….Ride the rails to your WalknRideLA tour!

As the name “WalknRideLA” suggests, our tours are designed around two modes of transportation: your feet (“walk”) and rail transit (“ride”). So it’s perfect if you’re in the Los Angeles region and within walking distance of a Metrorail, Metrolink or Amtrak station. You walk to the station, ride the rails to your tour, and walk the itinerary.

Perfect, yes. But unlikely.

Still, resist the urge to drive all the way to your tour. Instead, try driving, taking a bus, or biking to a nearby rail station and riding the rails to your tour. All WalknRideLA tours begin and end at a Metrorail station anyway, so it makes perfect sense to use rail transit to get to them. But before heading out the door, you’ll probably want to bone up on the rail transit options out there.

There are three rail systems operating within the Los Angeles region.

  1. Metrorail. All WalknRideLA tours begin/end at stations on this system.
  2. Metrolink. Use this system to connect to the Metrorail system.
  3. Amtrak. Use this system to connect to the Metrorail system.

1. Metrorail – an urban mass transit system. Metrorail is the rail component (subway and light-rail) of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), or for short, “MTA” or “Metro”. The MTA operates buses, transitways, subways, and light-rail trains, carrying about 366 million riders each year. More than 93 million of them ride the subways or light-rail trains. Currently, there are five rail lines in operation and one due to open soon.

  1. Red Line. A subway, linking downtown (Union Station) with North Hollywood
  2. Purple Line. A subway, linking downtown (Union Station) with Mid-Wilshire
  3. Blue Line. A light-rail, linking downtown (7th Street/Metro Center) with Long Beach
  4. Green Line. A light-rail, linking Torrance with Redondo Beach  
  5. Gold Line. A light-rail, linking Pasadena (via Union Station) with East L.A. An extension from Pasadena to Azusa is scheduled for completion in 2014.
  6. Expo Line – under construction. A light-rail, linking downtown (7th Street/Metro Center)with Culver City. Tentative opening from downtown to La Cienega/Jefferson is slated for November, 2011; Culver City in early 2012. The final link to Santa Monica is targeted for 2015. 

MTA also operates the Metro Orange Line – a bus line that thinks and acts like a rail line. The buses (MTA calls them “Metroliners”) travel most of their 14-mile route along a dedicated right-of-way with station platforms, ticketing machines and park-and-ride lots along the way. The Orange Line links Warner Center with the Red Line subway in North Hollywood. An extension to Chatsworth (opening 2012) is under construction.

MTA also operates the Metro Silver Line – a 26-mile bus line operating from the El Monte Bus Station in the east to the Artesia Transit Center in the south. Most of its route is via exclusive transitways (El Monte Busway and the Harbor Transitway). The line serves Union Station (Red, Purple, Gold Lines; Amtrak and Metrolink connections) downtown Los Angeles (Red, Purple and Blue Line connections) and the Harbor Freeway/I-105 (Green Line connections). An extra fare is required except for purchasers of a Day Pass. See below under “Use Metrorail to Your Tour – The Costs.”

Metrorail site: http://metro.net/

Metrorail map: http://www.metro.net/riding_metro/maps/images/rail_map_future.pdf

2. Metrolink – a regional rail system catering primarily to suburban commuters; Six of Metrolink’s seven lines originate at LA’s downtown Union Station. Metrolink carries over 40,000 passengers each weekday. Weekend service is available on most lines.

  1. Antelope Valley Line linking Lancaster with downtown (Union Station) via Santa Clarita, Burbank and Glendale
  2. Inland Empire-Orange County Line linking Riverside with San Juan Capistrano via Santa Ana and Irvine
  3. Orange County Line linking Oceanside with downtown (Union Station) via San Juan Capistrano, Irvine, Santa Ana, Anaheim and Fullerton  
  4. Riverside Line linking Riverside with downtown (Union Station) via Ontario, Pomona and Montebello
  5. San Bernardino Line linking San Bernardino with downtown (Union Station) via Rialto, Upland, Claremont, Pomona and El Monte
  6. Ventura County Line linking Montalvo with downtown (Union Station) via Oxnard, Simi Valley, Van Nuys, Burbank and Glendale
  7. 91 Line linking Riverside with downtown (Union Station) via Corona, Fullerton and Norwalk (weekdays only)

Link to Metrolink: http://www.metrolinktrains.com/ 

3. Amtrak –  the nation’s long-distance passenger rail system. Five named trains operate from Union Station. Though national in scope, Amtrak service includes a number of cities within the Los Angeles region. Most of those local stations are included below. 

