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Expats will find getting around Los Angeles a lesson in the art of patience, and a prime opportunity to practise inner calm on the way home from yoga class. This "cartopia" is notorious for sluggish and lengthy rush hours, highways choked with congestion, and rather painful commutes.
The unfortunate reality is that having a car in Los Angeles is a must, as the public transport system is far from comprehensive, and the expansive nature of the city means many areas remain inaccessible by bus and rail.
While certain neighbourhoods are pedestrian friendly, many are not, and it is usually not long before the car-crazed LA mentality has expats driving even the shortest distances.
Public transportation in Los Angeles
Public transportation in Los Angeles has improved over recent years, but is still greatly limited in scope and efficiency. Buses and trains are the main modes of transit, with supplementary smaller shuttles operating in the downtown and Hollywood areas. Commuters often need to combine multiple modes of public transport to get where they are going.
The Los Angeles metro is certainly fast and easy to use but, unfortunately, it only services certain districts – although this is slowly changing with expansions. The metro is most popular with commuters in outlying suburbs making their way into the city. Fares are affordable, and weekly or monthly passes are available for purchase.
Buses are best used for travelling short distances. Service is generally slow, but what the system lacks in speed it makes up for in economy. Buses start early and only stop running quite late, but taking the bus at night is not recommended, especially in areas with high crime rates.
Downtown Area Short Hop (DASH)
These simple shuttle routes make getting around areas such as Downtown LA and Hollywood quick and easy. On weekdays, departures are roughly every seven to 10 minutes, while on weekends, service is more limited.
Taxis in Los Angeles
Los Angeles is a sprawling city and it follows that even a small trip in a taxi can easily balloon into a large expense as cab fares are costly. They're not recommended unless sharing the fee with a few other people. With the exception of the downtown area, cabs can't be hailed, so it's often necessary to find a reputable company and call for service.
Another option is making use of ride-hailing applications such as Lyft and Uber, both of which are operational in LA.
Driving in Los Angeles
Los Angeles is a monstrous metropolis, and expats keen to master driving in LA will first have to familiarise themselves with the city's roads. Highways, interstates, and surface ways interweave in a mess of arteries and veins to connect various communities. The system is extensive and well maintained, but expats may find it overwhelming initially. That said, a little patience and Google Maps will make a huge difference.
Expats should pay attention to traffic patterns and learn to consult real-time traffic charts before they begin their commute. Planning a route beforehand is the best way to minimise stress and travel time.
Another way to move a little faster through the gridlock is to take advantage of the designated carpool lanes on some freeways. Cars with certain occupancy levels can pass through freely and reach their destination slightly faster. Note that the occupancy levels vary and are strictly enforced, and there are heavy fines for those who wrongfully use this lane.
Are you an expat living in Los Angeles?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Los Angeles. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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