Los Angeles isn’t exactly known for its outstanding public transit, but I also don’t think transit in LA is as bad as many say it is. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty underrated — so I decided to make the journey from LAX to USC (University of Southern California), entirely by public transit. Come along for some tips 🙂
Luckily there are several options on getting from LAX to the university:
- C (Green) Line / J (Silver) Line: Take the Green Line Shuttle from LAX to Aviation/LAX, C (Green) Line to Harbor Fwy, then J (Silver) Line to 37th St / USC. Need to walk a few minutes to USC, including under the 110 freeway. ~50 min total travel time (excluding waits and walking), runs approximately every 20 minutes at peak. Note that extra fare applies for J line.
- C (Green) Line / 754 Rapid bus: Take the Green Line Shuttle from LAX to Aviation/LAX, C (Green) Line to Vermont/Athens, then 754 Rapid bus to Vermont/Jefferson (the northwest corner of campus). ~1hr total travel time (excluding waits and walking), runs approximately every 15 minutes at peak.
- 102 Local bus: Walk from LAX to Westchester/Sepulveda (somewhat long walk), take 102 Local to Exposition Blvd/Watt Way (the north side of campus). ~45 min total travel time (excluding waits and walking)
These are the main ways to get to USC from LAX using Metro services directly from the airport. There might be more options that involve local buses, but these three seem to be the ones surfaced by Google Maps and Transit. The fare for all of these journeys is $1.75 (unless using the J Line, which will be $2.50) and transfers might involve lifting any luggage you have.
Another option is using the LAX FlyAway bus service: FlyAway operates bus services from LAX to Van Nuys (the airport) and to LA Union Station for $9.75 per trip, and it runs once every 30 minutes.
For getting from Union Station to LAX, there are also some choices:
- J (Silver) Line: Take J Line from Union Station to 37th St / USC. Need to walk a few minutes to USC, including under the 110 freeway. ~20 min total travel time (excluding waits and walking), runs approximately every 20 minutes at peak. Note that extra fare applies.
- D (Purple) Line / E (Expo) Line: Take D Line from Union Station to 7th St / Metro Center, then E Line to Expo Park / USC. ~18 min total travel time (excluding waits and walking), runs approximately every 10 minutes at peak. There is a walk and some stairs involved in getting from the bus plaza (where buses drop off and board) to the D Line platform.
- USC Union Station shuttle: Board the shuttle at Union Station Berth 6 to its terminus at Hoover / Jefferson. ~15 min total travel time (excluding waits and walking), runs approximately every 5 minutes at peak. FREE!
Again, there might be some other local buses that are options here.
FlyAway certainly charges a premium price compared to Metro services, but it also has a premium service. The FlyAway driver will load all luggage, and the buses are equipped with Wi-Fi and decent seats. (The buses are like tour coaches, not traditional city buses.) It also terminates at a more convenient location than Metro services. For these reasons, I ended up choosing to take FlyAway + the USC shuttle from Union Station to Campus.
Leg one: LAX to Union Station
Signage throughout the newly renovated Terminal 3 was clear about boarding the FlyAway shuttle at the blue pillars on the lower level (where shuttles to LAX-it and the Green Line also board).
I thought the shuttle would come fairly soon after I arrived, based on the schedule on LAX’s website and based on the tracker on their website. However, their schedule and tracker seem to be pretty inaccurate and no shuttle actually arrived until about 40 minutes after what both tools predicted. My total wait time was about 50 minutes (without actually knowing how long it would be at the time), which is pretty… abysmal.
Fortunately, the bus itself was clean, spacious, quiet, and safe. After briefly stopping at the other terminals at LAX, the driver quickly hopped on the Harbor Freeway. We reached Union Station about 40 minutes after departing LAX (note that this was during rush hour). Overall a pretty good trip.
Leg two: Union Station to USC
Conveniently, the FlyAway bus drops off at Berth 4 at Union Station Patsaouras Bus Plaza while the USC shuttle picks up at Berth 6. A shuttle arrived just a few minutes after I got to Union Station.
In contrast to FlyAway, the USC shuttle did arrive at the time indicated in the schedule. The ride was the same as a typical city bus, except with zero stops (the shuttle goes between the two campuses and Union Station). Crowding was minimal and the bus was fairly clean. It dropped off at Hoover/Jefferson, which has both convenient access to the Village and main campus. Not much more to say about this part 🙂 Plus, it’s free!
A note on payment
I couldn’t find this information anywhere, but the FlyAway bus is paid at the destination, not the origin, when departing from LAX. The driver will hold your checked bags until you pay the fare, upon arrival at Union Station. The payment booth is right next to Berth 4, where the bus drops off.
Note that all of the methods I listed in this post can be paid with TAP Card; however, FlyAway can also be paid with credit/debit card or cash. There are no facilities to buy TAP cards at LAX, but vending machines are available at Aviation/LAX Green Line station.
The total journey time (including waiting) from LAX to USC was about 2 hours. Although this time is pretty long, I was overall satisfied with the quality of the journey. However, I realize that I spent a significant amount of time planning my journey, which probably helped with my perception of the quality. It’s disappointing to me that simple conveniences like bus tracking and an accurate schedule still aren’t available in a city as big as LA. These factors make it more difficult for normal people to use public transit — an otherwise not bad option — to get to LAX, and therefore add car traffic (and all of the externalities associated with that…).
I’m excited to see how public transit options to LAX change and improve with the 2028 LA Olympics coming up. I’m also especially excited for the new (and very delayed) Crenshaw line to LAX along with the associated LAX People Mover. That’ll enable a completely bus/shuttle-free journey from LAX to USC/DTLA/Inglewood and I’m looking forward to giving it a try!