Getting Around in Los Angeles
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, freeways choked with congestion and commutes being rather painful.
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 and leaves most unattended to. This mode of transit is most popular with commuters in outlying suburbs making their way into the city. The fare is affordable and weekly or monthly passes are also available for purchase.
This mode of transit is 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 end late, but taking the bus at night is not recommended, especially in areas with high crime rates.
Downtown Area Short Hop (DASH)
This smattering of simple shuttle routes makes getting around downtown, Hollywood and the Westside of LA quick and easy. On weekdays, departures are roughly every 10 minutes, while on weekends, wait time between shuttles extends to 15 minutes.
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. This mode of transit is not recommended unless sharing the fee with a large number of people. With the exception of the downtown area, cabs can't be hailed, so it is therefore necessary to find a reputable company and call for service.
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. Freeways, 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 a map 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, there are heavy fines for those who wrongfully use this lane.
Parking in Los Angeles is also a concept touched by madness. Some places of interest claim free off-street parking lots, others leave their patrons to take a few turns around the neighbourhood, and still some offer valet parking knowing full-well that the likelihood of finding a parking spot is slim to none. Furthermore, the rules and regulations attached to on-street parking are highly variable.