more during rush hour then driving and you can knit or read or sleep or take to your fellow bus riders).

    Don’t get discurged- the bus can suck at first; it is a way different sub-cultur. But after a few weeks/ months of riding, you will get the hang of it.

  6. Bring some patience and an open mind. In addition to the Metro Planners, I also use Public Routes from time to time… it allows you to input and address and see what bus/train stops are in the vicinity. Another tool in your arsenal for trip planning.

    Oh ya, and read MetroRiderLA. :)

  7. You will learn to have a serious disdain for the Metro Bus culture.

    The limited bus services are fine though, as is Big Blue Buses.

  8. The Big Blue Bus line 10, which takes a Freeway route from round Cloverfield/26th (if I recall correctly; I have not taken it for a year or so) to downtown Los Angeles, is pretty good. It takes about half an hour, is an express, and can drop you off at 7th and Fig where you can take the Red Line to Hollywood and very near Los Feliz. For Los Feliz, I find that skipping Vermont/Sunset and going to Western to catch the 180/181/780. (With the 780, be sure to disembark at Vermont; the subsequent stop is all the way down at Riverside and Los Feliz Blvd!)

  9. Thanks for the hot tips. I knew I could count on you all to help.

    And just for the record, Edraid, paperbacks never stopped being my friends…thinking about not driving and being able to read while I ride is really a huge plus for not having a car. And G4S, those two sites are great, just what I was looking for. Fred, you are duly bookmarked. I’ll be aware of the sidewalk rules, 5000! when considering the motorboard.

  10. Aside from pointing you to agency contacts. I know how you can avoid transfers via two single MTA lines that can get you across from the West L.A. Transit Center (by Fox Hills Mall) to Hollywood and Downtown.

    1) From Culver City to Hollywood take the No. 217, which will get you onto Hollywood Boulevard, terminating at Vermont & Fountain.

    2) For downtown take the No. 439, which ends at Union Station but winds its way up through downtown from the 10 Freeway.

    Click on the timetables on mta.net to download their specific info.

  11. Julia I have one answer for you. The 780.

    It’s glorious. It’s a rapid. Ok maybe glorious is an exaggeration, since it’s Metro, but if Metro could work this would be an example of potential to work.

    That bus goes from Pasadena, through Los Feliz and around Culver City (or at least Mar Vista.)

    If you use the Metro.net, what you want to do is change the options.

    They make it so you don’t walk at all, since they have it set up assuming you are elderly or disabled.

    You want to set the options up so that it says you’re willing to walk. If you do not change this Metro will set you up for three transfers and one of those transfers may only be two stops.

    You’ll end up leaving one hour early for what?

    When you go to the Metro page, what you are going to want to do is look at the bottom of the page.

    You want to find the Additional Information:

    The red text has an option of: Advanced trip planner, that’s where you are going to want to go.

    Then under preferences change the max walk distance to one mile.

    I find that’s the best way to get the most normal bus rides with the least amount of transfers, BUT always check yahoo, so you know where you are going and can find a busstop.

    Also pay attention if you see a bus around a destination that you are going look at the timetable, possibly there is stop that goes where you would like.

    Also think about using a bike with the bus, that’s the best combination, but you can ride the bus with the least amount of pain if you’re not afraid to walk.

    Me personally I’d rather walk half a mile than take four busses.

    Bus riding tips:

    Go to the back of the bus, I know it seems odd, when I initially rode the bus I thought the front seats would be better, but no.

    Front seats are where the crazies sit, go to the back and sit on the aisle seat, the amount of craziness you will have to deal with as a woman on the bus will decrease by at least 50%. Sunglasses and a book are also good props or you can actually read them, I’ve got a lot of reading done on the bus and when people who I don’t want to try to talk to me I can say, “I’m reading” rather than please f*ck off.

    That’s much more pleasant.


  12. Great tips Browne.

    “Me personally I’d rather walk half a mile than take four busses.”

    I second that. People don’t walk in this town but they should, it’s really pleasant, even in places that aren’t pedestrian friendly (ie. most places). I’ve found that for the average decently healthy person, a half-mile walk takes about 10-minutes. Walking for 10 minutes is really really REALLY easy.

  13. I’m back on the bus too. The RTD’s improved a lot in the past 20 years, even with the service cuts.

    Metro.net is great. Copy the full address into the form, and your web browser will remember it, saving you some time entering it the next time.

    Is there a booklet with line numbers and when they start and stop running, and how often they come by?

  14. I will say that a bus did hit me while I was riding my bike, so you’re definitely safer in the bus than on your bike next to it.

    I’ve yet to brave the bus world, but please post your experiences. Good luck!

  15. “Is there a booklet with line numbers and when they start and stop running, and how often they come by?” JohnK

    On the Metro.net there are timetables.

    Under “How to ride,” on the the left side of the page.

    Trying to cut and paste the actual page will not work. For some odd reason Metro has it setting so sometimes (not always) that no matter what web address you put in, it always goes back to the home page.

    Here’s the webpage in case it works for timetables:



  16. Thank you all for the great info and support. I will keep it all handy and report back on the progress. Tomorrow I’m going to meet a friend at Clifton’s for lunch and will take the bus! I’ll report back on it…

  17. Just to be a nagging bike-loving pain who can’t let the inconsequential things go, I dispute PBS’s assertion in regards to bike/bus safety, based on and biased from not reams of data compiled over years, but instead a single unfortunate personal experience. I’ve biked alongside tetra-oodles of buses over my 20 years riding around Southern California streets and never been hit so to me it’s no safer inside one or beside one. Just sayin’.

