On Tuesday night, I “went Metro” from the Westside to catch the L.A. Kings showdown against the Detroit Red Wings at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. First, an important point: The Kings authoritatively won 5 to 2 to keep their playoff hopes alive.
As many of you likely know, getting to downtown L.A. for an early evening event from the Westside can be supremely challenging and downright nerve-wracking because of traffic. The eastbound Santa Monica Freeway — the main drain for all those workers leaving the Westside — is usually stop-and-go from mid-afternoon until well past 7 p.m. on most weekdays.
As of this moment, there is no Metro Rail and Metrolink service west of downtown, although the Expo Line to Culver City is coming soon (more on that below). In the meantime, however, there are a variety of bus lines operated by Metro and others that provide options other than driving.
Depending on where on the Westside you’re coming from, you’ve got the 720 Rapid on Wilshire, the 733 Rapid on Venice, the 704 Rapid along Santa Monica, the Big Blue Bus Rapid 7 along Pico Boulevard to the Wilshire/Western Purple Line station — to name a few. Metro’s trip planner and Google Transit are useful online tools. Or, if you have any specific questions about the best route for you, I’d be happy to field them in the comments section.
With that in mind, here’s how I did it…
Leaving from the Public Affairs Building at the north end of UCLA, I had a couple of transit options to downtown. One would be to take the Metro 2 Local bus which travels along Sunset Boulevard, before the latter turns into Cesar Chavez Boulevard east of Figueroa. The pros: It’s a one-seat-ride (no transfers) and minimizes walking. Cons: It’s not the fastest way from A to B, thanks to Sunset Boulevard’s somewhat circuitous route to downtown via Hollywood and the more frequent local stops.
Since it was a nice day, I opted instead for a little more walking in exchange for an overall speedier and direct route. My stroll took me about 20 minutes to walk a little over a mile down to Wilshire and Westwood from the north end of UCLA, though I could have opted for a UCLA shuttle or one of several Big Blue Bus routes. In exchange, I earned a bit of sorely needed exercise and a chance to catch up on some phone calls.
As I reached Wilshire Boulevard, I spotted a 720 Rapid idling across the street from my stop. Alas, it would get its green light, pick up passengers and pull away before I got across the street. NextBus told me, however, that the next 720 would arrive in about six minutes, and it was right on the money.
|Transit Itinerary: Westwood to Staples Center
||Transfer & Waiting Time||Travel Time|
|Walking||N/A||20 (productive) minutes|
|720 Rapid||6 minutes||35 minutes|
|Purple Line||4 minutes||8 minutes|
|Blue Line||2 minutes||1.5 minutes|
|Totals||12 minutes||66.5 minutes|
Once on board, I purchased a day pass for $5, which the driver added to my TAP card. As we cruised eastbound along Wilshire, I gazed out the window, listened to music and caught up on my Twitter feed — a welcome distraction — as opposed to giving my right foot a workout in traffic on Wilshire.
I alighted — that’s transit-talk for “hopped off” — at Western to transfer to the Purple Line. If I were playing the odds, I might have been better off staying on the 720, given that Purple Line trains were departing Wilshire/Western Station every 12 minutes at that time of day; the speed advantage of the subway would be undercut by the extra transfer and waiting time. But I was lucky and there was a train waiting for me at the platform and we pulled away just after I entered.
The subway covered the three miles from Koreatown to 7th Street and Flower in just eight minutes. From there I walked upstairs to the Blue Line platform — once again, there was a train waiting — and rode south for one stop to Pico Station, which is just two blocks from Staples Center’s front door.
It took me just shy of 60 minutes to travel roughly 12 miles from Wilshire and Westwood to Staples Center’s entrance. That’s not hugely fast, but probably not hugely slower than it would be to make that same trip in a car via the 10 Freeway, not to mention the walk to the arena from the cheap-o parking lots I would use.
After the game, I was able to hitch a ride home from my dad. But if I had taken transit, I probably would have opted for the 20 Local or the 33 Local on the way back — and NextBus would have told me when to head for the stop.
While everyone’s preferences differ, I really value the time I have on transit to relax, catch up with friends via social media, listen to music — all the things you definitely shouldn’t be doing while piloting a vehicle. As Metro expands and improves, I think more Angelenos will catch onto that fact.
This will be especially true after the Expo Line opens — giving some Westside neighborhoods transit service that many times of the day will be considerably faster than driving downtown. The Expo Line will also have ample parking at the Culver City and La Cienega stations, providing a car-to-train option for those headed downtown. Expo will also stop at the Staples-adjacent Pico Station.
And of course the Westside Subway Extension will also make a huge difference, putting more neighborhoods near rail service, when that line opens.
So, readers, what’s your experience taking transit across town to catch an evening event? Any tips or tricks for finding a good alternative to driving through traffic?