Part 4: Planning your trip to DCI — Car-free in Pasadena

by Christine Hoeffner

This article originally appeared in the May 2007 issue of Drum Corps World (Volume 36, Number 2). Editor’s note: Since thi article was published, the fare for the LAX to Union Station FlyAway bus is now $4.00 — still a bargain!

Peter and I enjoy traveling much more when we’re not saddled with having to drive everywhere in a car — who really wants traffic tedium, navigation nightmares and parking purgatory?

When visiting cities, we pick up a pass for the local metro system and travel all over the city quickly and inexpensively as the locals do. With the money we save by avoiding rental cars, high gas expenses and parking fees, we enjoy more attractions, get a better appreciation of the city and have extra cash for rail trips to near-by cities. We’ve taken car-free trips in the U.S. and in countries where we don’t speak the language — and we recommend it highly. But first, be sure to do your homework.

Can you do this in Southern California, the land of the car? Absolutely! Skip the car entirely (or just rent one in Pasadena on the days you’ll really need it) and keep your money, or consider donating your savings to your favorite drum corps.

Here are five car-free options for traveling in and around Pasadena during DCI Championships and we’ll even add a free Metro art tour.

Take the ARTS bus system to Pasadena attractions. The Pasadena “ARTS” (Area Rapid Transit System) has nine bus routes that offer easy and inexpensive rides to most local areas ($.50, $.25 for seniors and children).

ARTS bus number 10 (photo above) is the handiest route to remember. It runs west along much of Colorado Boulevard and east on Green Street, past museums, through Old Pasadena, right by the shopping mall and movie theaters, past Cal Tech and Pasadena City College, and close to many walking tour starting points. And it also goes to the Metro Gold Line.

The number 10 bus stops right in front of the Norton Simon Museum. From there you can easily stroll across the freeway bridge on Orange Grove Blvd. to the Pasadena Museum, the Gamble House or on to the Rose Bowl (the Bowl is about a mile from the Norton Simon Museum — take a left at Rosemont). The bus also stops a block from the Pacific Asia Museum and is within walking distance from The Huntington.

Keep in mind, the ARTS 10 route runs every 15 minutes from 6:00 AM weekdays and 11:00 AM on weekends, until 8:00 PM (5:00 PM on Sundays). If you’ll be out later, be prepared to walk back or call a taxi.

For a full schedule of ARTS routes, transit maps are available from the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau (right across the street from DCI’s headquarters at the Hilton Hotel) or on-line. Be sure to note start/stop times and that some routes are not active on weekends.

Take Metro Rail to Los Angeles Downtown, Chinatown, Hollywood and Universal Studios.

Pasadena Metro stations are within easy walking distance of many Pasadena hotels, or take the ARTS Number 10 to a Metro station. The Metro Gold Line train runs from Pasadena to downtown Union Station in about 25 minutes. Scoot past freeway traffic in comfort and enjoy the scenery while avoiding driving stresses and parking fees.

Hop off at the Chinatown station or Union Station and stroll to an abundance of attractions and restaurants, or transfer at Union Station to the Red Line (subway) to go to Hollywood or Universal City where a free tram takes you up to Universal Studios theme park and Universal CityWalk.

Here is the key information on using the Metro rail system: it has no entrance gates or turnstyles. Just buy your ticket first and then get on the train — this is an honor system. Automated ticket machines at all stations take cash and credit cards. One-way fares are $1.25, an all-day pass is only $3.00 and a one-week pass is $14.00. An increase in fares is pending for this summer, so check for new fares in upcoming months. Even with a fare increase, it is still the best transportation bargain in town.

Make sure you have a proper ticket in your possession before boarding or you can face a substantial fine.

On the first weekend of every month (the weekend before DCI Championships), the Metro gives free two-hour rail-art tours of the broad range of public art work installed in Metro stations. Tours start at 10:00 AM; on Saturday they meet at the street level entrance to the Hollywood/Highland Metro station and on Sunday they meet at the information booth inside the Union Station entrance.

Save $$$ getting to Pasadena from LAX using the FlyAway-Metro option. Here is a little-known secret — you can make the trip between the Los Angeles’ main airport (LAX) and Pasadena for under $5.00! A comfortable FlyAway bus will take you from LAX to Union Station where a Metro Gold Line train will whisk you to Pasadena. Stations have ramps, escalators and elevators so you don’t have to carry your bags up stairs.

Many Pasadena hotels are only a few blocks from a Gold Line station — the Sheraton, Pasadena Inn and Hilton are within walking distance from the Del Mar station and the Marriot is just across the park from the Memorial Park station, to name just a few (or catch an ARTS 10 bus to a Metro station).

If you’ve walked through O’Hare Airport, you can do this. You’ll pat yourself on the back for using the FlyAway if you are traveling during rush hour — why get stuck driving in crowded freeway traffic? The total fare: $4.25 (FlyAway: cash, $3.00 adults, $2.00 senior/children; Metro: $1.25). The FlyAway leaves LAX every 30 minutes for Union Station (and vice versa) 5:00 AM to 1:00 AM. The FlyAway terminal downtown is to the rear of Union Station.
For first-time visitors who feel more comfortable taking a shuttle to their hotel, shuttle prices between Pasadena and LAX vary from about $32.00 on up each way and advance reservations may be required. Taxis and rental cars, of course, are higher.

Los Angeles County has additional taxes on gasoline. If there are days you will need a rental car, pick one up in Pasadena. All the rental car companies are right there.

Take the DASH for easy travel through downtown Los Angeles. For only a quarter (yes $.25) you can ride a DASH bus all over downtown Los Angeles. The DASH stops right across the street from Union Station. Recommended fun routes are the B route (on weekdays, the full circuit is about 40 minutes) or the DD route (on weekends, a full circuit takes an hour). Check the DASH maps for other routes.

s Take AMTRAK for day trips to coastal cities. Southern California hosts the second busiest passenger rail corridor in the United States. Union Station in Los Angeles is the Amtrak station. The joy of rail travel, whether for work or pleasure, is being able to truly relax and enjoy the scenery, read, eat or sleep while cruising past traffic — knowing you are using the world’s most energy efficient transportation mode.

For easy day trips from Pasadena, take the Metro Gold Line to Union Station and catch Amtrak north (to Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo) or south (to San Clemente (pictured at top), San Juan Capistrano (pictured at left) or San Diego). The train stops within steps of the coast and cultural sites at these beautiful cities. If you check for special fares and book in advance, these fun day-trips can cost less than a theme park visit.

For detailed public transportation options to more attractions, pick up a Public Transit System printout from the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau. Check with DCI later this spring for possible car-free options between the Rose Bowl and area hotels.

Save $$ and driving hassles — enjoy your out-of-car experiences!