If you’ve ever flown out of LAX, you’ll be familiar with the nearly 24-hour gridlock traffic surrounding the airport. The central terminal area seems to always be a sea of brake lights with no end in sight. The LAX people mover promises to ease this congestion, but the project will not be completed until 2023 at the earliest.
Ground Transportation to/from Los Angeles Airport (LAX)
The Los Angeles metropolitan area covers 4,850 square miles, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside combined statistical area sprawls across five counties covering 33,954 square miles. That’s a lot of ground to cover for one region.
Although there are many airports throughout this region, most of them don’t have much of an international network. Due to many competing airlines and number of flights, LAX often has the lowest fares or the most seats available at the lowest prices in the area. Depending on where you are coming from or going to, it can be daunting traveling to/from LAX, but there are plenty of ground transportation options that can make this journey less stressful.
Cheapest – Metro Bus/Rail
Time: Approximately 1hr – 1hr 30 min. to/from Downtown LA
Technically, the cheapest option is to either walk or ride a bike, but most travelers won’t be interested in those options with luggage in tow. If you do wish to cycle to LAX, it’s best to leave your bike at the Aviation metro station where there are racks and lockers available. From there, you can hop on the free shuttle bus to all terminals. If you're on a motorcycle, you can park for free in designated areas at each parking structure right next to the terminals.
If you’re arriving on a flight at LAX and want to take the metro bus/rail, look for signs to Ground Transportation. Once outside the terminal, you’ll need to cross the first line of traffic to the center median where the shuttle busses pick up passengers. Make sure you are standing under a blue colored waiting area labeled “LAX Shuttle Airline Connection & Metro Green Line Station”. The free “G” shuttle bus stops at all terminals on its way to the Aviation station on the green line of the LA metro rail.
From the Aviation/LAX metro station, you can continue to many different areas by bus or rail depending on your final destination. If you’re trying to get downtown, take the green line rail east towards Norwalk station. Get off the green line after six stops at Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station and transfer to the metro blue line rail north towards 7th St./Metro Center Station.
Alternatively, you can get off the green line a couple stops earlier at Harbor Fwy Station and transfer to the silver line bus metro 910/950 towards El Monte Station via Downtown. The silver line bus travels on the 110 freeway, offering “express” service to Downtown L.A., but additional charges may apply. And since you’re subject to traffic on the 110, it may not be quicker. If you’re going elsewhere in the metro area, you can plan your route here.
Regular metro fares are $1.75. Seniors pay only 35¢-75¢ depending on time/day and K-12 students pay just $1. Certain transfers may require additional charges. You’ll have to buy a $1 TAP card from the vending machine at Aviation/LAX station in order to travel on metro rail. You can keep this card to load stored value for your trip or add unlimited ride passes. A 1-day pass costs $7; a 1-week pass costs $25; and a 1-month pass is $100.
There are other municipal bus lines serving LAX airport such as Culver City Bus Lines, Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, and Torrance Transit. These lines and other metro bus lines pick-up/drop-off at the Metro Bus Center in lot C. You can find a free shuttle bus from the terminals to lot C on the Upper/Departures Level at the sign labeled Private Parking Lots Shuttle Zone.
For travel from town to the airport, just follow these directions in reverse order.
Best Value – Flyaway Bus
Time: Approximately 1hr - 1hr 30 min. to/from Hollywood
The FlyAway bus is available between LAX and Hollywood, Long Beach, Woodley Orange Line Station, Union Station, Van Nuys, and Westwood. This is a direct bus to/from these locations so it can be a cheap alternative to a taxi.
On the arrivals level of LAX, look for the green signage labeled “Flyaway, Busses & Long Distance Vans”. Schedules will vary by route, but most routes run hourly from around 5am until 11pm. Trips between Union Station and LAX are operated around the clock and run every half hour. Check out the full schedule by clciking on the routes tab here.
You can buy your ticket in advance online or just pay the driver with a credit card. Cash is not accepted. There is no reservation required. Seats are available on a first come, first served basis. In my experience, the Long Beach bus is usually pretty empty, but I have not tried the other routes.
If you have a local transit TAP card or EZ Transit Pass, you can get a slight discount on the Flyaway bus, making this the best value to/from LAX.
Fast and Affordable – Uber or Lyft
Cost: $29-$38 to/from Downtown LA for uberX
Time: Approximately 45 min. – 1hr to/from Downtown LA
If you don’t have Uber or Lyft yet, download these apps before your next trip to LA. Both ridesharing services offer reasonable rates to/from LAX compared to taxi service and the app will be useful to get around town during your trip.
Both companies offer multiple different options from sharing your ride with others in an uberPOOL to luxury services called uberLUX or LyftLUX. The standard personal vehicle service for uber is called uberX and the standard service for Lyft is just simply Lyft. There are also a few other options if you need a larger vehicle.
Once you’ve collected any checked luggage and are ready to walk outside, you can follow the in-app instructions to request a ride. You’ll have to choose from 5 specific pickup locations around the airport and then proceed to the departures level to meet your driver at the “Ride Service” pick up signs. If you are requesting UberBlack, UberSUV, or UberLUX, you’ll meet your driver on the arrivals level at the nearest door that you exit the terminal.
Pro Tip: If you notice Uber or Lyft seem abnormally high from LAX due to surge pricing, you can follow the instructions above to take the free “G” shuttle bus to the Aviation/LAX metro station and request your ride from there. The free bus will likely take you out of the surge zone and you can sometimes save 50-75% off your ride service from LAX.
Quickest and Easiest – Taxi
Cost: $46.50 flat rate (plus tip) to/from Downtown LA
Time: Approximately 45 min. – 1hr to/from Downtown LA
If you’re looking for the quickest and easiest way out of LAX, you can follow signs to the taxi ranks located on the arrivals level at each terminal. Only licensed, city-authorized taxis are allowed to operate at LAX, so look for an official seal issued by the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation.
There is a flat rate of $46.50 (plus tip) to/from Downtown LA. If you’re going to the Hollywood area, expect to pay between $50-$60. Travel to other areas will vary in cost. You can calculate an estimated taxi fare here. Travel time can vary quite a bit depending on traffic, but expect it to take around an hour to get most places.
Long Distance Regional Busses
There are also several long distance regional busses offering service to/from LAX. These can be a much more convenient option than having friends or family making a long drive to LAX in order to pick you up.
You’ll find these regional busses in the same location as the FlyAway busses. Look for green signage labeled “FlyAway Busses Long Distance Vans”.
Antelope Valley Airport Express – Newhall, Lancaster, and Palmdale
Airport Valet Express - Bakersfield
Central Coast Shuttle – Ventura, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Buellton
Disneyland Express - Disneyland Hotel and Anaheim Resorts
Shuttle One – Disneyland and Anaheim resorts, Downtown LA, Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park, and Garden Grove
Santa Barbara Airbus – Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Carpinteria
Ventura County Airporter – Ventura and Oxnard
Shared Ride Vans
There are also a few shared ride van services, which will bring you door-to-door between LAX airport and your home or hotel. These can take a long time depending on where you are on the list of drop-offs or pick-ups, but they do provide the convenience of bringing you door-to-door for cheaper than a taxi.
As you can see, there are plenty of options to get to/from LAX airport. I gave directions on how to pick up these services from LAX, but you can follow the reverse direction in order to get to LAX. Whatever method you use, since there is currently no train service directly to the terminals, expect to sit in a lot of traffic within LAX airport. This means many of the scheduled services may be delayed, so be patient when taking transport from LAX.
Above image by Digital Media Pro via Shutterstock.