Most of the greatest cities on earth, have a decent if not extensive public transportation system. One which is easy to understand, simple to use and above all else, affordable. Visitors prefer to spend their hard earned cash on special experiences, fine dining and indulging on shopping sprees. Setting aside a large amount of money for transportation purposes, is never high on anyone's list when planning a perfect vacation or weekend trip.
Los Angeles, also known as the City of Angels, is a massive metropolitan area, and one of the greatest cities in the world. However, it's public transportation system is severely lacking. There isn't a proper subway system such as that in New York, nor a substantial public bus service. Most visitors who do not research the best ways to get around in Los Angeles, are taken off guard and find themselves shelling out unprecedented volumes of cash on taxis to take them everywhere they need to go.
With a little bit of homework, either by searching online or speaking to locals in advance, one will find out about the Big Blue Bus. This bus service, is the best and most far reaching of the three bus companies in Los Angeles. They have a considerable number of routes, leading to many areas of the city with lots of stops in between.
The Big Blue Bus which I'm sure you've already suspected by now, is of a bright blue colour. This is very helpful when standing at the bus stop, as it's possible to see it coming from quite a distance away. The bus stops are plentiful, and are located along the main highways. There is also a bus route which leads to the Los Angeles International Airport, offering a cheap alternative to hiring a taxi or using a crowded airport shuttle bus.
I used the Big Blue Bus to take me to Santa Monica Pier from the bus stop closest to my airport hotel, La Quinta Inn & Suites. I stood at the bus stop for roughly seven minutes, waiting for the bus to show up. Considering the size of the city, a mere seven minutes wait is a true testament to the admirable frequency of the service. There is a sign at the bus stop which indicates what number bus goes to which destination, and lucky for me, the first bus which approached was the bus going to Santa Monica.
I read in advance that you should have dollar bills and coins in your hand when boarding the bus. The machines which takes the payment does not give back change, so if you put in a $20 for a $2 fare, you're $18 is as good as dead. After getting on the bus, I told the driver that I wanted to get off at Santa Monica Pier, and he told me to put $1 in the machine.
Santa Monica Pier is a considerable distance away from the airport region, so the $1 fare was ridiculously cheap! Unfortunately, the bus was already quite crowded, so I had to stand and hold onto the railing for the duration of the ride (about 15-20 minutes). I didn't mind, as experiences like this only serve to make my trip memorable.
An automated voice would come over the intercom, and a flashing sign would appear on the bus monitor at the front to alert passengers of the upcoming stop. The combination of visual and audible messages is thoughtful in my opinion, as some passengers may not hear, and others may not be able to see the bus monitor given their seating position.
Another positive factor about the Big Blue Bus, is the fact that it's handicap friendly. There are several features put into place for people with disabilites, and I actually witnessed a procedure in action. There was a lady in a wheel chair onboard, and when her stop came about, the driver pulled a lever, and a ramp was pulled out from beneath the bus door, allowing her to roll out onto the sidewalk with ease. Once again, this was very thoughtful of the bus company.
Soon it was my stop, and I pulled the cord to announce my departure. The bus pulled over and I thanked the driver before hopping off. I made it all the way to Santa Monica Pier, and the trip only put me out of one dollar. The Big Blue Bus saved me a lot of money during my layover in Los Angeles, and the service provided is of a higher quality than most public transportation services in a large city. I easily recommend.