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Metro rail or flyaway from Union Station at rush hour

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Metro rail or flyaway from Union Station at rush hour

I have a 7:50PM (on a Tuesday) international departure from LAX, so I'd like to arrive at LAX by 5:50PM. I'm arriving at Union Station on an Amtrak train scheduled to arrive at 4:25PM. I'm hoping it will be on time, and that I can run and get on the 4:30 flyaway bus to LAX. If I miss it, I was considering taking metro rail to LAX rather than waiting for the 5:00 flyaway. I have the following questions:

1) How likely am I to make the 4:30 flyaway, considering such factors as likelihood of on-time Amtrak arrival, timely departure of the flyaway, and how long it takes to get from the train to the flyaway departure point at Union Station?

2) Which mode of transport (metro or flyaway) is generally quicker at this time of day? I've seen flyaway estimates of from 30 minutes to over an hour -- I assume an hour is more likely at rush hour. The Metro Trip Planner quotes trip times for specific itineraries of just under an hour, but the page that summarizes possible routes says 60-90 minutes -- where would that much variability come from on Metro rail?

3) How long would it take to walk from the Aviation/LAX Metro green line stop to terminal 4, or is there a shuttle bus?

4) Is there any problem taking small luggage (1 carry-on and a small backpack) on Metro rail?



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1. Re: Metro rail or flyaway from Union Station at rush hour

Metro Rail variables would basically be that you need to get 3 trains in succession followed by a free shuttle bus:

a) red or purple line from Union Station to the 7th St. Metro Center Station - these trains run every 6 minutes

b) blue line from the 7th St. Metro Center station to the Rosa Parks station - this train runs every 12 minutes

c) green line from the Rosa Parks station to the Aviation Blvd. station - the green line runs every 12 minutes

d) the shuttle bus from the Aviation Blvd. Station to the terminals - I'm not sure how often this bus runs. Note this bus will stop at terminal 1, terminal 2, terminal 3 and the international terminal before it stops at terminal 4.

So the schedule variability is mostly attributable to the waiting times for the trains. If you happened to arrive at each station just in time to catch the departing train, you're probably looking at about an hour. If bad luck strikes and you barely miss each train and have to wait for the following one, more like 90 minutes.

You can take luggage on the Metro but it may or may not be so convenient if the trains are crowded, which they tend to be around rush hour.

And yes, there is (as I alluded above) a shuttle bus from the Aviation Blvd. to the terminals. Its much too far to walk.

My guess is that even during rush hour the FlyAway bus will be the better way to go. I don't think it would be more than an hour.

Edited: 30 September 2013, 00:24
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2. Re: Metro rail or flyaway from Union Station at rush hour

Flyaway is the best bet. I took the Metro lines to LAX once. Never again.

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3. Re: Metro rail or flyaway from Union Station at rush hour

Okay, lots of questions and, unfortunately, you've omitted some crucial info.

First, arriving 2 hours prior to an international departure is THE MINIMUM you should arrive so you're not giving yourself any 'wiggle room' if something goes wrong (like your train is late).

The Flyaway tends to depart on time from Union Station so that means, assuming the train arrives on time (and we can't advise you because you haven't told us which train you're arriving on -- some routes are more reliable than others), then you'll have 5 minutes to make the connection. Here are the steps for doing so:

a. Exit onto the platform and descend to the tunnel below (which is perpendicular to the tracks).

b. Turn to the easterly direction (how is your sense of direction?) and walk to the eastern end of the tunnel. Ascend the stairs at the end of the tunnel and emerge from the station through the rear doors into the bus plaza that is behind the station.

c. The bus pulls up in parking space #1 at the Plaza. The last time I rode the bus, you needed to purchase tickets at a nearby ticket booth but since they are only accepting debit or credit cards, I imagine that you can pay onboard.

The entire walk from the train to the bus shouldn't take more than 2 or 3 minutes (assuming you walk to the correct end of the tunnel). Of course, there's no guarantee that there will be room for you when you get to the bus.

