Friday, May 13, 2016

Urbanism: Is Los Angeles A Walkable City? Experience From A Recent Visit

(Drivebycuriosity) - Recently my wife and I visited  Los Angeles and stayed there over 6 nights. I was curious whether it is possible to explore the metropolis without a car. Is LA walkable? I have read a lot about the Californian megacity.  Most writers claim that the city is just a vast cluster of neighborhoods, a sprawl built for cars. Nobody walks in Los Angeles! But a minority (fortune  marginalrevolution) claims that LA is as walkable as New York or London. Who is right?

We had no problems exploring LA via public transport and by foot, but we needed some patience & time. A shuttle bus brought us in an about an hour from the airport to Hollywood.  From the bus stop we walked about 10 minutes to the hotel, the Best Western Hollywood Hills Hotel on Franklin Avenue. We needed about the same time for the trip back to the airport. The hotel is about 7 walking minutes away from the next subway station, which is on Hollywood Boulevard. The subway ride to Downtown LA needs about 25 minutes.

LA`s subway net is not as developed as the public transport systems in New York City or London. But - as you can see on the map below - you can reach a lot of destinations by subway. And the city will continue to expand her rail net in the coming years.

The subway system is complemented by a dense network of bus routes. Buses bring you to any neighborhood which cannot reached by subway. You need some time for the ride and the transfers - but you get compensated by the changing views of the neighborhoods your bus passes.

And we walked a lot. I believe if you want to explore a city than you have to walk! You don´t have to focus much on the traffic. Moving slow and being able to stop at any time gives you the best chance to be immersed in a city. LA is certainly built for cars, but wherever we went we found broad enough sidewalks. And we could walk even faster than in Manhattan because LAs sidewalks are far less crowded.

Years ago I had read that Hollywood is empty in the night and dangerous, ruled by the gangs. Totally wrong, at least for the part of Hollywood where we stayed, between West Hollywood & Hollywood Hills. Along Franklyn Avenue are little restaurants, bistros and bars which attract a crowd and the nearby Hollywood Boulevard is very populated at night, thanks to musical theaters, restaurants, night clubs and cinema palaces.

We also dared a walk from the hotel to the art district, which is a part of Downtown Los Angeles. We spent about 4 hours for the 7 miles walk, thanks to some stops. During the walk we enjoyed how the face of the city changes from an almost rural character to the Manhattan-like Downtown area. Different neighborhoods show different architecture and styles. And it is fun to walk across Downtown´s fledging Art District which reminds of New York´s Meatpacking District, but is much younger and more stretched out.

We used buses to visit different neighborhoods like Culver City, a charming place that looks like a small town in Mediterranean Europe (Spain, Italy). Another bus trip brought us to Santa Monica, a classy neighborhood on the Pacific Coast.

Walking was really fun, partly thanks to the warm & dry desert climate warm with a low risk of rain. And the streets seemed all the time safe to us. Los Angeles has one big advantage over many other metropolises: The long (over 10 miles) sand beaches which attract a lot of hikers, swimmers & surfers.

And LA is changing. The city doesn´t have as many construction places as Manhattan but quite a few which signal that the metropolis is getting denser and will become even more interesting for a nice stroll.


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