  1. Coast Starlight. Downtown Los Angeles (Union Station) to Seattle via Van Nuys, Simi Valley, Oxnard, Santa Barbara, Oakland, Sacramento and Portland  
  2. Pacific Surfliner. Paso Robles to San Diego via San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Van Nuys, Burbank, Glendale, Los Angeles (Union Station), Fullerton, Anaheim, Orange, Santa Ana and Irvine  
  3. Southwest Chief. Downtown Los Angeles (Union Station) to Chicago via Fullerton, Riverside, San Bernardino and Kansas City
  4. Sunset Limited. Los Angeles (Union Station) to New Orleans via Pomona, Ontario and Houston
  5. Texas Eagle. Los Angeles (Union Station) to Chicago via Pomona, Ontario, Houston, San Antonio and St. Louis

Amtrak: http://www.amtrak.com

 

OK, now that you have a handle on what’s out there… 

Riding Rail Transit to Your Tour

As mentioned before, don’t drive all the way to your tour. Use rail transit. Riding the rails:

  • saves on parking hassles and fees
  • saves gas
  • almost always saves money
  • can save you time
  • adds a sense of adventure and freedom to your touring
  • is gentler on the environment

Here’s how you do it:

Know your destination.

Read the WalknRideLA tour descriptions and choose a tour. Then determine the Metrorail station where it begins and ends.

  • All WalknRideLA tours begin or end at a Metrorail station and most begin and end at the same station.

Note the station name and the Metrorail line (Red, Purple, Blue, Gold or Expo) serving that station.

Decide which rail system is closest or easiest for you to use to get to your tour. 

Once you’ve got the rail station where you’re going to, find the rail station (Metrorail, Metrolink or Amtrak) closest or most convenient to where you’re coming from. If you don’t already know where that station is, go online and pull up a Metrorail/Metrolink map. Amtrak service is noted on that same map.

  • Keep in mind that it’s easy to drive to most rail stations; some offer free parking.

Here’s the link: http://www.metro.net/riding_metro/maps/images/metro_metrolink_map.pdf

1. IF METRORAIL is your best option

Follow these steps if your closest or most convenient rail station is a Metrorail station

Step One: Travel to the station

By car: Free parking is available at some Metrorail stations but parking lots may fill up quickly during weekdays. Street parking is generally available near Metrorail stations but be sure to read the posted signs.

Here’s a link to Metrolink stations offering parking: http://mta.net/around/paid_parking/

By bus: Riding an MTA or other county bus line – Santa Monica’s “Big Blue Bus”, Culver CityBus – to a Metrorail station can be easy and inexpensive. Transfers from one system to another are available. Your bus ticket or transfer ticket is not valid for travel on Metrorail; you’ll need to buy a Metrorail ticket on arrival at the rail station. Use the MTA Trip Planner (it includes travel on other lines, too) to compute your travel to the closest Metrorail station.

Here’s a link to Metrorail’s Trip Planner: http://socaltransport.org/tm_pub_start.php

Tour Tip: When entering the “ending at” information in Metrorail’s Trip Planner, click on the “or” box menu and select the name of the Metrorail Line (Red, Blue, etc.) from the menu. Then select the specific station from the prompt.

By Bike: Bike racks and lockers are available at some Metrorail stations. Keep in mind that you don’t want to bring your bike on the tour. You want to store and secure your bike before starting your tour.

Here’s a link to Metrolink’s Bike information: http://mta.net/around/bikes/bikes-metro/

Step Two: Buy your Metrorail ticket 
On arrival at the station, look for the self-serve ticket vending machines. The machines accept credit cards and coins and bills up to $20. Note: If you don’t have exact change the machine will make it for you – but only in coins.

The Costs: Regular Fares

  • Base Fare: $1.50 per boarding*
  • Off-Peak: Not applicalbe
  • Day Pass: $6.00

The Costs: Senior (62+) or Disabled & Medicare

  • Base Fare: 55¢ per boarding*
  • Off-Peak**: 25¢ per boarding*
  • Day Pass: $1.80

**Off-Peak travel applies weekdays from 9 am – 3 pm; 7 pm – 5 am and all day on Saturday, Sunday and Federal Holidays.

*Per boarding” refers to each time you enter a train station AND each time you transfer to another line (Red to Purple or Purple to Red excepted) within a train station. There are no free transfers or transfer add-ons for travel aboard Metrorail – you pay for each ride on each line.

There are also Monthly Passes and other Reduced Fare Programs (student, senior, disabled, Medicare discounts) available for purchase through MTA. Most can be purchased online. See http://www.metro.net/around/fares/

The Calculations:

Keeping the above fare information in mind, determine the cheapest way to travel.

