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Rush Hour Freeway Commuting Takes Years Off My Life
November 25, 2011 11:05 AM   Subscribe

How reliable is public transportation in LA? Can I trust it to get me to work on time?

I just moved to LA and got a job that requires a commute that I would rather not take part in. All told, the driving is about 25 miles each way, which translates to utter hell if I'm driving during rush hour or if the freeways are randomly clogged for some other reason. I've been looking into public transportation because it would be cheaper than paying for gas and way less stressful.

According to both google and the metro trip planner, the best bet is to take a bus 17 stops to the green line rail, take that 4 stops to another bus, and then take that bus 7 stops to my destination. All told, about an hour and a half of travelling. I'm totally OK with this, but I'm concerned that the bus may take longer than this due to traffic and then I'll be late for work, something I really don't want to be.

How reliable are buses in LA? If I am taking the bus at 6AM in the morning, will it actually take as long as it say it is going to take on the internet? What about when I leave work at 5PM? How big of a risk am I taking of being late to work?

Also, how do I go about getting a few of metro day passes to experiment with this before I start getting a monthly pass? Can I purchase a metra day pass on the bus?
posted by garuda to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The buses are not that reliable. Download nextbus onto your smartphone (I hope you have a smartphone for the commute) for reliable, up-to-the-minute information on when the bus is actually going to arrive. The schedule is completely useless.

You need to plan for a lot of extra time if you want to arrive on time to work. There won't be much traffic during your 6-7:30am commute, but the bus might arrive 15 minutes late anyway.

The metro rail, however, is very reliable and will usually arrive right on time.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:18 AM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


What area are you going to and from? An hour and a half and two transfers seems pretty excessive for a 25 mile commute, to me. I have had commutes that long and longer in LA, and I wouldn't put up with that. I've never had a commute of that distance that regularly took that long (though of course on really bad days it can take that long or more). Personally I'd find switching transit so many times and hoping to not miss a connection far more stressful than sitting in traffic. It's really the transfers that kill it for me. It just seems like there's so much opportunity for one leg to be off schedule and screw up the whole thing.

However, the start and end point really make a huge difference. It's possible that your specific commute really would take a long time in a car too, making that less of a benefit.

I haven't used LA's public transit, so I can't give any personal experience there. But I have commuted by public transit in other major US cities (which I'm guessing have similar if not better public transit systems), and I have commuted via car in LA (which has worse traffic than any of the other cities I've commuted in), and I'd take LA car commuting over public transit commuting with two transfers any day...
posted by primethyme at 11:20 AM on November 25, 2011


I briefly took the bus years ago. Usually on time, sometimes not. There are those RAPID commuter buses with the red/white logo like Dairy Queen and they are a little better I think.

The thing about buses, in the absence of dedicated lanes, is this: THEY DRIVE ON THE SAME STREETS AS CARS. The city likes to pretend they have some magical power to help you beat traffic, but in my experience it's exactly like driving in a very slow, very unmaneuverable car that stops constantly.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:21 AM on November 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


How reliable are buses in LA?

I took the bus to school in LA (county, not proper) for a year. They came every half-hour or so, with a rough schedule, and if they were too full, you'd be SOL and have to hope the one a half hour later wasn't too full either. They skipped stops. They forgot route changes. They closed down bus stops and didn't tell anyone or mark them at all.

When they took away my bus stop -- a piece of paper with the words BUS STOP printed on them, taped to a stop sign, which replaced an actual bus stop that had nothing written on it to indicate it was no longer in service -- I had to walk through two parking lots, neither meant for pedestrian traffic, and through some decorative bushes to get home.
posted by griphus at 11:24 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, they often arrived early, which is even worse than arriving late. Nothing like watching the bus pull away from your stop as you're walking there because it came 15 minutes early compared to your 10.
posted by griphus at 11:25 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


there also might be smaller bus lines from surrounding communities that might help for part of your commute. culver city, foothill transit, santa monica, and other cities have thier own lines as well as direct to downtown lines.
posted by calgirl at 11:26 AM on November 25, 2011


Nothing like watching the bus pull away from your stop as you're walking there because it came 15 minutes early...

If it's anything like our public bus system, a bus that seems to be 15 minutes early is probably 15 minutes late.
posted by General Tonic at 11:28 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and, finally, keep in mind that you'll be waiting for the bus in direct Southern California sunlight for up to an hour sometimes. Occasionally, with no shade in sight, and probably breathing everything that comes off the off the side of a six-lane road the bus is running on.
posted by griphus at 11:29 AM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Metro trains that run above or below ground (Red, Purple, and Green) hit their schedules to the minute. I prefer my commutes to start with the bus and end with the train, because the trains run so consistently.

