How to Get Around Los Angeles on the Metro

Los Angeles Metro
Mark Williamson / Getty Images

When you are planning your trip to Los Angeles, California, it is helpful to know that there is a comprehensive system of public transportation available in the area. Knowing how to navigate the Los Angeles Metro can help you to explore the sprawling city and other areas in Los Angeles county.

The Los Angeles County MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) operates underground and above-ground trains as well as buses in Los Angeles County known as the Metro (not to be confused with the Metrolink between-city computer trains). These are county services, and there are more than 15 municipal transit services that also operate within the county. 

LA Metro Train Lines

The Metro Trip Planner is helpful if you know your starting and ending Metro stations.

The Green Line goes east from near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) connecting with the Blue Line in central LA and continuing east to Norwalk, where you can catch a bus to Disneyland. There's a shuttle bus from LAX to the Green Line station.

The Blue Line runs from Long Beach to Downtown LA where it meets the Red Line. The Red Line runs from Union Station west through downtown and up through Hollywood to North Hollywood. This is the only line that's predominantly underground, so it's the fastest one. It's also the most useful for visitors, since it stops near many popular tourist attractions including Universal Studios Hollywood, Hollywood & Highland and Olvera Street.

The Purple Line runs parallel to the Red Line from Union Station to Wilshire and Vermont and then diverts to travel two more stops west down Wilshire. 

The Expo Line Runs from the 7th Street Metro Station downtown, where it connects with the Red, Blue and Purple lines, west through Exposition Park (home of the Natural History Museum, California Science Center and more) and USC to Culver City and on to Santa Monica.

The Gold Line runs from Union Station northeast to Pasadena.

The Metro Orange Line (through the San Fernando Valley) and Wilshire Rapid Express (Bus 720 from downtown to Santa Monica Pier) are express buses that operate on proposed future train routes. They show up as thinner orange and purple lines on Metro train maps.

Additional Metro buses extend routes from Metro stations to areas not reached by the trains. Other local transit systems also have buses that serve Metro stations.

Fares and Passes for LA Metro

Metro has transitioned from tickets to TAP cards for all trains. All fares must be loaded onto plastic TAP cards, and then tapped on the TAP box at each station to validate. The reusable TAP card costs $1 in machines or on buses, or $2 from vendors, in addition to whatever fares are loaded onto it. The card must be tapped for each train or bus that you board along your route.

Metro trains and buses in the same direction within two hours are now included in the base fare as long as you use the TAP card and tap the final transfer within the two-hour window. However, if you pay cash to board a Metro bus (the only place you can use cash), no transfers are included.

  • Single Base Fare: $1.75, good for one full trip in one direction on Metro trains and buses if the final transfer takes place within 2 hours and using the TAP card. The trip can take longer than 2 hours as long as the final transfer is within the 2-hour window.
  • Senior/disabled/Medicare (62+) peak fare (5 a.m.–9 a,m. and 3 p.m.–7 p.m.) $0.75, off-peak fare $0.35. College/Vocational Student $1.75, K-12 Student $1. If paying cash on a bus, the fare is the same, but only includes one leg of the trip and no transfers.
  • Day Pass: $7.00, good for all day travel on all Metro trains and buses until the last train or bus of the day. You'll save money if you're traveling four or more train and bus trips in a day. Seniors (62+) $2.50.
  • Weekly Pass: $25. You save money if you'll be traveling 15 or more train and bus trips in a week. Supplements for Silver Line and Express Buses apply.
  • Metro to Muni supplement: $0.50 to transfer from the Metro to a non-Metro bus system. $0.25 for seniors/disabled/Medicare. Metro buses require an additional Metro base fare.
  • Zone Charges: Freeway Express buses add additional zone charges based on distance. Zone charges are an additional $0.75 per base fare, per zone ($0.60 Senior/Disabled/Medicare).

Pass holders without a Zone Stamp (extra when you buy the pass), can pay the zone charges in cash or from stored value on the TAP card. The Zone and Premium charges are really convoluted. Most visitors won't need them, but you can check here for more info.

The Metro Silver Line buses that run primarily on freeways from the Southbay and San Gabriel Valley to Downtown LA landmarks require a supplemental fee.

  • 30-Day Pass: $100 Adults, $24 K-12th grade, $43 college/vocational student, $20 senior/disabled/Medicare.
  • EZ Transit Monthly Passes: Adults $110, senior/disabled/Medicare $42 plus $9.50 for express zones. Children and students only receive discounts on monthly passes. Includes 14 local transit systems.