Riding Metro 101

colorful mosiac above the escalator going into Metro station

Each Metro station features unique art installations, adding to the pleasure of the LA Metro experience.

Discover LA by Metro:

Riding Metro Is Easy, Stress-free, Safe, Fun

Riding LA Metro rail/subway is an easy, stress-free way to get around LA with no traffic and parking hassles. Since you’ve tuned in to our Metro Duo adventures, we know you’re interested in exploring LA by Metro, and we’re here to help you see LA car-free. This page and our page on Metro Maps & Getting Around will help you plan your adventures.

Scroll down this page or click on these links to learn how to easily and safely ride the LA Metro light rail/subway:

How to Ride – System Safety
How to Ride – Getting There
How to Ride – Timing
How to Ride – Ticket Pricing and Using Ticket Machines
How to Ride – Use Common Sense and Courtesy when Riding Metro

 

How to Ride – System Safety

Whether you’re a tourist, visitor, or newbie on the LA Metro rail/subway, be assured that the system is clean, safe, and usually runs very efficiently. We have ridden every one of the six lines at all hours of the day and night without hassles.

Metro train engineer and station staff chatting

Metro staff is always helpful.

But if you should feel threatened or there is an emergency, there are call buttons on all the platforms and in every train car. There are deputy sheriffs in many stations. We’ve seen situations where the emergency button was used — Metro personnel responded immediately and backup personnel boarded the train at the next station.

In the unlikely event that you see a crime, call the sheriff as soon as possible at 888-950-SAFE (7233) from a cell phone, or use a Metro emergency phone. Try to note exactly when and where the crime occurred. There are cameras in every rail car and station, so noting when a crime happened makes it much easier for the deputies to determine if the crime was recorded on video.

 

How to Ride – Getting There

two trains at the boarding platform

The sculptured stone benches at the Little Tokyo Metro Gold Line station represent targets.

Any journey begins with a desired destination and a known starting point – so where are you and where do you want to go? Our posts in the menu to the right offer some suggestions, and we indicate the Metro stations for some popular destinations on our Metro Maps & Getting Around page. Use the Metro System Map to locate your points of interest. Metro has an interactive map that can help you locate things near stations.

(Note: the Orange and Silver Lines are express bus lines and are not covered by this website. We also do not include information on Metrolink, useful commuter rail lines, and Amtrak, the national railroad lines.)

To find Metro station street addresses and parking information, see our Metro Maps & Getting Around page. Metro Timetable information will help you calculate the length of your trip. We recommend using Google Maps to see where the stations are, where the Park & Ride lots are in relation to the stations, and where to enter the lots.

You’ll find fairly good signage at the stations. Platforms and trains have color coding indicating the line. The platform, and the train itself, will indicate the direction of each train. Signs indicate the train line stopping at the platform. Make sure you check carefully or ask when boarding — there are some stations serving more than one line on a platform (the Red and Purple Lines share platforms at six stations; the Blue and Expo Lines share two stations).

The 7th St/Metro Center station has two platforms on the upper level. Both the Blue Line and the new Expo Line trains depart from Platform 2 on this level. If you’re waiting to board a train on Platform 2 and see a train arriving on Platform 1, don’t worry — some arriving trains discharge passengers on Platform 1. The Red and Purple Lines are on the lower level.

 

How to Ride – Timing

LA Metro trains run every 12 minutes much of the day, and more frequently during peak times. To calculate how long your trip will take and to get a complete itinerary for your trip, you can talk to a human at Metro (323-GO-METRO or 323-466-3876), or use Metro’s online Trip Planner.

Caution: If your trip involves changing lines, Metro’s Trip Planner may not allow enough time to get to the next platform unless you’re a very fast walker. On a few occasions, we’ve arrived late because we missed our connections. If the Trip Planner indicates a tight connection and you have to be at your destination by a specific time, it’s advisable to start your trip earlier than suggested by this planning tool.

Unfortunately, the LA Metro system does not run 24/7!  Most trains run from 4 a.m. until midnight or 1 a.m. on Sunday – Thursday, and all lines (including the Orange and Silver Line Busways) run until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. If you plan on returning late at night, be sure to check the timetables for the lines you’re using. If you miss the last train or connection, taxis can be expensive.

