Transit Guide to LA

(last updated Feb 2020)


Biking is one the most fun and flexible ways to get around Pasadena and Los Angeles. With your bike, you can go much farther than walking. You can combine biking with public transportation options to access even more places. You can take your bike on Metro light rail and on Metro buses at all hours. You can also take your bike on Metrolink. Best of all, you don't have to find a spot to park your car or ever have to pay for parking.

To learn how to ride safely on the street, repair/maintain your bike, or obtain an inexpensive bike or lock your bike, see our Guide to Bicycling at Caltech and Pasadena section.

If you bike to work, you are eligible for Caltech's bike commuter benefits, which grants you 4 free parking passes per month (if you need to occasionally drive to work). We encourage you to register as a cyclist to obtain these benefits and in case of theft. More information about the Caltech Bicycle Program is here


Given the mild climate of Los Angeles, it is very pleasant to get places by walking, as long as your destination is within walking distance. A good rule of thumb: if the distance is within 0.5 miles it is easy to get there in less than 10 minutes, if the distance is a mile it takes less than 20 minutes. There are plenty of people who walk in Los Angeles, especially in Pasadena and around Caltech. Be assertive with cars. Look both ways and be wary of cars turning from both directions. Walking is relatively safe around Caltech even at night, though if you are still worried you can always carry pepper spray and avoid taking valuables with you.

If you walk to work, you are eligible for Caltech’s walking commuter benefits, which grants you 4 free parking passes per month (if you need to occasionally drive to work) and one free taxi ride home per term. Forms to register as a walking commuter are here. To get the taxi service, go to the security office in the Holliston parking structure.


The Metro Gold Line serves Pasadena and follows the 110 freeway and provides easy access to Downtown LA (DTLA), Arts District, Little Tokyo and East LA. Connections are easily made from Union Station in DTLA to the Red (Los Feliz, Hollywood), Purple (Koreatown), Blue (South LA), and Expo Lines (to USC and Culver City) and to Metrolink commuter train system and Amtrak (for longer distance travel).

The closest stations to campus for walking/biking to are the Metro Gold Line Lake Ave station, Del Mar Station and Fillmore Station. There is free bike and car parking at Del Mar station and free bike parking at Lake Station and Fillmore. 

The Metro system is a great way to beat traffic especially during rush hour and on weekends. Hours are roughly 4 am to 11 pm every day, and Metro has recently started extended hours on Friday and Saturday night, with trains running every 20 minutes between midnight and 2 a.m. on the Blue, Gold, Red, Purple, Green and Expo lines! Hours have also extended to 2 AM on Fri-Sat on the Orange and Silver rapid bus lines as well.

See fares for the Metro here.

Bikes are permitted on Metro light rail lines and on the buses at all hours of operation.

Where to go on Metro in LA? So many places, but check out LA Electric Travel which has lots of destinations in all parts of LA accessible by Metro.


Members of the Caltech community can now receive a Free Metro Pass that is valid for unlimited rides on all Metro bus and rail lines, as well as many local bus systems including Pasadena Transit. All active Caltech personnel are qualified to receive a Free Metro Pass

It is a subsidy provided by Caltech Transportation Office to support public transit use by members of Caltech community. Find METRO PASSES information here.

TAP cards are the fare payment system now used by all Metro Rail and Bus lines as well as Pasadena ARTS buses. More info on TAP at TAP To Go. 
They also have TAP cards for sale for $2 at the Bookstore.
(Tip: You can also sign up for free balance protection at the TAP To Go website in case you lose your TAP card)

Students can also get a Student TAP Pass for Metro including Pasadena bus passes from the Parking and Commuter Office (515 S. Wilson Ave. Pasadena, CA 91125). See METRO PASSES. Passes need to be renewed at the Caltech Bookstore at the beginning of each quarter. 


The Gold Line takes you to Highland Park, Downtown, and Little Tokyo, all happening places in the City of Angels. Train runs til midnight Mon-Thu and Sunday and until 2 AM on Friday and Saturday! Metro often operates late on holidays as well, see Metro's officical blog, The Source for service details.

There are two late night bus lines that you will probably care about. The first is the 180/181, which goes from East Hollywood to Pasadena throughout the night. The second is the 83/84, which will take you from DTLA to Eagle Rock — from which you can take the 180/181 back home.

Here is a map of all the stops, including ones right near campus. ARTS 10 and ARTS 20 are the most popular routes for Caltech students. You can use ARTS 20 to easily get to the Metro Gold Line. From Lake/California take ARTS 20 and get off at the stop for Fillmore Station on the Metro Gold Line. You can also get to Del Mar and Allen stations on other routes. ARTS hours are 6 am - 8 pm Mon-Fri and 11 am - 8 pm on Saturday. No service Sunday. You can use your Metro TAP card on ARTS buses.

The most popular local Metro bus services are below:
  • 264/267 goes to Altadena, Pasadena, Arcadia, and then Duarte or El Monte.
  • 485 Metro Local and Express goes between Altadena, Pasadena (Lake Ave near Caltech), South Pasadena, Alhambra, Cal State LA, and Union Station in DTLA
  • 177 goes between JPL in La Canada Flintridge and Caltech in Pasadena
  • 720 goes between Pershing Square and 7th St/Metro (Metro Red Line stops) in DTLA to Santa Monica 

In addition to the local Metro bus 177, JPL shuttle is a van service between JPL and Caltech campuses. JPL badge or Caltech ID required to go on to the van. See schedule.


