I’d heard enough good things about the Metro-to-FlyAway route from Pasadena to LAX, and had had enough of mystery traffic and expensive parking, to finally inspire me to try a public-transportation journey to and from the airport. And I’m here to report that it’s not hellish at all. Tthat alone represents a huge step in the right direction for our car-dependent metropolis.
I had a flight to Tucson on a Wednesday morning, which had I been driving (or begging a ride) would have meant negotiating the 110 through downtown at a brutal time. Instead, I hopped on the Gold Line at Memorial Station at 8:30 a.m. and sailed to Union Station in the usual 20 minutes. From there it wasn’t hard to find the surprisingly graceful, tree-shaded bus terminal on the back side of Union Station, past all the tracks. A guard pointed me toward the staffed kiosk, where I bought a $7 one-way ticket, gave up my luggage to be stowed below decks, and boarded a waiting FlyAway bus, which left within ten minutes. We hit traffic on the 110 just south of downtown, but once we got through that, it was fast going. I read, played iPhone Scrabble, organized my thoughts, and generally had about the easiest trip possible to LAX.
Coming home was a little tougher. The buses are supposed to leave LAX on the hour and half-hour; I emerged from baggage claim just before 10:30 a.m. but must have missed that one, so I had to stand for a long, diesel-soaked half-hour at the center-divider waiting area, which has neither seating nor an escape from the other huge buses that pull up there. We finally boarded, but three terminal stops later, our driver realized that hers was, in fact, the 11:30 bus, not the 11 bus, so she made us all get out and get on another bus ahead of us. Public servants in action!
Once underway, however, it was quick and easy. We then pulled into Union Station, normally one of my favorite places in L.A. — but this was last Sunday, launch day for the new Metro Gold Line Extension, and holy cow, was the PR campaign effective. It was a total madhouse, with what appeared to be 1,000 people lined along the entire length of the station, waiting for a free ride to one of the new stations, where street fairs and fun awaited. A band was playing in the tunnel, so sound reverberated in a way that was both festive and nightmarish. To its credit, Metro had a huge crew of staffers to direct the crowds; when I asked one of the savvier-looking ones if he thought I might be stuck in that line for an hour, he said yes. So I called home and my daughter came to fetch me.
But that was an anomaly. Would I take the FlyAway again? Absolutely. It was less stressful than driving (at least during traffic times), cheaper than parking at Lot C, and greener than burning my own gas. As long as you allow enough time padding on either end, it’s a win-win.