Congratulations! You’ve chosen to join the diehard L.A. explorers and go rugged–that is, using public transportation, your own two feet, and perhaps a bike, skates, or a skateboard to navigate through the city. Be you a visitor, a regular pedestrian, cyclist, or motor junkie, trying out L.A.’s buses and light rail can be quite daunting. According to your personal standards, “daunting” can range from “confusing” to “disgusting.” Granted, L.A. Metro is not the most user friendly transit system a major city can have, but it is usually bearably maintained.
I had just moved back to L.A. and had totaled a brand new car. My bike was stolen a few weeks before I had moved. I was certain that I was confined to the one Metro route I was familiar with (Line 45) and whatever ride I could bum off a friend. That was far from what I had wanted. After all, I was back in the city as a college grad with a job; I needed to own up to the independence this brought. It was time to go Metro.
My first solo experience was a thrill! It was my first me-date in L.A. (my second one in my entire life!). Not that it was the most memorable destination or ride; it was the gratification of an urban discovery and the triumph of my first Metro Rail trip. This was no easy feat for me. Lacking knowledge on the Metro system and in utilizing Google Maps to pinpoint stops, in additions to my severe geographical ineptitude, I went through a painstaking process of figuring out the location of the place I wanted to go to and finding the closest Metro Rail station. The one time I had used it was years ago, and I had followed a group of friends and was unaware of how I had gotten there.
Since then, my car-free journey has enhanced and enriched my L.A experience. In the ten months I’ve been here, I’ve learned how to make the most of public transit system. Eventually, I bought a new bike, which truly takes me the distance. First time advice to anxious and enthusiastic Metro rookies comes in 6 parts:
- Study the routes
- Ask questions
- Have TAP card loaded and accessible
- Pick immediate destinations
- Attend events and meet-ups
- 5 Items see https://lawanderer.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/top-5-items-to-take-on-the-metro/
Study the Map It is amazing how far the light rail and bus route can take you. Don’t be shy; be one of the many local travelers, tourists, and old women standing in front of the big maps on the platforms. I still do it! Learn the different lines (Purple, Red, Blue, Gold, Orange, Silver, and Expo) and take note of the stops. Every time you glance over a map, L.A. becomes more manageable.
Google is an ideal tool to utilize when planning trips into the urban unknown. Google Maps shows users where the Metro Rail Stations are located, allows users to look up driving, biking, busing, and walking directions. These directions are usually clear and reliable. I have found it more efficient than the Metro Trip Planner.
Ask Questions If you find yourself lost of confused on a platform, brain, or bus, ask questions; I will answer. If not me, then someone like me will. It’s true, I’ve been all too eager to butt in from across the car and answer a flustered passenger asking a bewildered passenger, “This is the PURPLE LINE! You want the Red Line. CHECK THE SIGN!) If available, speak with a Metro employee. They are more than glad to help you out. This way, you will get accurate and detailed information.
TAP Card Have your TAP card loaded and accessible. Latches will no longer open without valid fare (and as I’ve contended before, I’m all for paying due fare.) TAP cards a $1 and are reusable. If you know that you will be traveling often throughout the day, week, or month, you have the option to purchase $5, $20, and $75 passes, respectively. If you are not sure, you can preload your card. For example, you can add $20 toward fare at the regular $1/25 per ride. In addition to purchasing fare and tapping your card at turnstiles, try to create easy access to your card. Having your TAP card in an ID holder can help you feel more at ease. Digging through my bag in a rush can be a nightmare!
Pick More Immediate Destinations Associating certain reactions to specific stimuli conditions the brain to feel emotion. Therefore, leaving out as much potential for stress on your initial Metro trips may help you tolerate, if not enjoy, using L.A’s public transporation system. In addition to advice number 1 to 3, try to start by picking destinations right by the station. Some examples are Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Watts Towers, Exposition Park, and Olvera Street. I started out by going to the places advertised on the walls at Union Station. Choose places that interest you, do some research to find out about the neighborhood highlights, and take a notebook along.
Attend Events and Meet-ups If you only come across Angelenos who have nothing nice to say about the Metro, exterminate them. Just kidding. Like any endeavor, however, growth and success is more attainable when you surround yourselves with open-minded, motivated, and positive people. What truly expanded my mental map of the Metro and fueled my desire to travel by Metro was going on Metro-centered Meet-Ups and events. Examples of the events I’ve attended are the Gold Line Tamale Crawl with the L.A. Metro Adventures (http://www.meetup.com/lametro/) group and the Expo Line Art Tour with deLab (http://designeastoflabrea.blogspot.com/). Meet people, go on guided tours, have questions answered, and discover the possibilities.
5 Items to Bring I wrote a brief description on the top five essentials to bring when riding Metro. These are you TAP card, a positive attitude, diversion, hand sanitizer, and giveaways. For more details, check out https://lawanderer.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/top-5-items-to-take-on-the-metro/
Well, I hope this did not overwhelm you if you were not overwhelmed already. I am so glad that you have decided to take your first Metro adventure. Power to you and happy travels!