 

How to Ride – Ticket Pricing and Using Ticket Machines

ticket machines are in every metro station

You need a valid fare for every train ride. Be prepared before using the ticket dispensing machines.

Riding the LA Metro rail/subway is easy, once you know a few simple  rules.

(For a better view of the steps, click on the photos to enlarge.)

You must tap your TAP Card before boarding each train.

Metro uses a plastic card containing a computer chip —TAP (Transit Access Pass) Card — for all fares. You need to tap your TAP Card for each train you ride. There are no free transfers between lines. TAP Cards can be loaded with single ride fares, dollar amounts, or pass fares.

For step-by-step TAP Card instructions, see How to TAP: Using TAP Cards 101.

The LA Metro rail/subway currently operates on the honor system with unlocked turnstiles, although the turnstiles will soon be locked.  To ride, you must purchase a TAP Card; load it with the correct fare, pass, or an open dollar amount; and tap it on the blue circle on the entry gate for each ride.

When you tap your TAP Card, you can see your fare status. If you tap more than once, the entry monitor will tell you that your card has been tapped.

The TAP Card registers if it has been tapped at the entry gate, and Metro monitoring personnel have devices that read these cards. If you don’t have a valid TAP Card fare, you’ll be socked with a hefty $250 fine.

Each person riding needs a TAP Card — no sharing cards. The only exceptions are children under 5 years old accompanied by a fare-paying adult. Two children under 5 can ride for free with an adult.

All Metro ticket vending machines dispense TAP Cards for $1.00 in addition to the fare or pass loaded on them at the time of purchase. Once you have a TAP Card, it can be reloaded at any Metro ticket machine.

There are automated ticket machines at every Metro station.  At elevated and underground stations, the machines are not at the platform/track level, but at the turnstile entry level. Ticket machines accept cash ($20 bills or smaller and coins), credit cards, and debit cards. The machines dispense $1 coins instead of bills for change, so you might end up with a lot of coins in your pocket or purse if you insert a $20 bill.

photo of ticket maschine showing starting options: A - Purchase a new TAP Card + fare; B - Purchase a Transfer; G - Add Fare to TAP Card; or H - Check TAP Card Status.

To start your Metro journey, you need a TAP Card with the correct fare, pass, or a dollar amount from which the fare can be deducted for each ride. Begin your fare purchase by choosing: A – Purchase new TAP Card + Fare; B – Purchase Transfer (good on other transit systems); G – Add Fare to TAP Card; or H – Check TAP Card Status. If this is your first time using Metro, or you do not have a TAP Card, choose: A – Purchase new TAP Card + Fare.

There are no staffed ticket selling booths at the stations except in Union Station at the customer information booth in the East lobby, which sells TAP Cards. You may find Metro personnel at the busier stations who might be able to answer ticketing questions.

The automated ticket machines are easy to use and give step-by-step instructions in several languages.  The Help button activates in-depth instructions.

For our detailed instructions, see How to TAP: Using TAP Cards 101.

All ticket machines sell TAP Cards. You have your choice to load passes or cash value (minimum $1.75). New TAP Cards cost $1 in addition to the value loaded and can be reloaded at any ticket machine. TAP cards cannot be purchased without a fare included.

If you already have a TAP Card, cash value (for single rides), passes, transfers to some non-Metro bus lines, and Zone Fares for busways can be added to the card at all Metro ticket machines.

Senior and disabled TAP Cards, eligible for discounted fares and passes, require an ID and must be obtained from either a Metro Customer Center or with a downloaded application form that is mailed in. Ticket machines recognize the status of these cards and allow the loading of discounted passes.

Student discount TAP Cards are also available through Metro and some schools. See Metro’s Reduced Fares page for more information.

One-way fares are $1.75. Senior or disabled fares are $.75 during peak hours and $.35 non-peak and can be loaded onto any TAP Card as individual fares — these discounted fares require ID.

Metro one-way fares now include free transfers for up to two hours of continuous travel in the same direction — no stopovers and no doubling back are allowed.

If you are making five or more trips on the same day, it is less expensive to buy a DayPass, which can be added to a TAP Card. A DayPass is $7.00; a senior [62+] or disabled DayPass is $2.50 at all times, but can only be loaded onto special TAP Cards which are obtained from Metro.

Multiple-Day Passes (7-day and 30-day) are also available from the ticket machines and can be loaded onto a TAP Card. These passes are a good value for tourists as well as for local commuters.

