Monday-Morning Moving: L.A., Sans Auto

BHTP_DistressedLogo_Circle_PMSBy Natalie Rivera

Los Angeles is one of the world’s most stereotyped cities. While some of the stereotypes ring totally true, like our unfamiliarity with something called “rain” and our endless knowledge of movie locations, one generalization surprisingly does not apply to every Angeleno, namely: to really explore Los Angeles, you have to have a car.

It would seem like the dumbest thing ever, trying to navigate L.A. without a car, but hundreds of thousands of people do it all the time. It’s not just some stunt, either. While we absolutely deserve our reputation for being the city with the worst traffic, and we’re proud to be the home of car crazies endlessly chasing this year’s sweet ride, L.A. culture is not as car-centric as you’d think.

In fact, there are lots of ways to experience the excitement of the city without ever touching a steering wheel. If you’re visiting Los Angeles for the first time, don’t be afraid of going carless. The impossible is possible; you just have to know where and how to go about it.

DTLA: Downtown Los Angeles – DTLA – and Hollywood draw an impressive 42 million visitors annually, and you’re going to want to be one of them, so you need a centrally located place to stay while you hoof it around the area. The Kawada Hotel is affordable and shares Hill Street with the infamous-in-a-good-way Grand Central Market and DTLA’s legendary La Cita Bar. Angeles Knoll Park, though closed, is down the street from Kawada, and Pershing Square Garden, which marks the heart of DTLA, is a five-to-seven-minute walk.

If you want to stay closer to DTLA’s hustle-bustle, Stillwell Hotel on South Grand is minutes away from the Staples Center and the Grammy Museum. Grand Central and Pershing Square are a walk, but not impossibly hard for anyone who wants to hear and feel the true commotion of downtown.

Hollywood is also home to cozy hotels that don’t have to host fab rooftop parties to be deemed hip. The Rodeway Inn on Sunset is the most affordable put-together inn within a mile of the Pantages Theater, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and every Hollywood souvenir shop you can imagine. If you have the budget to splurge, the Roosevelt is the fancy-shmancy place to be, only a few blocks from the El Capitan Theater on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The Metro: You may be surprised to hear that L.A. has a light-rail system – the Metro. True fact. And when you’re sapped and zapped from walking around L.A. all day, the multiple Metro stations scattered throughout the city will seem tempting. They should be, because they’re gateways to some interesting and overlooked locations. Many people exit off the Hollywood/Vine station, but the handy Red Line has some exits worth a visit, including Vermont/Beverly, where the famous Jolibee is only a minute away, and The Mexican Village, one of L.A.’s favorite restaurants, is just a three-minute walk down Beverly. The Seventh Street Metro station is near Casey’s Irish Pub, one of DTLA’s finest pubs, where you can enjoy a smooth, cool one before embarking on a 10-to-15-minute walk to Pershing Square.

Biking And Car-Sharing: Biking in the city is having a moment, as it should, because the booming Los Angeles bike culture has lots to offer locals and tourists. Bike-rental companies are no stranger to the city, some having been around years before biking became the poster child for hipster transportation. Bike rentals to trust include the popular Just Ride L.A on Hill and Racy Rentals, which specializes in motorcycle rentals, for any of you thrill-seekers out there who’ve always wanted to drive between cars on an L.A. freeway.

If you want to drive but don’t want to rent, there are car-sharing options beyond the ubiquitous Uber and Lyft. Zipcar and Relay Rides are two of the most trustworthy names on the national car-sharing scene that have L.A. operations. With either service, you can borrow someone’s car for as little as an hour using the service’s easy online signup process.

The idea of car sharing almost seems too simple, but according to Relay Rides’ Steve Webb, the idea of car sharing has always been there; it just needed a push to get going.

“Our founder, Shelby Clark, was a student at Harvard Business School when he came up with the idea,” explained Webb. “On his way to pick up a rental car in bad weather, he kept passing parked cars, and had the eureka moment. Why can’t we better utilize our idle assets?”

Clark’s right. Los Angeles is filled with car owners who don’t use their vehicles when they’re at work or out of town. Car-sharing gives you access to a car at a moment’s notice without the expense and hassle of renting. It’s not exactly true to the never-touching-a-steering-wheel-in-L.A. ethos, but it’s a reasonable compromise.

It also provides a glimpse into an L.A. transportation future that might be getting a major makeover in the coming years, thanks to some big bucks and private companies.

A possible 84-station bike-share system and Union Station cycling hub are in discussion, using revenue from new Metro toll lanes on the 10 and 110 freeways. There’s also been growing interest from companies who might invest in a L.A streetcar, which will take a measly $250 million to bring to life.

These developments promise another decade of revolution in car-town, and just might spell the final demise of one of L.A.’s greatest generalizations.

Now, what’s this “rain” thing you were talking about?

Natalie Rivera is a freelance writer who encourages you to follow her @byNatalieRivera.


Editor’s Note/Shameless Plug: Going carless in L.A. is a #RiskWorthTaking. Protect all your #RisksWorthTaking with travel insurance from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. Get it right here.

Author: Kit Kiefer

As content engineer for Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, I have one of the world's great jobs. Not only do I get to write about travel, but I get to edit the work of fantastically talented contributors from around the world. Plus I get all the maple syrup I can drink.

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