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Los Angeles

Hollywood SignJuly 13, 2014

Hollywood Sign
July 13, 2014

Los Angeles is often thought of being a city where the private vehicle is the dominant form of transportation. However, by shear virtue of Los Angeles’s size, it still has one of the largest public transportation networks in the entire United States, even if it is not as extensive as it could be.

The area’s primary transit operator is the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), which was founded in 1993 following the merger of the Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD or more often, RTD) and the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (LACTC). While public transportation only accounts for about seven percent of all the trips originating in Los Angeles County each day, the average daily ridership of 1.35 million makes LACMTA the third largest public transit system in terms of ridership in the entire United States. LACMTA operates two heavy rail lines, four light rail lines, two bus rapid transit lines, and over 200 bus lines.

In addition to LACMTA, there are several other municipal bus operators. These include LADOT, Long Beach Transit, Montebello Bus Lines, Norwalk Transit, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, Santa Clarita Transit, Torrance Transit and Foothill Transit. Although these other systems are not operated by LACMTA, LACMTA does contribute to their funding and coordination does exist between the agencies in the areas where services overlap.

In addition, commuter rail services throughout the region are provided by Metrolink, which operates 7 lines covering nearly 400 miles and carrying over 40,000 each weekday. Metrolink service is centered on Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and extends to East Ventura, Lancaster, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Oceanside. Important destinations served by Metrolink include the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California State University, Angel Stadium, and the San Clemente Pier.

Los Angeles Metro Rail: Heavy Rail

Two of Los Angeles's Metro Rail lines are heavy rail lines. These are the Red and Purple lines, which operate as subway lines starting at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. The first segment opened in 1993. The Red Line continues to Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. The Purple Line operates under Wilshire Boulevard to Western Avenue with further extensions to the west currently under construction. As of October 2013, the combined Red and Purple lines averaged 169,478 boardings per weekday.

Los Angeles Metro Rail: Light Rail

The Los Angeles Metro Rail system includes 4 light rail lines (Blue, Expo, Gold, and Green). The first light rail segment opened in 1990 and the system has expanded over the years to include over 60 miles of track. A number of extensions are in the planning phase, and the "Regional Gateway", which is currently under construction, will allow through routing of the current Blue, Expo, and Gold lines.


LACMTA operates the second largest bus fleet in the United States with nearly 2,500 buses in its fleet. Most of these buses are powered by compressed natural gas, making LA's bus fleet the largest CNG powered fleet in the United States. Three different types of bus services are provided. Metro Local is the base service providing local service throughout the service area. Metro Rapid is the limited bus service with some BRT qualities. Metro Express routes are commuter bus routes to and from downtown Los Angeles or suburb to suburb express buses.

Angels Flight

Angels Flight is a narrow gauge funicular that connects downtown Los Angeles with the Bunker Hill neighborhood. The current Angels Flight funicular opened in 1996, just south of its original location that operated from 1901 until 1969, using the original (albeit relocated) stations, trains, and tracks. However, since being relocated, the funicular has been closed for extended periods of time following two accidents and has not been in operation since 2013. As of late 2015, there is no estimate as to when service might be restored.

Big Blue Bus

The Big Blue Bus is operated by the City of Santa Monica. Big Blue Bus started as Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines. It was the last operator of GMC New Look buses in the United States, having retired its last one in 2005. As of 2015, it operates 18 bus routes with a fleet of nearly 200 buses in Santa Monica and the adjacent communities, including express service to downtown Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT)

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is the second largest public transit operator in Los Angeles after the LACMTA. It operates the DASH service, about 30 routes concentrated in downtown Los Angeles that feed the wider LACMTA Metro network, and 13 express commuter bus routes.


Metrolink operates 7 rail lines serving 55 stations throughout Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, and San Diego counties. As of 2015, Metrolink operated nearly 400 route-miles, and additional expansions to the system are planned. Metrolink's Inland Empire-Orange County Line has the distinction of being the first suburb-to-suburb commuter rail line in the country.