Los Angeles Transportation
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), second busiest airport in the nation, features the most direct flights to Hawaii, Asia and Australia. Century Blvd leading to the airport is landscaped with palm trees and leading to large LAX letters and iconic 100-foot entrance pylons that alternate to different colors each few minutes and millions of colors throughout the year. If you have a window seat, look for the colorful pylons as your plane lands. The post-modern LAX Restaurant Tower is often featured in movies. Though several passenger terminals are being updated, each hosts an array of gift shops, cafes, lounges, wifi, public art and passenger amenities. If you have an hour or more between flights, consider visiting the newly updated Tom Bradley International Terminal for its dazzling architecture, It also features a monument to its namesake, Tom Bradley, who served as LA’s first African-American mayor for 20 years. Navigating between terminals is easy, but distant between some terminal pairs. Allow 5-25 minutes walking time between terminals and use this LAX Airport Map.
Taxis depart from the lower airport roadway at each terminal. Uber & Lyft depart from the upper airport roadway at stations located between each terminal. Shuttle service is provided by Super Shuttle, All American Shuttle and Airport Express. Other shuttles transport you to the offsite Rental Car Center containing Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National and Thrifty brands. Look for Rental Car Center Shuttle signage on the lower airport roadway, then board from a center passenger island.
Depending on where you are headed in this huge metropolis, save up to 1 hour of ground commute time by flying to one of four auxiliary airports.
If traveling to San Fernando Valley, look for flights into Burbank Bob Hope Airport (BUR). The airport is served by Jet Blue, Delta, American, United, Southwest, Delta, Alaska Airlines, taxis, shuttles and car renters.
If traveling to Long Beach, Carson or Bellflower, consider Long Beach Airport (LGB). The airport is served by Jet Blue, Delta, American Airlines, taxis, shuttles and car renters.
If headed to eastern Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County or Riverside County, consider Ontario International Airport (ONT). The airport is served by AeroMexico, Alaska, Delta, Southwest, United, Volaris Airline, taxis, shuttles and car renters.
If going to Orange County, consider John Wayne International Airport (SNA). The airport is served by American, United, Southwest, Delta, Alaska, Frontier, WestJet Airlines, taxis, shuttles and car renters.
Opened in 1939, Los Angeles Union Station was the last great train station built in America. Featuring Moorish-Spanish architecture and loads of movie appearances, it once hosted 70,000 daily passengers and anchored LA’s old 450-mile streetcar system. By 1963, transportation hub status was ended by corporate collusion, federal regulations and consumers switching to cars and planes. It was practically a ghost town by 1970. Amtrak service that began in 1971 and placing this architectural gem on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, saved Los Angeles Union Station until Metrorail connected it with Downtown LA in 1993.
Located at 800 North Alameda Street, Los Angeles Union Station is located north of Hollywood Freeway, across from LA Civic Center. Today, Los Angeles Union Station hosts these Amtrak routes:
Pacific Surfliner: San Diego-Los Angeles-Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo
Coast Starlight: Los Angeles-Oakland-Sacramento-Portland-Seattle
Texas Eagle: Chicago-St. Louis-Little Rock-Dallas-San Antonio-Tucson-Los Angeles
Southwest Chief: Chicago-Kansas City-Albuquerque-Los Angeles
Sunset Limited: New Orleans-Houston-San Antonio-El Paso-Tucson-Los Angeles
Pacific Surfliner is Amtrak’s third busiest route. Though maximum speed reaches 79 mph in places, Pacific Surfliner takes 8 hours 15 minutes to cover the 350-mile San Luis Obispo-Los Angeles-San Diego trip. Pacific Surfliner operates 4 daily trains between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo — its northern route. Pacific Surfliner operates 11 daily trains between Los Angeles and San Diego on weekdays, 12 on weekends — its southern route. By 2020, Pacific Surfliner will operate 13 daily trains between Los Angeles and San Diego, reach 90 mph and feature more cabins per train. Amtrak Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief and Texas Eagle are daily long distance trains. Sunset Limited is a 3 times per week train.
Amtrak, Metrorail, Bus Rapid Transit, MetroLink commuter rail, airport shuttles, taxis, Uber and Lyft serving over 30,000 daily passengers have made Los Angeles Union Station a thriving transportation center again. The station will also be a hub of the California High Speed Rail System, currently under construction.
Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC) opened in 2014. It features attractive modern architecture containing a functional layout, while connecting Amtrak, Metrolink, Disneyland-Anaheim Convention Center shuttle, Greyhound, Megabus, taxis, regular buses and bike storage. Pacific Surfliner stops here today and ARTIC will be a hub station on California High Speed Rail System.
As a modern rapid transit system that first opened in 1990, Metrorail consists of two heavy rail (subway) lines and four light rail lines that run 106 miles to 93 stations. Metrorail serves 365,000 weekday patrons. Red Line & Purple Line heavy rail and Gold Line light rail anchor at Los Angeles Union Station. Expo Line and Blue Line light rail terminate in Downtown LA at 7th & Flower Streets. Normal service is 5am–12pm. To the delight of party patrons, service extends to 2am on Friday and Saturday nights.
