West Hollywood is a bit of a transportation paradox. It’s so compact and walkable that it’s been lauded as the state’s most pedestrian-friendly city. Yet it’s surrounded by the big city and L.A.’s infamous car culture. That and lots of new development underway has led to worries about increased traffic congestion.
Of course, LaLaLand has buses, including several that serve WeHo. And L.A. has a metro (subway) system—but there’s no WeHo station. That means it’s easier to get around within WeHo than to travel to or fro.
Even within WeHo, walking isn’t always ideal. The days get hot. Some residents are elderly and/or disabled and not keen or able to go far on foot (especially if there are groceries to carry!) And even with less than two square miles to traverse, it takes a while to walk WeHo from one end to the other.
When the city debuted its PickUp line “entertainment shuttle,” I checked out the weekend night party bus and quickly saw the appeal of the trolley-style, music-blaring PickUp buses.
But since the PickUp is strictly an out-and-about, paint-the-town red (or, well, yellow) experience, we at WEHOville.com wondered about the city’s other free bus service, CityLine.
Could CityLine offer an appealing way to wander WeHo? To avoid rush hour? Was CityLine an untapped commuter’s dream?
Well, not exactly. With a 9-to-6, Monday through Saturday schedule, not to mention a route that doesn’t venture west of San Vicente or east of La Brea, CityLine is pretty limited in where it can get you and when.
But when I spent much of a weekday getting around WeHo on the CityLine, I found that the shuttle does have its charms, albeit of a much quieter, more understated sensibility than the PickUp.
Rather than planning out a route, I started by simply taking a Los Angeles bus from my Los Feliz abode toward WeHo. It started out quite easy. I got off the 780 near the Fairfax/Santa Monica intersection and soon realized that a CityLine stop was right there in front of the Whole Foods.
Not knowing what the CityLine vehicles looked like, and thinking of it as a bus service, I nearly missed my ride. More van than bus, the CityLine shuttles are small and white with digital marquees on the front to tell you if they’re headed eastward or westward. Even though the wee shuttle had the words “CityLine” painted on it, it blended into traffic.
Fortunately, I figured it out and stepped aboard. And I did step—not climb—as there are no stairs on CityLine vehicles. Instead, the “kneeling buses” have “low floor ramp access to replace steps at the passenger entry.”
That’s from a 2010 city document provided by Perri Sloane Goodman, West Hollywood’s Transportation Program Administrator. The perk: easier access for seniors and people with disabilities, including wheelchair users.
Once inside, I saw even more clearly that the shuttle was designed with accessibility in mind. In stark contrast to typical bus seats—or the sleek but hard benches of the PickUp—CityLine seats are individual and padded. And instead of facing forward in rows, the plush blue seats line the perimeter of the van. Like the ramps, the perimeter seating got a thumbs up from a WeHo “Vehicle Working Group” that noted it allowed for “easier use of carts and bags.”
“This vehicle addresses the concerns of the working group, the needs of elderly passengers, and allows easier wheelchair access, which may increase wheelchair passengers on the system,” the 2010 report said.
Based on my CityLine sojourn, I’d venture that the city’s assessment of its ridership was right on. I can’t say how many of the shuttle’s passengers were people with disabilities, but I can say ridership skewed toward the older side. Even though CityLine is a public service, free for all—and even though there were plenty of cushy seats available—I felt a twinge of guilt about accepting a “free ride” on a vehicle so clearly designed to serve underserved communities.
If the CityLine drivers I encountered that day were perplexed at my hopping aboard, they didn’t show it. The CityLine’s atmosphere was one of quiet congeniality, with drivers and passengers chatting breezily. No one chatted me up, but no one looked at me askance either, and the drivers politely wished me a nice day when I disembarked.
Though the first CityLine shuttle I took had several riders—which made the wee vehicle something near half full—the next had just one other passenger. It’s clear that the shuttles aren’t exactly carrying throngs of people.
But if you’re not in a rush, it’s a convenient way to run local errands while leaving traffic woes in someone else’s hands. The shuttle’s free maps, offered in Russian as well as English, even have notations to show you where to find grocery stores.
The pitfall is timing. Generally, the CityLine schedule shows about 30 or 40 minutes between shuttles. Twice I caught westward-heading CityLine vans without waiting too long.
However, my efforts to travel eastward weren’t so smooth. I was near the West Hollywood Public Library, where I needed to attend a 6:30 p.m. meeting. It was only 3:30 p.m., so it seemed like I should be able to make it to the other side of town, run a quick errand and return in plenty of time.
But after I spent several minutes looking for a CityLine stop (with my map in hand indicating that at least a couple were nearby), I got nervous. I finally found a stop, but when a shuttle didn’t arrive as promptly as expected I aborted the mission.
So I wouldn’t rely on CityLine if I needed to get somewhere fast. But to get to the supermarket, the post office or the library, I’d happily settle again into the soft blue seats of CityLine.