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Everything you need to know about riding Metro
Posted Nov. 19, 2008


The Metro is the public transportation system for Los Angeles, primarily in form of light rail and bus. While the bulk of the Metro services are not available to the La Verne area, this is the way to get around town once you’ve rode into the city on the Metrolink.

(Note: when I say “Metro” from now on, I am referring to the subway system, because honestly, I still find Los Angeles buses intimidating. Besides, many Los Angeles hotspots are accessible via subway plus light walking).

Perhaps another reason people choose not to use the Metrolink is due to the anxiety of navigating through the subway system once they reach downtown. This is a true shame because the Metro is a lot cleaner and straightforward than the unfamiliar rider would believe. The Metro is a great, inexpensive way to get around town if you need to ditch the car. And, like any journey, it feels like a mini adventure. So get onboard!

Tickets
Tickets cost $1.25 per line. Unlike the wonderful New York City subways, one ticket does not allow underground transfer to multiple lines. Oh no, in Los Angeles, one $1.25 ticket is required for each train.

But there is an upside! One ticket is valid for two hours after the purchase time. For instance, you can exit the subway at a stop and hang around for a bit, then re-enter the subway as long as you are still headed in the same direction. Take that, New York City subway system!

Riders may note that there is no turnstile to pass through and there is no ticket validation system. It seems like anarchy. One wonders what the incentive is to even buy tickets in the first place due to how easy it is to enter the train. But as with the Metrolink, random ticket checks may happen at any time, resulting in a hefty fine and public embarrassment. So take a minute and buy a ticket at the machine, which now accept credit and debit cards.

Ticket Machines
Machines are present at or nearby all subway platforms. If you can work one ticket machine, you can work any.
1) Select type of ticket: one-way, daily pass for Metro and bus, or Metro to Muni transfer ticket
2) Insert cash or credit/debit
Added incentive: change for tickets if provided in form of dollar coins!

Remember- if you rode in from the Metrolink and are thinking about purchasing a Metro ticket, don’t! Your Metrolink ticket entitles you to one free line ticket or one bus ticket. But if you riding on more than one Metro rail lines, you must purchase a ticket.

Weekly prepaid tickets are also offered in the Metro Customer Center at Union Station, downtown Los Angeles.

Map and Train Lines
To view more information on a specific line, including parking information and the street address of each stop, please view the Metro Web site.

Train Schedules
Ok, another comparable downside of the Los Angeles versus New York City subway system is that ours is not in operation 24 hours a day. But to be fair, most of Los Angeles is not in operation 24 hours a day, either. Most trains run until 1 a.m. on the weekdays and midnight on weekends (though backwards this may seem). And besides, the Metro picks up again within the hour of 4 a.m., depending on the day.

When they are operating, the subways are pretty speedy. If you miss your desired subway, another will arrive within fifteen minutes (or 20 if late at night), allowing you plenty of time to get to know your fellow metro travelers on your platform.

Each line has a separate schedule of times and locations available on the train.
Schedules for each line can be fund on the Metro Web site. Navigate to the bottom of the page, then click on the corresponding line to download a schedule for departure and arrival times for weekdays and weekends/holidays.

To read the schedule
First, make sure you are looking at the right weekday (times on weekends/holidays are different than weekdays).

Next, verify which direction you want to go: it should say in large letters at the top if the direction is northbound, westbound, etc.

Finally, locate your departure stop at the top horizontal line. Departure times are listed vertically, beginning at the top of the page with the morning hours, leading down to the evening.

Navigating around
Once you get on the Metro, do not worry! It is hard to get confused. Once you approach the track, simply look at signs to tell what direction the track is going. Resorting to your Metro map, find the first and last stop on the line. Then platform or the train will say the last stop in either direction, letting you know which way it's going. As the train is approaching, it will also display the last stop of the current direction on the exterior of the first car.

Once onboard, all of the train walls display a linear map of stops for that line. Some trains are even equipped with a working light map, displaying the approaching stop. The conductor announces each approaching stop as well, though sometimes it may be difficult to understand what he is saying, so stay alert and keep an eye out for where you are in your commute.

Ticket Discounts
The Metro are savvy people, they know that discounts yields increased use. Thus, senior and disabled tickets are offered. But probably more relevant to La Verne, the Metro offers student discounts! Monthly unlimited passes are only $36, which in itself is less than a tank of gas (depending on how rapidly gas prices are dropping). The process for a monthly student pass is relatively easy once you sort through the forms, so allow me to simplify:

1) Print out the application from the Metro Web site.
Be sure to include:
• a $1 application fee in check or money order, made payable to Metro (ridiculous, I know, but someone has to get paid)
• a current 1” x 1.25” full face photo stapled in the right place on the application
• a photocopy of a valid photo ID, driver’s license, school ID, or passport
• Proof of full time enrollment (at least 12 hours), such as a transcript.
2) Mail or hand deliver this bundle of goods to:
Metro Reduced Fare Office
Mail Stop 99-PL-4
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012

3) Then in 20 business days or more, you will receive your Metro ID card.

And there you have it: a basic understanding of how to get around using the subway in Los Angeles. It seems like a lot of information at first, and might possibly confuse you. But the way I see it, if you can conquer the Los Angeles freeway system in your car, you are capable of doing just about anything.

Lesley Michaels can be reached at: lesley.michaels@laverne.edu.