By Sara Lieberman, August 28, 2014
New York has the apple. Wisconsin has its cheese. So what best
represents Los Angeles? Hint: It's got four wheels and it's forever in
traffic on the 405. Yep, you guessed it—it's an automobile. No matter
where you are, the talk in California always turns to driving:
"Hey, good to see you!"
"You too. But man, the 101 was insane."
"You took the 101? Why didn ' t you take surface streets?"
"Because I knew that Wilshire is all dug up because of the Metro construction, so I figured I ' d try the 101 to the 10. Bad move."
This can go on for ages.
To be fair, Los Angeles is a large, sprawling city, and to some,
navigating it without your own car seems preposterous. But on a recent
West Coast sojourn, during which I stayed in Santa Monica, I was
determined to prove them wrong. "What's the big deal?" I said. "I'll
take the bus. Or ride a bike. Or get a ride." My sister, who now owns a
Volkswagen Tiguan after a lifetime in New York, looked at me as if I'd
suggested lining up for a Cronut at 10 a.m.
While it wasn't an easy challenge, I did it—and, as an added bonus,
it did allow me to have that extra cocktail after dinner at The Tasting
Kitchen. Here are a handful of ways that you can get around Los Angeles
sans vehicle, along with some tips from L.A. locals
The city of Santa Monica is the most two-wheel friendly area in Los
Angeles—those who live elsewhere typically don't ride around the city.
But if you're in this part of town, you can rent a two-wheeler for about
$40 per day from spots like Helen's Cycles, which has six locations
throughout L.A. You can zip from a casual lunch at The Courtyard Kitchen
on Montana Street to a coffee meeting at Dogtown on Main, followed by a
yoga session over on Abbott Kinney in no time.
What the locals say: "Everyone on the west side has a
bike; it's the preferred method of transportation on the weekend," says
Dave Kuba, a VP of Development for a production company who lives in
Marina Del Rey. "But you can only go so far—I could bike 15 miles, but
then I'd be sweaty, so that's exercise and not a mode of transport."
Asking your friend who lives in West Hollywood to pick you up in
Santa Monica for dinner in Silver Lake is like asking a your friend who
just gave birth to respond to a text—it's not gonna happen. But ask a
stranger—for a fee—and you've got yourself a deal. That's the idea
behind Lyft, the ride-sharing program that began in San Francisco and
has since expanded into cities all across the United States. Download
the app, type in your destination, and a number of locals driving in
that direction will offer you a ride. You can't miss your ride; cars
that participate in the service are outfitted with large, pink, furry
mustaches on the hood.
What the locals say: "Lyft is totally cool," says
Mike Elling, a television editor who lives in Brookside. "It's just
normal, everyday people like you and me giving rides for cheaper prices
than Uber and cab companies."
If you're staying in the Santa Monica vicinity, the Big Blue Bus is a
cheap and fairly reliable option. For $1, you can take it from Santa
Monica to Venice, or as far as Brentwood or Beverly Hills on the west
side. If you want to leave the beach and head east, though, you'll have
to brave the local bus system, of which there are 200 lines going via
local, rapid or express routes. It will likely take you a good hour,
even without traffic, but it costs a mere $1.50.
What the locals say: "I've taken the Big Blue Bus a
few times from the westside to Hollywood and once to K-town. That's
quite a scene," says Regan Riskas, an associate producer who lives in
It does exist! But Los Angeles' rail line, which began operation in
1990, is probably the least-used mode of public transport. (Expansion
plans are currently in the works and expected to be completed in early
2016.) What's more, the 80 stations are few and far between, leaving you
with the problem of getting to the station. While the fare is only
$1.50, the six lines that stretch from Downtown L.A. to Hollywood,
Pasadena and Culver City, slow their roll at midnight.
What the locals say: "I live in Los Feliz and I can take it all the way to Culver City," says Amy Feitelberg, photo director at Los Angeles
Magazine. "Its reach is limited, but I also love to take it if I have
tickets to something downtown. No fuss, no muss and no money for
It's no Venice or Rome, but Los Angeles has seen an increasing number
of motorcyclists in recent years. At Route 66 Modern Classics on
Lincoln Boulevard, scooter rentals start at $49 a day (including
insurance), while Harley rates start at $225. They offer a
sliding-scale, though, so the longer you rent, the lower the price.
What the locals say: "I primarily scoot everywhere,"
says Becca Major, who lives in Santa Monica and owns a Genuine Stella
125 automatic. "I zip to Hollywood, Los Feliz, Downtown. There are
almost no restrictions."