    Shutting up now.

  18. I also took my first bus trip this weekend. I’m glad to read Greene’s advice on avoiding the loonies. I had a homeless lady who smelled like pee for the first part of ride and then a guy trying to get me to give him my number so we could “continue this conversation” on the second.

    Question. My friends were quite concerned about me taking the bus alone. At night. Think it’s too unsafe? It was a Friday night and my ride home was around 1:15am. Just thought I’d query some folks who actually take the bus, rather than my friends who (like me before this weekend) don’t take the bus.

  19. You know Jeannie, it’s really hard for me to speak because it’s different for guys that girls I think. I’ve never felt unsafe on a bus or train late at night, but I’m a guy, and generally (even though I’m really incredibly excellent looking and sexy) I don’t have creepy women hitting on me or anything like that. I’d recommend just following basic street smarts rules… I don’t think anything bad will happen on a bus or train, but once you get off just stay aware of your surrounds, stay in lit areas, and just walk with confidence. Carry some sort of pepper spray or something if you need some confidence in a can.

    Like I said, I’ve never felt unsafe, but maybe others have a different perspective.

  20. Thanks Fred! Great MetroRiderLA site! I just recently moved to Hollywood from The Grove area, and I am psyched to be near a subway station. I was long obsessed with taking the subway, which was geographically not possible. I just wish the trains ran later…it would make it easier to go Downtown for nightlife and/or use it to go to Universal or Staples Center.

    I am hoping that most of the annoying contact from lurkers was due to their sense to my newness to the bus.

    I’ll be back on this weekend to see if I am more like an old pro!

    Thanks for the tips!

  21. The problem with taking the bus alone, isn’t necessarily the bus itself, but the bus stop. (I had a guy attempt to relieve himself at a bus stop that was a bit out of the well traveled path in my vicinity and I’m not talking about taking a whizz.) If it’s a straight shoot, you’ll be fine, depending on where you are going, but the bus up Santa Monica, Sunset, Wilshire, you should be fine.

    The problem is waiting on the bus stop, now that can be a dangerous experience if it’s in an area with no people.

    I would suggest avoiding that.

    Sunset and Labrea, fine. San Pedro and 6th, not so good at one in the morning.

    Rule of thumb if you wouldn’t park your car somewhere, don’t sit at the busstop alone there.

    Metro tip, if it’s after 9pm the bus driver will drop you off where ever you need as long as it’s on the route.

    So say you’re going to the Little Joy on a Sunday and you’re taking the two, well what you can do is tell the driver to drop you off at Portia (which is the street that it intersects) instead of Echo Park blvd.

    Also another tip. Highland Park busses run very badly and cabs won’t pick you up. If you are at a Highland Park function you may have to bike it and legit cab companies will not pick you up, you will have to get a gypsy cab to take you home.

    The phone number is at the Burger Stand that is on San Fernando Road and Avenue 31, you can of course take the goldline and the downtown busses may run ok, but if you are going into Hollywood, Los Feliz, East Hollywood area. The bus they claim will come will never, ever come.

    So at 1am, think about that. The MTA runs once an hour after around 11pm, you could end up waiting two hours if you miss the train.

    Get the number of a cab and a renegade cab in case of an emergency. I can’t put the number of the renegade cab, since you know I don’t want them to get busted, but I’ve directed you pretty well how to find it.

    If you are a woman taking the bus at night you must have the number of a cab company in case things get too crazy, but again on the major roads like Sunset, Santa Monica, and Wilshire, this should not be a problem. The two and four run regularly (none of that once an hour weridness) even in the late night hours.

    If you can’t live by the rails, I suggest living by the two or four. Excellent lines, especially if you like to bar hop and have fun.


  22. “I’m not sure why but the mta.net site doesn’t show any of the DASH options,” Chavo.

    It will show the Dash option, but mainly in Hollywood and mainly if you change the option from min to max of what you are willing to walk.

    The Dash is a good option BUT ONLY inside of downtown, the Dash is a bit iffy in regards to time. The Dash either runs very well, like the downtown Dashes or very erratically like the Los Feliz Dash.

    I would suggest avoiding the Dash in a time of urgency when outside of the downtown vicinity.

    It’s a horrible work option or appointment option. It’s good if you’re leaving happy hour or going to happy hour and it happens to come by and you can take it up the street, but I wouldn’t wait for it or depend on it to make a movie or anything.

    I tried to take the Los Feliz Dash several times (my old hood, which I miss ALOT, downtown is not nearly as fun as those ads make it seem) to get places and that thing never ever came on time, even the first one of the morning.

    It would pi** me off. I called them so often yelling at them in regards to their lack of keeping a schedule. I think that I was instrumental in making it so that the Dash no longer takes calls.

    Yelling at people doesn’t make the bus come any faster, but I feel this way if you’re going to make me suffer with bad customer service I’m going to enjoy myself by calling you and mocking you. It’s childish, but it’s a sort of an immediate gratification.


  23. Man, it’s tough taking the bus in parts of downtown where there’s lots of transitional housing. Some buses run right past if you don’t wave the fool down!

  24. I just want to say that this is some really tremendous citizenship journalism by Browne. It’s a pleasure listening to people hold forth with earnest and expert discourse, be it on baseball cards or space travel or LA public transportation or j’nais ce qua i.e., John McPhee’s career.
    Tally Ho Browne!
    You are blogging.la’s Emerson admist a sea of Hawthornes.
    Good stuff.

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