Many Purple Line and Red Line stations are designed well enough to be tourist attractions. A number of Expo, Blue and Gold line stations have interesting artwork too. Metrorail conveniently takes you to attractions in Union Station, most of Downtown LA, LA Convention Center-LA LIVE, USC-Exposition Park, Koreatown, Chinatown, Crenshaw & Expo, Little Tokyo, East Los Angeles, East Hollywood, Hollywood, Universal Studios, La Cienega & Expo, Culver City, Westside Mall, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Carson, Long Beach, Pasadena and Azuza-Pacific University. If your hotel is near a Metrorail station, consider purchasing a Metro Day Pass + Taxi/Uber/Lyft rides to avoid considerable driving and parking hassles. Metrorail System Map
Bus Rapid Transit routes consist of Orange Metro Liner and Silver Metro Liner. Within their dedicated busways, Metro Liners run as fast as light rail and serve 30,000 weekday patrons. Catch Orange Metro Liner just outside Metro North Hollywood Station for fast & frequent rides to western San Fernando Valley. Anchored by Los Angeles Union Station and Downtown LA, Silver Metro Liner travels east to El Monte Transit Center and south to San Pedro. Note: Silver Metro Liner slows like regular buses entering Downtown LA from the south until it reaches Los Angeles Union Station — a distance of several miles.
Metrorail is expanding. In 2019, Metro Crenshaw-LAX-Redondo Beach Line will open from Expo-Crenshaw Station to Century-Aviation Station, where bus shuttles will transport travelers to LAX Airport terminals. From Century-Aviation Station, the line will extend to Redondo Beach Station. Metro Green Line will also extend to Century-Aviation Station. By 2020, a Downtown LA tunnel will interconnect the current Blue, Expo and Gold lines. By 2023, Metro Purple Line will extend to Wilshire/LaBrea art gallery corridor, Wilshire/Fairfax museum district, and Wilshire/LaCienega entrance to Beverly Hills. LAX Automated People Mover will connect Metro Century-Aviation Station, Rental Car Center, and Long Term Parking to three people mover stations within LAX Airport. Between 2024-26, Metro Purple Line will extend to Wilshire/Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and to Century City, the second largest office-shopping district in LA.
MetroLink is a 416-mile, 7-line commuter rail system for regional areas not served by Metrorail. Most MetroLink and Metrorail lines meet at Los Angeles Union Station for convenient transfers. MetroLink service is frequent during weekday commute hours, but runs 60-90 minutes otherwise. MetroLink trains average about 40 mph and serve 42,000 weekday passengers. Metrolink System Map
Anaheim Resort Transit (ART) provides shuttle service from ARTIC train station to large Anaheim hotels, Downtown Disney, Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and Anaheim Convention Center. One-day passes are available. Children under age 10 ride free. ART operates every 10-20 minutes, depending on weekend, summer and holiday periods.
If you know or think you may get motion sickness, buy and use dramamine 30-60 minutes before any cruise and sit in the rear of the lower deck where motion sensation is reduced.
Catalina Island Cruises from Marina Del Rey
Two 149-passenger ferries make the 90-120 minute cruise to beautiful Catalina Island – only 40 miles southwest. Dolphins like to approach the vessel shortly after the cruise departs – a nice reminder that you are getting away. If you like boating, then enjoy upper deck views with a light jacket, since the Marina Del Rey Flyer, travels up to 30 knots per hour and it gets windy. Snacks, beverages and mixed drinks are available on board. Eight passengers can upgrade to the Admiral’s Lounge inside the upper deck for fantastic views. Outbound from Marina Del Rey, the Flyer first stops at Avalon at the southern end of the island, then doubles back to Two Harbors at the northern end of the island.
DAYS & HOURS: seasonal schedule, departures to Avalon is 8:30a some days and 9:15a on others; return departure is at 5p
TICKETS: Book online for significant discount and you can rent island bikes with them; it is recommended to book Catalina Island hotel and tour packages at the same time as the cruise for more discounts and convenience; they also book non-scheduled group cruises to the island
ADDRESS: Fisherman’s Village, Marina Del Rey MAP
Marina Del Rey Harbor Tours
Enjoy 40-minute narrated tours of multi-million dollar yachts, homes and sometimes sea lions in the harbor. Fisherman’s Village is not as vibrant as it used to be, but there are a couple nice seafood restaurants for pre- and post-dining.
DAYS & HOURS: tours depart 12a, 1p, 2p, 3p, 4p and 5p
ADDRESS: Fishermans Village, Marina Del Rey MAP
Los Angeles World Cruise Center
Home port of The Love Boat television series from 1977-1986 and next to a port of cargo vessels, World Cruise Center handles three major cruise lines and express ferries to Catalina Island. You will often see 3000-passenger cruise ships docked at two large terminals, when they are not traveling to Mexico. The complex has ample parking, a cafe and restrooms. Courtesy shuttles from ship to parking lot are scheduled on ship days only. Taxis, Uber, Lyft are always around when ships port and you can rent a car. The cruise center is managed by Pacific Cruise Ship Terminals.
