First built in 2003, and expanded more recently, the Gold Line connects East L.A. to Pasadena, with stops in Boyle Heights, Little Tokyo, Union Station, Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, South Pasadena and Old Pasadena, among others. The northeastern terminus is currently Sierra Madre Villa in east Pasadena, although there is hope to extend the line all the way to Montclair.
We’ve ridden the Gold Line (and the Red Line, which connects to Hollywood) many times and have always had a good experience. The compact trains are clean and quiet, and there are usually enough seats, though standing is sometimes necessary at rush hours. In general the passengers are unusually quiet, wearing headphones or reading or staring out the window. The riders reflect the diversity of the city: high school students, service-industry workers, business executives, tourists, school field trips and, of course, the occasional homeless person.
Operating times: Gold Line trains run from 4:40 a.m. to roughly midnight. A train generally arrives every fifteen minutes, increasing in frequency during the rush hours (6 to 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.) and decreasing to about every twenty minutes in the very early and late hours.
Length of ride: Barring the infrequent problem, it takes 34 minutes to ride from Sierra Madre Villa to Union Station. From Memorial Park (Old Town) to Union Station, it’s 27 minutes, and from Mission (South Pasadena) it’s nineteen minutes.
Express Service: During the rush hours, extra express trains skip eight of the stations to make the ride faster from the principal commuter stops. The express trains stop only at Sierra Madre Villa, Del Mar, Mission, Highland Park and Union Station, and the ride is 29 minutes in total, or sixteen minutes from Mission to Union Station.
Updated schedules: Schedules can always change. Go to mta.net for the latest details.
Parking is not available at all the stations. In Pasadena, your best bet is Del Mar. With an entrance on Raymond, the underground lot charges just $2 a day for Gold Line riders, but you have to show your Metro ticket, so don’t toss it! There’s pay parking at the Fillmore station.
Honor system: Just because there are no turnstiles doesn’t mean you don’t have to buy a ticket. The Metro is an honor system, so do the honorable thing—besides, L.A. County Sheriffs do come through and check, and if you’re caught cheating, you could get fined up to $250 and have to do 48 hours of community service. How does 48 hours of scraping gum off the bottom of train seats sound?
Prices: One-way is $1.50. If you’ll be connecting to other lines consider an all day pass for $6.
Where to buy tickets: The system is completely automated—you buy tickets from easy-to-operate machines, which take cash only.
Dash Bus: These cute little buses make downtown L.A. accessible for explorers arriving on the Gold Line. On weekdays, catch the B Line from Union Station’s front door north to Chinatown or south to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels, the Music Center, Disney Hall, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Central Library and the Financial District. Other lines go to Stapes Center, the Convention Center, the Fashion District, Jewelry District and Little Tokyo. Routes change on the weekend—the Downtown Discovery Line runs clockwise from Union Station to Little Tokyo, the Arts District, Grand Central Market, Financial District, Staples Center, Convention Center, MOCA, Disney Hall, the Music Center, Chinatown and then back to Union Station. Unfortunately, the DASH does not run in the evening. For details go to ladottransit.com.
Taxis: If you’re exploring downtown after 5 p.m. on weekends or 7 p.m. on weeknights, you’ll probably need to take a cab to and from Union Station. Cabs wait in from of the station, and they can be found at the obvious downtown places, including Staples Center, the Music Center and hotels.
Red Line: This subway line runs from Union Station west to Wilshire and Normandie in Koreatown, then turns north, ending in North Hollywood at Lankershim and Chandler. Stops of note are Hollywood and Western (Thai Town—lots of good food), Hollywood and Vine (tourist central) and Universal City, home to Universal Studios, Citywalk, the Gibson Amphitheatre and more. An offshoot of the Red Line does not go to Hollywood, but travels a short distance under Wilshire Boulevard, with stops at Normandie and Western.
Blue Line: This line starts at 7th Street/ Metro Center, reached from Union Station on the Red Line. It travels due south to the Green Line and then to Long Beach. The final stop, Transit Mall, is in Long Beach’s charming old downtown, and is an easy walk from Shoreline Village, home to the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Queen Mary, the Catalina Express and beach paths.
Green Line: This line goes toward LAX, but for some mysterious reason doesn’t go all the way to the airport. It’s mainly a commuter line running from Norwalk to Redondo Beach.