If the bus that you're transferring to from the Green Line is the Silver Line (the 910 bus), then that's pretty reliable too, since it runs in the carpool lane on the freeway. It not subject to that much traffic.

Local buses are entirely a crapshoot. The only reason that I take public transit in LA is because of Nextrip. The bus schedules, as mentioned above, are worthless.
posted by hwyengr at 11:36 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It probably depends on where you're going from and to; I spent a few months riding the bus from Sherman Oaks up to Sun Valley and my memory is that the buses in the Valley were actually pretty reliable. I would expect reliability to decrease in an inverse relationship to freeway proximity; whenever there's a major accident everyone jumps off the freeway and gridlocks the surface streets.
posted by usonian at 11:38 AM on November 25, 2011


I have grown up and currenlty live in LA. This is simply a terrible, terrible idea, and in no way will it end up less stressful than just hitting the road a bit early and driving. It's hard to answer the question completely though without knowing what the specific locations are for comparison with what the drive would be like.
posted by drpynchon at 11:43 AM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I used to take the buses in the Valley and they were on point to the minute. I'd suggest showing up about 5 min prior to your scheduled departure, though. Traffic was variable, though. It really depends on where you're going. I'd suggest taking the route ahead of time to see if it is to your liking.

Now that I live closer to DTLA, I almost exclusively take the Metro (Red/Purple line mostly, and a bunch of buses). Both the buses and subways show up every 10 minutes, on the dot, which has been awesome.
posted by raihan_ at 11:44 AM on November 25, 2011


Metro is pretty reliable, buses are not, and I second the points above about waiting with no shade etc.

To be really blunt, you should move nearer to your job asap. It's the only real LA commute hack there is.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:52 AM on November 25, 2011


Thanks for all the answers so far!

It is sounding like this is not a good idea at all... Which is what I suspected, but I had to ask.

I'm traveling from my house just next to LA City College to 1601 PCH, Hermosa Beach. The most direct route is to take the 754 bus all the way 12 miles down Vermont to the Green line and then take the green line to Mariposa stop and get on the 232 bus and go down the PCH for a few miles.

I could get on the red line and take that to the blue line and that to the green line and then get on the 232, but that is long enough to not even be in the top 4 options on google. And still I would be relying on the 232 bus to get me down the PCH in a reasonable amount of time, which is probably not going to happen judging by my travels down the PCH this past week.

Looks like I might just have to suck it up and do the drive... at least until I can somewhere closer to live. Alas so it is with finding a place to live before you find a job...
posted by garuda at 11:55 AM on November 25, 2011


Ouch. That's a tough commute. If I were you, and driving during rush hour, I'd probably avoid the 110, 101, 10 and 405. I'd say the best bet in car is to just take Western south all the way to West Redondo and make a right, and then the fork to Artesia. That said, if you get in your car before 6:30 am, the freeways will take you less than 30 minutes. The drive back is what will be more painful, any time between 3:30-8:00 pm (which is when I'd go for the surface streets).
posted by drpynchon at 12:14 PM on November 25, 2011


My experience is that southbound 405 in the morning actually isn't usually too bad. But it's getting over there that's going to hurt.
posted by primethyme at 12:16 PM on November 25, 2011


I should add, I'm talking about southbound 405 Santa Monica southward. Coming from the Valley, I have no idea (but that doesn't apply here anyway).
posted by primethyme at 12:17 PM on November 25, 2011


Ouch. That's a tough commute. If I were you, and driving during rush hour, I'd probably avoid the 110, 101, 10 and 405. I'd say the best bet in car is to just take Western south all the way to West Redondo and make a right, and then the fork to Artesia. That said, if you get in your car before 6:30 am, the freeways will take you less than 30 minutes. The drive back is what will be more painful, any time between 3:30-8:00 pm (which is when I'd go for the surface streets).

Yea... It's not going to be fun. If I have to drive, I'm resigning myself to leaving really early and hanging out by the beach at least until 7 before I attempt to make the commute home.