At 4:30, the metro's website estimates the transfer time to LAX at 48 minutes. That seems reasonable. Be aware, however, that the arrival time (which would be at 5:18) would be at THE ENTRANCE to the airport. The first stop would be terminal #1. It's unlikely that you're departing from terminal #1 since none of the airlines that reside in that terminal have international flights. Therefore, you'll need to 'ride around the airport', stopping at the various terminals. This can take some time due to 2 reasons: traffic and the fact that passengers stowing their luggage 'under the bus' in the cargo area' will have to ask the driver to assist them in retrieving it. Each time the driver does this, is precious time wasted. I would estimate 4 minutes between terminals. The terminal sequence is #1, 2,3,TB international, 4,5,6 and 7.

So, to answer your question, yes, luggage is stowable on board (in the cargo area or in the bus proper if your luggage is small).

If you wait until 5 pm, the flyaway will arrive at the airport's entrance at approx. 5:48. You'll need to add in the additional time to reach your terminal but it seems likely that you'll arrive past the 2-hour deadline.

If you take the metro rail, you'll have 4 conveyances, in sequence between Union Station and the Airport:

a. The red (or purple) line to 7th St/Metro Center Station

b. Transfer to the blue line to the Willowbrook Station

c. Transfer to the green line to the Aviation/LAX station

d. The "G" Shuttle to LAX

The first three segments will take 57 minutes. The red/purple trains pull up at Union Station every 6 minutes but the blue and green lines pull up every 12 minutes so, for example, if you left Union Station at 5:01, you'd arrive at Aviation Station at 5:58; if you left at say, 4:40, you'd arrive at 5:43 -- not that much earlier!

Add to that, you'll need to transfer from Aviation Station to your terminal and you can't walk (it's too far). The "G" shuttle (which is free), runs every 7 or 8 minutes and takes 12 minutes to transfer from the Aviation Station to the TB International Terminal (it stops first at terminals 1,2 and 3 before that). If you arrive at Aviation at 5:43 (assuming you are able to get onto the metro rail at 4:40), then the next "G' shuttle will pull up at 5:46 and will pull up at Tom Bradley at 5:58 (add or subtract a few minutes depending on which terminal you're headed for. The "G" shuttle is just a van so the driver doesn't have to open and close the cargo area underneath and passengers unload more quickly than on the flyaway.

You're apt to arrive at LAX at the EXACT SAME TIME if you simply wait for the 5:00 Flyaway Bus and you won't have to take 4 conveyances to make the transfer.

As you can see, you're cutting it really close no matter what you do. You can speed things up a little by taking a taxi from the Aviation station to your terminal but there's no guarantee that there will be a taxi there when you arrive.

And, of course, if your train is a little as 3 minutes late, you're doomed to miss the 4:30 Flyaway which leaves you with the 4:40 metro rail transfer option (which will either get you to the terminal at exactly 2 hours beforehand or a few minutes late -- or you'll need to wait for the 5:00 pm Flyaway which will deliver you at the same time.

BTW, you can take luggage on the metro rail.

Other options include:

a. Taking a taxi from Union Station to LAX. This will take the better part of an hour but you'll arrive at LAX in time. The flat rate fare between Union Station and LAX -- no matter how long the trip takes -- is $46.50 + tip.

b. It's looking like you're heading into L.A. from the south (like from Anaheim or from San Diego), If that's the case, it's better to take the Disneyland Express bus (or a 'shared van') from Anaheim to LAX than to transfer to Union Station. If you plan to arrive at Union Station on the Pacific Surfliner, that train departs Anaheim station at 3:38. Instead of getting onto (or continuing) to ride that train to Union Station, transfer by taxi to the Disneyland shuttle area and take the Disneyland Express bus to LAX (about an hour -- buses leave every 60 minutes). If you leave at 4:00, you'll arrive at terminal 1 at LAX at 5:00 (the latest) and be at your terminal, by 5:30, the latest.

Edited: 30 September 2013, 01:06
Corona del Mar, CA
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4. Re: Metro rail or flyaway from Union Station at rush hour

You didn't say where you are arriving from and why you are cutting it so close.

You are supposed to be check in 3 hours before for International flights because there are more security procedures to go through.

If I was sticking to your schedule and if I was flying internationally I'd take a cab. The $50+ cab fare is probably a fraction of what it is costing to fly internationally. I wouldn't want to miss that flight.

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5. Re: Metro rail or flyaway from Union Station at rush hour

Thanks everyone for the advice and the detailed instructions. Sounds like I need to take an earlier train (northbound Pacific Surfliner) so I can take the Flyaway without worrying about a tight connection.


6. Re: Metro rail or flyaway from Union Station at rush hour

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