A 7 DayPass is $25 and is the best bet if you’ll be doing 17 or more trips in a week. A 30 DayPass is $100; a senior [62+] or disabled 30 DayPass is $20 but cannot be loaded on a regular TAP Card. The valid time period of a 7 DayPass or 30 DayPass starts from the day it is first used. It does not matter if the purchase is made at the beginning, middle, or end of the week or the month.

On a new TAP Card, or when loading added fares onto your TAP Card, you can choose all Metro Pass options or load single-ride senior fares. See above for new amounts effective September 15, 2014

Lump-sum dollar values can be added to a TAP Card. The amount of each fare is then deducted when you tap for each trip. This is an easy way to handle multiple trips.

To add value or a pass to an existing TAP Card, or to check the status of your card, press the appropriate button, tap your card on the ticketing machine, and follow the instructions. Tap your TAP Card on the machine to complete your transaction.

TAP Cards can also be purchased at Metro Customer Center locations (there is one at Union Station) and some retailers, including Ace Cash Express, Continental Currency Services, Inc., Nix Check Cashing, some Ralphs supermarkets, and California Check Cashing stores.

Senior and disabled TAP Cards that entitle the user to reduced fares may be obtained from Metro Customer Centers, or applications may be downloaded and mailed back.

You must tap your TAP Card before you board each train. Changing lines requires a separate tap prior to boarding, but does not require a separate fare for up to two hours on the same trip — no stopovers and no doubling back.

You can also load Day, Week, or Month passes on your TAP Card. If you have a cash balance on the card, it will not be used if you also have a valid pass loaded.

An advantage of a DayPass is that you can go to as many destinations as you like until 3 a.m. on the day it’s first used (which takes you through to the last trains running). We’ve been known to use DayPasses to go to a farmers’ market, go home and unload, go out to dinner, then go to a theater at separate stations – good bang for the buck!

Metro ticket vending machines on the train platform

At most stations, the automated Metro ticket vending machines are on the train platform. After purchasing your fare, tap your TAP Card on the entry posts, even if there are no turnstiles.

 

How to Ride – Use Common Sense and Courtesy on Metro

passengers with bikes boarding the Metro train

Non-motorized bicycles are always allowed on Metro trains.

We have always found our fellow riders to be polite, relinquishing their seats for older passengers and avoiding pushing/shoving, but not everyone learned these lessons in kindergarten. Use simple courtesy and common sense:

• Let exiting passengers off before entering the car.
• If there are no seats, stand safely and hold on to a post securely.
• Make sure your bike, suitcase, stroller, etc. doesn’t block the aisle.
• No smoking, eating, chewing gum, drinking, etc. are allowed.

warning screen for out of time

If you’re a Metro newbie, you might run out the clock on the ticketing process. Just press any button and keep going!

Obviously, the Metro light rail/subway is public transportation, so be aware of your surroundings as you would in any public place. Don’t flaunt your money, computers, iPods, etc. Always keep a hand on your purse, briefcase, etc. If you drive to Metro and park in a Metro station lot, don’t leave valuables in sight in your car.

The LA Metro light rail/subway is not plagued with some of the problems of other systems. Hucksters selling and begging as in NYC (except occasionally on the Blue Line) or pickpockets as in Paris are rare. Most likely, your ride will be quiet. You may even have pleasant conversations about your destination with experienced Metro riders.

If you’re a Metro light rail/subway newbie, you should note that unlike long-distance rail, there are no restrooms on the trains, nor are there restrooms in the stations — with the exception of Union Station, which is a major train station.

So now that you’re fully prepared,  hop on board and have a great trip!

Metro train going through tunnel

Riding Metro is an easy, stress-free way to get around LA with no traffic and parking hassles.

All photography, graphic images, and text copyright © and may not be downloaded or used without written permission. Please contact us to license usage of images or text.

2 Responses to Riding Metro 101

  1. I still did not finf yhe information I needed. I
    Still needed pricing and discounted rate for a student applying for a TAP card.

    Thank you.

    Best regards,
    Emily Crespin

    • Metro Duo says:

      Thanks for reading our blog!

      We’re not part of Metro, and Metro doesn’t publish student fares, perhaps because some schools subsidize the Metro fares their students pay, and some don’t.

      Check with your school about student TAP Cards.

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