There are over 200 metro bus lines and 5 metro rail lines in the Los Angeles area that are run by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). You can get to almost anywhere in the developed parts of Los Angeles County on Metro and the other LA transit services. Some places you can get to reasonably quickly on transit, to some it's rather slow. Detailed information, along with a trip planner.
The 5 metro rail lines are:
1. Green line Metro Rail (above ground): Runs east/west between Norwalk and Redondo Beach with a stop at LAX (Note: the Green Line's trains do not service the beach itself; you must transfer to a Bay Cities Transit bus to reach the beach... Similarly, the LAX station for the Green Line is not at LAX. A shuttle bus meets the train and transfers passengers to the airport.
2. Red Line Metro Rail (underground): Service between Union Station (Downtown), Mid-Wilshire area, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley (Universal Studios and North Hollywood).
3. Purple Line Metro Rail (underground) Service between Union Station (Downtown), Mid-Wilshire area and Korea town.
4. Blue Line Metro Rail (mostly above ground): Runs north and south between Long Beach and Los Angeles Airport Transportation
5. Gold Line Metro Rail: Runs northeast into Pasadena.
Other Public Transit Lines:
Orange Line Metro Transit Way (from North Hollywood to Woodland Hills/Warner): Metro names this line with a color (Orange) like the metro RAIL lines but classifies it as a "transit way". It operates like a rail line in that it runs on a separate "right of way" (its own roadway) but it uses buses.
Santa Monica, Venice and much of the "'west side" is accessible only by bus. Sometimes, more than one bus needs to be taken. Unlike the metro rail, the metro buses are affected by automobile traffic, making the ride longest during rush hours (weekdays between 6 and 9 in the morning and between 2:30 and 7:00 in the afternoon and evening).
Santa Monica's Blue Bus #3 runs frequently along Lincoln Blvd (a street which is sometimes referred to as 'Route 1'), connects easily to the Culver City Bus #1 directly to Venice Beach, and also goes directly into Santa Monica. The #3 also services Lax Airport Shuttle via the LAX "Transit Center" a bus depot adjacent to LAX, accessible to LAX passengers via a free shuttle bus that serves the adjacent parking area for the airport. The shuttle bus is known as the "Parking Lot C" shuttle.
Some buses stop at almost every corner -- These buses are numbered between 1 and 299. Other buses stop at only "popular" stops which make the rides faster. These buses are numbered above 299.
The fare is $1.25 for each Metro bus or Metro rail ride and must be paid in exact cash. A DAY PASS is available on all lines for $5. Seniors/Pensioners (those 62 or over pay $1.80). (Buy these from any bus driver or from the vending machines at the metro rail stations). Each adult may bring 2 children under 5 onboard at no charge. Seniors and disabled persons can ride for a reduced fare. The fare for seniors is $1.50 for a DAY PASS.
If you need to ride more the one Metro bus or Metro rail line, you must either pay 1.25 per ride or buy a DAY PASS. Metro Bus and Metro Rail and local bus. You will have to pay a surcharge (over the $1.25 single fare or the Day Pass, if you've presented one) if you board a bus that goes outside the "local territory" of Los Angeles and enters one of the "outer zones". It is not likely that you will take one of these "outer zone" routes but, if you do, the driver will alert you as to the surcharge.
As for transfers, METRO only issues transfers for other bus companies (known as 'Municipal Lines" or: Muni Lines"), e.g... Santa Monica, Culver City, Foothill, etc. for 30 cents... (10 cents for disabled passengers). To transfer from a Metro bus or Metro rail train to another Metro bus or metro rail train, you must either show a DAY PASS or pay another fare of $1.25. (This includes transferring from one metro rail train to another metro rail train. There are no free transfers!!). Similarly, you may not use your DAY PASS for admission to any non-METRO bus, e.g. Santa Monica Bus, Culver City Bus. You must either pay the fare of that local bus company or transfer FROM a METRO bus or METRO rail train onto that local bus by buying a transfer upon the first conveyance for 30 cents.
Here are a few bus services that can be particularly useful to the visitor.
DASH operates short distance buses in many parts of the city of Los Angeles. In Downtown Los Angeles, on weekdays, six different DASH lines crisscross the area, serving destinations such as Little Tokyo, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Pershing Square.
Line 720--MTA Wilshire Rapid bus--The Wilshire Rapid bus is a very frequent (as often as every 3 minutes during rush hour) bus line connecting Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, the Los Angeles County Art Museum, Korea town, and Downtown Los Angeles (and goes on to Montebello). Because the Rapid only stops at major streets and gets preferential treatment on traffic signals, it is far faster than a regular bus. Regular METRO fare and transfers apply.
Big Blue Bus (Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines): The Big Blue Bus is the City of Santa Monica's efficient and cheap (75c) bus service. You can transfer from a METRO bus to a Big Blue Bus for 30 cents. Transferring from a Big Blue Bus to a Metro Bus will cost 50 cents. You must pay these extra fees on the bus from which you are transferring. You will be given a "transfer ticket" from that bus which you will present to the driver of the subsequent bus in order to gain admittance. Most transfers expire 2 hours after they are provided. From Downtown Santa Monica (near the 3rd St. Promenade) this bus company offers routes that connect to Venice, Westwood, UCLA, Century City, and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), as well as providing freeway express service ($1.75) to Downtown Los Angeles.
LAX Flyaway Shuttles: From Union Station in downtown there is an easy shuttle directly to LAX for only $7. It laves every 1/2 hour during the day and every hour during late night/early morning. There are additional Flyaway buses between the Westwood area of Los Angeles and LAX as well as between the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles and LAX and between the Irvine Area (Orange County) and LAX. It may be possible to check your luggage (for your DOMESTIC flight) at these 4 stations before boarding the bus to LAX. Check with your airline to make sure that they are participating in the Flyaway Baggage Checking program.
METRO has maps of the rail system and bus system. Look in the lower left corner under the heading "HOW TO RIDE" for a list of maps. Metro rail trains run every 12 minutes (or more frequently) every day (some lines close down around midnight), Bus lines running on main streets run almost as often as the trains but they do run later than the trains in most cases.