For convenient access to local airports, Caltech has a Super Shuttle stop on San Pasqual and Wilson Ave and online reservations can be made with a special Caltech discount code (10% off). When you click on these Super Shuttle links it will automatically adds the discount code for Caltech:

Super Shuttle provides access to any of the airports in greater Los Angeles including Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Burbank Airport (BUR), Ontario Airport (ONT). There is a Super Shuttle Stop at every terminal at LAX.

Another great way to get to/from LAX is to take the Gold Line to Union Station and take the FlyAway Bus to LAX ($9.75 each way, check fare here). When arriving at LAX, the FlyAway Bus has a stop at every terminal and can be taken to Union Station and used to connect to the Gold Line. The FlyAway bus leaves on schedule every 30 minutes during off peak hours and every 15 minutes during peak hours. Reservations do not need to be made in advance.


Megabus operates 5-6 buses everyday between LA Union Station (accessible from Pasadena via Metro Gold Line) and San Francisco's Caltrain station (also stopping in San Jose or Oakland, depending on the bus). The double-decker buses have AC, bathrooms, power outlets and free wifi access. Tickets are typically under $40 and can be found for as low as $1 if you book very early. Travel time ranges between 7 hours to 7 hours 30 minutes, depending on time of day.

Megabus also operates several buses everyday between LA Union Station and Las Vegas South Strip Terminal (south of the Strip and next to McCarran International Airport). The bus also briefly stops in Riverside. The double-decker buses have AC, bathrooms, power outlets and free wifi access. Tickets are typically around $26 and can be found for as low as $1 if you book very early. Travel time ranges between 5 hours 20 minutes to 6 hours, depending on time of day. 


Amtrak operates the Pacific Surfliner trains everyday between LA Union Station (accessible from Pasadena via Metro Gold Line) and the San Diego Santa Fe Train Depot in downtown San Diego. Travel time ranges between 2 hours 45 mins to 3 hours. Tickets are typically under $40.


Carpoolers, vanpoolers, transit riders, walkers, and cyclists are eligible for 9 free parking passes and a free taxi ride home each term from Caltech's alternative transportation incentive programs. Carpoolers and vanpoolers get additional benefits, and some Metro passes are subsidized. More information is available below or at

Program incentives available to staff, students, faculty, post-docs, and campus affiliates who are actively engaged in alternative forms of transportation as their primary means of commuting to campus.  Individuals that have purchased af Caltech parking permit are not qualified for the biker or walker incentive programs.


Why pay to own a car (gas, maintenance, auto insurance, plus the upfront cost) when you can just borrow a car when you need it?

ZipCar maintains a fleet of cars on Caltech campus which you can rent by the hour. You’ll need to pay an annual fee ($25) and then pay an additional hourly fee for use. The rental fee includes auto insurance coverage. Caltech itself has 5 zipcars on campus lots, and in addition to that, Pasadena has Zipcars in 11 other locations all over the city:
  • City Hall at Holly Street and Garfield Avenue
  • Del Mar Gold Line Station at Arroyo Parkway and Cordova Street
  • Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line Station at Foothill Boulevard and Halstead Street
  • Green Street and De Lacey Avenue
  • Pasadena City College at North Bonnie Avenue and Colorado Boulevard
  • Fair Oaks Ave and Green Street
  • Westin Hotel at Los Robles Avenue and Walnut Street
  • Target at Oak Knoll Avenue and Colorado Boulevard
  • Mentor Avenue and Green Street
  • Del Mar Avenue and Lake Avenue
  • Westgate Apartments on Pasadena Ave 
Note that this program is has extremely popular at Caltech, so you’ll want to reserve ahead of time, particularly on the weekend. Here is more information from Caltech about the Zipcar service on campus. All Caltech students and staff members will get $45 in driving credit when they apply promo code PARENTS2014.

Caltech-owned vehicles can also be rented from the Holliston garage for official Caltech business. You will need a PTA number that you can charge for use of the vehicles. 

Major car rental companies (Hertz, Avis, Budget, etc.) have rental lots in Pasadena, several just east of PCC. They also tend to have discounts if you’re working on Caltech business. If you’re looking for something cheaper, check out BestWays or Rent-a-Wreck.

Caltech offers incentives to carpoolers. All car-pool members must live off-campus (Catalina graduate apartments do not count) and not in campus-owned housing (clarify?) in order to be eligible. By carpooling, you will get preferred parking, will split the cost of a parking spot, and will get 9 free parking passes per month (for occasions when you need to drive yourself). The form for carpool registration is here.

Caltech offers incentives for vanpoolers as well as a vanpool matching service. If you can find 5 or more fellow people to vanpool with you can even get rewards through the Metro Rewards program coming soon to Caltech. Vanpool parking at Caltech is free. There is $50.00 monthly subsidy per participant, 3 days of free parking per month per vanpooler, and discount gas. It is also very worth checking Metro Vanpool Seatfinder and VPSI Commuter Vanpool.

An Employee Rideshare Information Stand is located in the main lobby of Spalding Building, across from the Post Office. The station is supplied with transit maps and schedules for ARTS, LA Metro and Metrolink, local bike maps and safety info, and carpool registration forms.