If you have to use two or more lines to get to your tour (for instance, Gold Line to the Red Line), and two or more to get back from your tour, buy a Metro Day Pass. You’ll break even (four trips) or even save some if you’re a senior. Plus, you won’t have to stop and buy a ticket each time you board. [It’s interesting, though, that seniors traveling on weekends would have to make 8 boardings ($2.00) before saving on the cost of their Metro Day Pass ($1.80). Go figure.]

Tour Tip: If you’ve allotted a day for your touring, buy the Day Pass. You may find yourself being more adventurous once you start using the system. Having that Day Pass in gives you almost unrestricted travel all day.

About the Turnstiles…

Currently, Metrorail is operating on an “honor system” whereby there are no physically restricting turnstiles. You buy your ticket and waltz on through. Police do police the trains and platforms; if you’re caught riding without a valid ticket you could face a steep fine. You’ll see turnstiles at most stations but they are not fully functioning except for “TAP” users (see below).

The regional “TAP” program (Transit Access Pass) is still in the formative stages. TAP functions like a store debit card and can be purchased online at http://www.taptogo.net/. Riders tap their card on the “TAP” scanner and board their bus or train. Currently, TAP is a handy alternative for weekly or monthly pass use. It is not of use for single-trip or Day Pass riders – the usual WalknRideLA travelers.

This site will be updated to reflect changes to Metrolink’s fare system and turnstile restrictions.

Step Three: Ride to your tour

Watch for your station stop. Announcements are usually made, but it may be hard to hear them. Station names are posted on station platforms.

Remember, you may need to make a connection or two on Metrorail (for instance, from Gold Line to Red Line) and unless you’ve purchased a Day Pass, you’ll have to buy a new ticket at each transfer point.

2. IF METROLINK is your best option

Follow these steps if your closest or most convenient rail station is a Metrolink station

Step One: Check the Metrolink Schedules

Access the Metrolink website and check the schedules:

http://www.metrolinktrains.com/schedules/

Because Metrolink targets commuters, weekend services aren’t as frequent as weekday service. At this writing there is no weekend service on the 91, Riverside and Ventura County Lines.

Your destination on Metrolink will be Union Station. Unless your tour begins at Union Station (Olvera Street), you’ll then transfer to Metrorail at Union Station. Don’t forget to check the return schedule to allow plenty of time for your tour.

Step Two: Travel to the Metrolink station

Parking is available at all Metrolink stations except Cal State L.A., and in most cases, parking is free. If you’re riding your bike to the Metrolink station, click here.

Step Three: Buy your Metrolink ticket

Self-serve ticket vending machines are located at each station. Buy your round-trip ticket to Union Station. It’s a good idea to double-check all train schedules while at the station.

Step Four: Ride to your Metrolink destination

Step Five: Connect to Metrorail

Unless your destination is the Union Station/Olvera Street tour you’ll connect to Metrorail at Union Station.

There’s no need to buy a ticket on Metrorail! With the purchase of your Metrolink ticket, travel on all Metrorail service utilized by WalknRideLA tours is free. Just be sure to keep that Metrolink ticket handy should you need to show it.

Step Six: Ride Metrorail to your tour!

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3. IF AMTRAK is your best option

Follow these steps if your closest or most convenient rail station is an Amtrak station

Step One: Check the Amtrak Timetables

Access the Amtrak website and check the timetables. Named trains are Coast Starlight, Pacific Surfliner, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle.

Here’s the Amtrak timetable link: http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer/Page/1237405732505/1237405732505

With the exception of the Pacific Surfliner, Amtrak services focus on long-distance travel. Trains are not frequent; most are not even daily.

Your destination on Amtrak will be Union Station. Unless you’re going to the Union Station/Olvera Street tour there will be a transfer to Metrorail at Union Station. Don’t forget to check the return schedule to allow plenty of time for your tour.

Step Two: Travel to the Amtrak station

Amtrak station facilities vary but most offer parking, rest rooms, ATMs and indoor waiting rooms. Here’s a link for Amtrak station information within California: http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer/Page/1237608345105/1237405732508

Step Three: Buy your Amtrak ticket

Self-serve ticket vending machines are located at each station. Many also have ticket booths. Buy yourself a round-trip ticket to Union Station. It’s a good idea to double-check all train schedules while at the station.

Step Four: Ride to Union Station

Step Five: Connect to Metrorail

Unless your destination is the Union Station/Olvera Street tour you’ll connect to Metrorail at Union Station.

There’s no need to buy a ticket on Metrorail! With the purchase of your Amtrak ticket, travel on all Metrorail service utilized by WalknRideLA tours is free.

Step Six: Ride Metrorail to your tour!