The Los Angeles Metro

Long ago, Los Angeles had an enviable public transportation system known as the Pacific Electric Red Cars, trolleys that made it possible to get around this sprawling city without an automobile. In the mid-1900s, the last of the Red Cars disappeared, and L.A. lost itself in the car culture.

That culture is here to stay, but in recent years, a new rail system has emerged. You can now take the subway through parts of Downtown, Hollywood, Pasadena, and North Hollywood. The Red Line starts at Downtown's Union Station, then curves northwest to Hollywood and on to Universal City and North Hollywood. The Blue and Green light rail lines are designed for commuters. The Gold Line goes from Union Station up to Azusa, stopping in Pasadena. Take the Expo Line from Downtown to Santa Monica, or the Purple Line from Union Station through Koreatown and into Mid-City and its Restaurant Row. Future plans include a line that runs all the way to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The Metro Rail stations are worth exploring themselves, and you can sign up for a free docent-led MTA Art Moves tour (213/922–2738, which departs from the entrances to the Hollywood & Highland and Union stations. You'll receive a free day pass to ride the rails as you visit the colorful murals, sculptures, and architectural elements that illustrate themes of Los Angeles history.

The Universal City station is next to the site of the Campo de Caheunga, where Mexico relinquished control of California to the United States in 1847. The station features a time line of the area's past done in the traditional style of colorful Mexican folk art.

The North Hollywood station also celebrates local history, including native Gabrielino culture, many immigrant communities, Amelia Earhart (a local), Western wear designer Nudie, and the history of transportation in L.A. County.

There are film reels on the ceiling of the Hollywood and Vine station as well as original Paramount Pictures film projectors from the 1930s, and floor paving modeled after the yellow brick road from The Wizard of Oz. Imposing, glass-clad columns juxtaposed with rock formations can be seen at the Vermont and Beverly station. The old Red Car trolley makes an appearance in the Hollywood and Western station.

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