Royal Caribbean offers regular 3 and 4-night cruises to Mexico Baja on Monarch of the Seas and 7-night Mexican Riviera cruises
Princess Cruises: 10-night & 7-night Mexican Riviera cruises plus 7, 10 and 11-night Alaska cruises.
Disney Cruise Line 7-night cruises to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, Cabo San Lucas
ADDRESS: World Cruise Center at 500 North Front Street, San Pedro MAP
PARKING: 2500 over-night secured parking spaces available
Catalina Island Cruises from San Pedro
During warm months, its popular to cruise to Catalina Island. Highly active travelers go there to hike year round because most of the island is a habitat preserve. So there are rules to protect the wildlife. Boats dock at scenic Avalon Harbor. Get there in 60 minutes aboard Catalina Express; reservations are recommended.
ADDRESS: 95 Berth, San Pedro MAP
PARKING: 2500 secured parking spaces available
Catalina Island Cruises from Long Beach
Embark at the passenger terminal next to the Queen Mary; from LA take the I-405 Freeway south to the I-710 Freeway south to its end. Stay to the left, follow signs to downtown Long Beach. Look for Queen Mary signs and exit on Golden Shore. Get to Catalina Island in 55 minutes; reservations are recommended.
ADDRESS: 320 Golden Shore, Long Beach MAP
PARKING: secured parking available
L.A. By Pam Siteseeing Tours
Pam Garrett is a premier Black family reunion coordinator of personalized city tours and specialty tours of LA and surrounding locales, sponsor of a youth travel club; Pam also provides city guide services for visiting author, Gospelfest tours and Allensworth State Historic Park Tours; available for large groups and has a concierge service for small groups. A travel club membership is available for Los Angeles residents.
PHONE: 323-777-7833 or 800-LABYPAM
Since 1935 these have been the most popular tours of Downtown, Hollywood, Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, Miracle Mile, Melrose Avenue, Santa Monica, Venice, celebrity homes, movie studios and night tours. Red open-top double-decker buses imported from the UK are used on Hop On-Hop Off routes, but often have recorded guide information. Small shuttle buses are used to tour Movie Star Homes with the driver serving as you guide. Clarify which movie star homes you will see before your tour, since some take different routes. Closed-top vehicles are used when it rains. If you prefer not to drive, they offer a wide range of tour packages to cover the biggest attractions, including a popular 48-hour Hop On-Hop Off Pass.
DAYS & HOURS: daily 9:30a
BOX OFFICE: Starline kiosk in Chinese Theater courtyard; other prices available for tours combined with destinations such Universal Studios, Getty Museum and Disneyland
ADDRESS: 6925 Hollywood Blvd MAP
Catalina Island Helicopter Flight from San Pedro
A family run business that flies 3 six-passenger turbine powered, sound proofed helicopters. Their aerial views include a portion of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Avalon Catalina Island. It takes only 15 minutes to Avalon in good weather. Each helicoter carries 1 to 6 passengers. If you easily get motion sickness, take Dramamine 30-60 minutes before a helicopter flight.
DAYS & HOURS: 8a-Sunset
ADDRESS: World Cruise Center – Berth 95, San Pedro MAP
PARKING: 2500 secured parking spaces available
Catalina Island Helicopter from Long Beach
For aerial views that include Long Beach, consider this option which takes only 15 minutes to reach Avalon in good weather; each helicoter carries 1 to 6 passengers. If you easily get motion sickness, buy dramamine 30-60 minutes before a helicopter flight.
ADDRESS: 1175 Queens Highway, Queen Mary Heliport, Long Beach, CA
Los Angeles Freeway & Tollway Network is America’s largest when you combine mileage with lanes per mile. It features more carpool lanes, sound walls, modern interchanges, metered entrances and freeway status signs that enable it to carry more autos than any other freeway network in the world. Nevertheless, LA freeways are congested 4-5 hours each weekday morning and another 4-5 hours each weekday evening.
Two HOV lanes were converted to HOT Lanes on I-10 Freeway East of Downtown and the I-110 Freeway South of Downtown. Traffic moves invitingly fast in those HOT Lanes, but requires a FasTrak transponder in your vehicle to automatically deduct a toll when you ride in the lane. If your stay in LA requires multiple business trips on the I-110 Freeway and I-10 Freeway, inquire with your airport rental car agency to rent a FasTrak transponder. Tolls are based on current congestion level and the length of your trip. Orange County features more Tollways than Los Angeles County.
No matter how congested other lanes get on I-10 and I-110 Freeways, do not use HOT Lanes without a FasTrak transponder. High resolution video cameras surveil those lanes 24/7 and the fine is painful.