How to use the Google Maps to plan a transit trip

There was a question posed on Twitter yesterday: is there an interactive map of the Metro system to help plan trips?

The answer: Google Maps, which has both a desktop and mobile version. Both are easy to learn. They’re not bombproof, but I’ve found Google Maps is generally pretty accurate and the most popular trip planner among Metro’s riders — the reason there was some unhappiness among our riders last week when Metro bus and train info temporarily didn’t show up on Google Maps due to a technical glitch.

That was fixed earlier this week. And the timing is good: there’s also a new version of Google Maps available for desktop computers. It’s not a radical makeover, but has a cleaner appearance than earlier versions.

Many of you likely know this already, but I thought I would run through it for new riders or those who haven’t used the Google tools before. Here’s how to use both the desktop and mobile versions as an interactive trip planner:

1. Go to Google Maps on your web browser at if you’re on a desktop. If on a smartphone, download the Google Maps app for either Android or iPhone.

2. If using the desktop version, Google Maps will take an educated guess at your current location according to your computer’s IP address; if you want a different location, just type it in the search bar at the top left corner of the screen.

On the mobile version, click on the arrow at the bottom right corner of your screen to get your current location. Then double tap to zoom in.


3. On the desktop version, zoom into the area where you’re located, then go to the ‘Getting Around’ bar under the search bar at top left corner of the screen. Click on ‘transit’ and a map of transit lines including bus stops should appear. Here’s a map of Metro lines overlaid on downtown L.A.:

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You can also go directly to the trip planner by clicking on the search bar at top left and then clicking on ‘directions.’


On the mobile version of Google Maps, first tap on the three bars at bottom lefthand corner of the map and then choose ‘public transit’ in the sidebar that appears….


…when you click on public transit, you get a map of transit lines:


4. Desktop: Click on a transit stop and you get scheduling info. In that box, click on directions to plan a trip.

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Mobile: Tap on a transit stop and then swipe up on the white bar at bottom up to get schedule info.


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If you tap on the direction you’re traveling, you then get a list of times that trains will arrive. For example, here are the times that trains are leaving Pershing Square bound for Union Station. Of course, this is a bit of an odd example — at Pershing Square riders must remember that there are also Red Line trains running to Union Station, so the wait at mid-day is only an average of six minutes between trains.

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And that’s it. I hope this helps you get around and please feel free to comment if you have any tips or tricks to share.


4 replies

  1. The Metro Trip Planner is more comprehensive because it includes the small municipal operators like West Covina and even Compton, which you can’t even find schedules for outside of the trip planner.

  2. I love you Metro, but maybe you should just direct people to Google Maps and post a tutorial on your website. Why create confusion about two options, when one is clearly more accessible and user friendly?

  3. It works way better than Metro’s Trip Planner! Some of the routes given to me on Metro Trip Planner for my commute (Pasadena to Torrance) are truly baffling… and all at least 40 minutes longer than the optimal route, which Google Maps provides nicely.