L.A. is famous for its car-centric culture and its sprawling size, both features that visitors landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) experience as soon as they step outside the terminal and embark upon further travel. Those connecting to an Amtrak service via the closest train station to the airport – Union Station in downtown Los Angeles – should know that there's no direct rail link between the two major transport hubs. You can travel by taxi, ride-hailing service, FlyAway bus service or Metro public transport. All these options cover the 16- to 20-mile distance in about an hour (or more in heavy traffic).
Taxis: Convenience for a Cost
Taxis are readily available under the bright yellow "Taxis" sign immediately outside every terminal at LAX. Ten taxi companies are authorized to operate at the airport, and cabs must have an official seal on display. Stand in line under the sign and you'll be handed a ticket listing average fares to popular destinations. Look at the price for a ride downtown and consider whether the relatively high price (compared to other transport options) is worth it to you, given the convenience and comfort of the ride. At the time of publication, the flat rate from LAX to downtown is $46.50, plus a mandatory $4 surcharge.
Ride-Hailing Services: Variable Rates
Two ride-hailing companies – Lyft and Uber – are authorized to pick up passengers at LAX. Given the unpredictable time frame for getting through baggage claim, wait until you're ready to depart the airport before requesting service. If you don't already have the Lyft or Uber app on your device, download it and create an account using the free, unlimited Wi-Fi service at LAX. Use the app to request a ride to Union Station and assess the vehicle options and prices available in real time. Prices vary according to demand. Pickups are at the Airport Upper/Departures Level, where five circular brown and black signs marked "Ride Service Pick Up" indicate curbside locations where you can meet your driver. Coordinate your specific pickup point and any other necessary details with your driver using the app. Payment via the credit/debit card linked to your account is taken automatically.
FlyAway Bus – Cheap, Direct Connection
The FlyAway Bus service, operated by the Los Angeles World Airports authority, takes passengers directly from LAX to Union Station seven days a week. The trip takes about 35 minutes, but can take longer during heavy traffic times. The FlyAway is a comfortable, modern, coach-style bus with Wi-Fi on board and power plugs beneath every seat. The service runs 24 hours a day, departing every 30 minutes from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. and every hour between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Know that the official schedule lists times of arrival at Terminal 1; add at least a few minutes for estimated arrivals at successive terminals. Pickup areas are outside every terminal on the arrivals level. Stand under the closest green sign marked "FlyAway, Shuttles and Charter Buses." When you see a clearly labeled, blue FlyAway bus approaching, wave at the driver to make sure he stops. There are several different FlyAway Bus routes, so be sure to get only on a bus whose sign indicates "Union Station." If you're uncertain, ask the driver. You can't buy tickets using cash, but you can buy them using a major credit/debit card either online in advance or on the bus when you embark. At the time of publication, a one-way fare is $9.75.
LA Metro: Multiple Connections
Getting to Union Station from LAX via public transportation is somewhat convoluted, and it requires multiple connections – a big drawback if you're traveling with a lot of luggage. But, the cost is low, the service reliable and, at times of especially heavy traffic, it can be the fastest option. Available routes vary according to the time of day, so it's advisable to plan your trip in advance using Metro's trip planner tool online or the downloaded Metro mobile app. You can also call Metro for live assistance. Start by locating the "LAX Shuttle and Airline Connections" sign outside your terminal on the arrivals level. Wait for a "G" shuttle, which will take you to the Metro Green Line Aviation Station free of charge. From this station, you can take the light rail Green Line 803 service toward Norwalk and get off after four stops at Harbor Freeway Station. From here, take the Silver Line 910 service to El Monte Station via Downtown. Get off after 15 stops at the El Monte Busway station, which is connected to Union Station via a pedestrian tunnel. Alternative combinations of services might be available. You can pay in cash on board any Metro bus (exact fares are needed), or purchase a TAP card and add credit to it using a vending machine at any station.