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Help needed for my last minute Cali trip
June 29, 2011 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Going from SF to Pasadena via public transport -- is this possible?

I'm planning a last minute trip to California to visit some friends there. I have a friend in Palo Alto, another in SF proper and one at Caltech. Complication: I don't have a driver's license so can't rent a car. Is it possible to fly into SFO, spend some days in Palo Alto/SF, then take say an Amtrak train to LA and then get from wherever that drops me off to the Caltech campus, then from there to LAX to fly back home. My friends in SF/Palo Alto drive, but the one in Pasadena doesn't. I'm beginning to wonder if this is all too much hassle for a less than a week long trip and I should just stick to SF/Palo Alto for this trip. Any advice would be much appreciated. I'm currently in Ithaca, NY and am flexible as to dates etc.
posted by peacheater to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Google maps says: yes, but it will take 9 hours
posted by aubilenon at 10:45 AM on June 29, 2011


Yes it is possible. The train to LA picks up in Oakland and San Jose (both of which are accessible from Palo Alto/SF) and at the other end you can get the Gold line from Union station in LA straight to Pasadena. The train down the coast is slow (you're going to lose a day from your trip) but a comfortable and relaxing experience (especially if you're new to trains). It may be more expensive than flying. If you fly to LAX then just take the bus to Union station and pick up the Gold line.
posted by caek at 10:45 AM on June 29, 2011


Yes, for sure. The Gold Line has a station not to far from CalTech's campus.
posted by something something at 10:47 AM on June 29, 2011


You can probably fly from San Jose to Burbank faster and maybe even cheaper than Amtrak.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:49 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do not take Amtrak on the west coast if you need to arrive at your destination on time.
posted by rdr at 10:52 AM on June 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


It'll be harder to get from Burbank to Pasadena. 94 bus to 180/181 bus is the only way I can think of that, and that would take a while.

Union Station will be your LA hub on this one, since it's where the Amtrak, Gold Line, and FlyAway bus all operate from. The FlyAway runs between Union and LAX for $7 every 30 minutes during the day.

So, Amtrak to LA, Gold Line to Pasadena, Gold Line back to Union, Flyaway to the airport. Done and done.
posted by hwyengr at 10:53 AM on June 29, 2011


Another vote for flying -- public transportation is probably better to LAX, and you can do San Jose to LAX for $99 on Southwest easily, maybe cheaper if you poke around a bunch. Amtrak takes a ridiculously long time, so unless you like the train part of it (which is possible, trains are nice), and are just looking for a means to an end, fly.
posted by brainmouse at 10:55 AM on June 29, 2011


public transportation is probably better to LAX

Public transportation is not good to LAX at all. You have to take a shuttle bus to the train and then switch trains four times to get to Pasadena.

You could fly into Burbank and just take a cab to Pasadena. Flights are very cheap between Northern and Southern California, so much so airfare + cab might not be any more expensive than the train.
posted by something something at 11:00 AM on June 29, 2011


Metrolink and Amtrak go through Burbank airport to Union Station (you go through the station if you take the train from Oakland!). If it's cheaper for the OP to fly to Burbank then it's going to be no harder to get to Pasadena than from LAX.

And as everyone is saying, the train in/out of LA is fine as far as San Diego/Santa Barbara, but after that you better have several hours (and possibly even a day) of wiggle room in your timetable. If you're not against the clock then personally I think it's worth it, but YMMV.
posted by caek at 11:00 AM on June 29, 2011


Public transportation is not good to LAX at all. You have to take a shuttle bus to the train and then switch trains four times to get to Pasadena.
Not true. Bus to Union, Gold Line to Pasadena. I've done it several times myself.
posted by caek at 11:02 AM on June 29, 2011


Not true. Bus to Union, Gold Line to Pasadena. I've done it several times myself.

OK, this is true. I have pent-up rage regarding the pointless inconvenience of the Green Line.
posted by something something at 11:04 AM on June 29, 2011


Alternatively, you could take a super shuttle sort of thing from LAX or Burbank. It will cost more, but it won't take as long.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:11 AM on June 29, 2011


Thanks for all the responses. So it looks like my two options are:

Amtrak -> Gold Line -> Pasadena -> Gold Line -> Flyaway -> LAX

or

Fly to Burbank -> Bus to Union -> Gold Line -> Pasadena - > Gold Line -> Flyaway -> LAX

I'm finding myself inclined to just stay in the San Francisco Bay Area and save LA and its environs for another trip, but feel free to give me any more suggestions you think people have missed out on.
posted by peacheater at 11:26 AM on June 29, 2011


Yeah, honestly, while this is possible, I would stay in the Bay Area for the whole trip. Use the time to go up to Muir Woods or Napa for a day instead of down to LA, really enjoy the Bay Area. Do LA some other time.
posted by brainmouse at 11:33 AM on June 29, 2011


Fly to Burbank -> Bus to Union -> Gold Line -> Pasadena - > Gold Line -> Flyaway -> LAX
Make that "Fly to Burbank/LAX (whichever is cheaper) -> Bus to Union from LAX or Metrolink Light Rail to Union from Burbank -> Gold Line -> Pasadena - > Gold Line -> Flyaway -> LAX"
posted by caek at 11:45 AM on June 29, 2011


Yeah, way to little time for including a side-jaunt to Pasadena IMO.

However, regarding the general question of SF to SoCal via public transport, this journey was just discussed in an FPP on the blue pointing to an article documenting the trip in the SF Weekly. Myself, I'd rather go Greyhound or take a Chinatown bus (although they don't seem to have any stops in Pasadena).
posted by Rash at 11:56 AM on June 29, 2011


Flights between the Bay Area and the LA airports are generally cheap and frequent (make sure to search Southwest, which isn't listed on Kayak and most of the other travel sites but has a large number of low-cost flights between the regions). $99 is pretty common if you buy in advance and it's not a holiday weekend or something. The train, in contrast, is slow, rather expensive, and incredibly unreliable.

Given the annoyance of flying from Ithaca to the west coast (I say as someone who made that particular trip quite frequently over the past five years), if you're not such a fan of the travel experience, I'd pick one location or the other. You might also have trouble getting a three-way air ticket (ITH-SFO; your own travel for SF-LA; LAX-ITH) that doesn't cost a fortune (or you might not, it's wholly unpredictable).
posted by zachlipton at 12:05 PM on June 29, 2011


What rdr said. I've taken Amtrak, which between SF and SoCal means a bus, a train, then another bus, more times than I can count. And I don't think it's been on time once. Even driving takes less time.
posted by chez shoes at 1:15 PM on June 29, 2011


Amtrak is more expensive and much less reliable than flying. Use Amtrak only if you don't have a schedule.

I would recommend checking out the Chinatown buses, as they beat planes and trains (and any public transit) in terms of speed and cost. IIRC $40 from SF and SJ to downtown LA, about 7 hours.
posted by zippy at 2:31 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


(well, they don't beat planes in terms of speed ...)
posted by zippy at 2:32 PM on June 29, 2011


I would check out the Airport Shuttle vans. One of them (the blue ones I think) is running a $20 from 'anywhere' deal. Then fly to either Burbank or LAX, Shuttle van to wherever you want to go and then back to LAX for $40 bucks. Minus a little wait time at airports and a mildly circuitous route to drop off people before you... it's totally hassle free and they'll even load your luggage.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:35 PM on June 29, 2011


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