On the way home, I've tried getting off the 110 before I get to downtown and taking vermont north from there to avoid all that mess. It seems to work pretty well. Is the Western a more effective surface street for taking making that north-south journey?
posted by garuda at 12:31 PM on November 25, 2011


I commute by bus about three times a week. Some buses are reliable, some aren't. As far as I can tell the two main things that determine whether a bus is reliable is the buses route and the driver. Buses routed through dense traffic will not get to your stop at the scheduled time. On the other hand, buses that travel through heavily traveled corridors will tend to be scheduled more frequently. LACC is near the light rail which is a very good thing for you. The light rail runs frequently and quite often runs to schedule. The Blue Line will be sometimes problematic late at night and on the weekend because it's often closed for maintenance during those times. I've taken the 232 maybe 5 or 6 times in the last year and it's almost never on time. If I were your I'd look at taking the 910 to the 130. The 910 is a silver line, much of it's route is on the freeway, and it seems pretty reliable. I don't know anything about the 130's reliability.
posted by rdr at 12:48 PM on November 25, 2011


I'd rate this commute as much worse than driving. The buses in LA are pretty unreliable, as others have noted. I've lived in Chicago, LA, NY and visited Miami extensively and LA buses are the worst by a mile. The only buses that never drove me nuts in the LA-area were in Santa Monica, which really weren't too bad.
posted by devymetal at 1:01 PM on November 25, 2011


The 754 is a decent bus. Limited stop service, and it runs very frequently during rush hours. Like, under 10 minute headways, which is more frequently than the train. Vermont does get clogged up, so I wouldn't necessarily trust the scheduled time that it says it'll show up.

Try the transit commute. If you get your monthly pass pretax, you'd probably make up for it within one week of driving to Hermosa during rush hour. And even if you pay the full amount, you'd still come out waaay ahead by the end of the month.

My transit commute probably takes twice as long as it would to drive, but I can't read or work while I'm stuck in gridlock on the freeway.
posted by hwyengr at 1:26 PM on November 25, 2011


Hey, you live by me! I'm sad that you probably have to move, because I like it around here. I wouldn't consider trying to public transit that commute, wow. I would definitely try surface streets, although I have an inbuilt preference for them anyway because they're just more interesting. If I had to do that drive Monday I would be doing some kind of thing involving Western south, then Venice over to Culver City where I would get on Jefferson then Sepulveda which I would take all the way south. I don't promise it will be quick but I would personal prefer it to highways, and large stretches of it might be empty. I have used that route to get back from LAX to our area in 35 mins or so on weekday evenings.
posted by crabintheocean at 1:31 PM on November 25, 2011


there also might be smaller bus lines from surrounding communities that might help for part of your commute. culver city, foothill transit, santa monica, and other cities have thier own lines as well as direct to downtown lines.

Ah, but the Metro trip planner already takes those lines into account.
posted by Adventurer at 1:37 PM on November 25, 2011


Yeah, try Western to Redondo too.
posted by crabintheocean at 1:49 PM on November 25, 2011


Nthing everything: Metro is great, buses are awful, take surface streets when you drive, and move to your job. That commute makes me want to give you a hug.
posted by SMPA at 2:05 PM on November 25, 2011


Oh god. I've done that commute before. I had to move.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 4:05 PM on November 25, 2011


However, I should add one lovely ray of hope.

The thousands of wonderful free podcasts out there...are going to be your best friend, no matter whether you take the bus (which was always not quite on time for me) or drive.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 4:07 PM on November 25, 2011


I used to live in West Hollywood and commute to El Segundo. I took the red to blue to green line and it was a SLOG. The times I did take the bus it always took longer and they were rarely on time. The trains are more consistent but missed transfers and the weather can make it suck. I wonder if thereĀ“s a park & ride that would work?
posted by Space Kitty at 4:48 PM on November 25, 2011


Wish I could remember the name of the comic who said, "So I was in LA and I wound up having to take the bus, and to give you an idea of context, this would be equivalent to getting your lunch out of a garbage can in NYC".
posted by mlis at 5:54 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The bus indeed sucks, but had next trip existed when I was commuting regularly to UCLA, it would have sucked a lot less. It's a temperament thing, but I really hate driving and would rather deal with the extra time on public transportation if it means putting the ipod on and getting some reading done instead of stressing in my car. But just like there are absolutely shitastic days when you're driving, there will be days on the bus where you can't take it anymore. For me that was the day two different buses (same route) broke down on my way home.

Metro day passes are $5 and you can buy them from the bus driver with exact change. I think you can add them to TAP passes on the bus too, but I've never done that.

We live near Vermont (near you!) and avoid it at all costs. It's slightly out of the way, but we vastly prefer the Hoover/Virgil option for north/south purposes between here and USC.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 7:47 PM on November 25, 2011


I think you can add them to TAP passes on the bus too, but I've never done that.

Not only can you add a pass to a TAP on the bus, you can buy a new TAP card from the bus driver, too. Just tell him you're reloading a card, or buying one new ($2), then insert your exact change into the farebox.
posted by hwyengr at 10:09 PM on November 25, 2011


Not remotely less stressful to take public transit. You either need to find a car-pool or move closer to work. Living in hollywood/Echo Park and working in Hermosa seems miserable to me.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:58 PM on November 26, 2011


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