The first, and most primitive, mode of transportation, were the Feet.
Then Man invented the Wheel, which made it possible to have a unicycle.
Then Man invented the Second Wheel, which brought upon bicycles.
Then Man invented the Third Wheel, leading to tricycles and airplanes.
Then Man invented the n+1st wheel, creating cars and public transportation.
The closest airports to Pasadena are Burbank (BUR) and Los Angeles (LAX). While in theory you could also fly to Ontario (ONT), Long Beach (LGB), and Orange County (SNA), this is usually far less convenient, as a shuttle from Orange County would run you $60 ($80 without a reservation).
The first thing you will want to do is to book tickets. Or have you parents do it for you. Parents seem to have a thing for booking their kids’ tickets; maybe this is how they feel more secure that we will in fact come home. But really, this is not hard at all. Even last minute tickets can be reasonably cheap if you are traveling at off peak hours or are willing to change planes in strange places, so keep and open mind if you do not book a few weeks (ie: more than three) in advance. Also check to see what major airlines have a hub where you want to end up, its often cheaper to fly to an airline’s hub airport.
A few good websites are listed below, however many airlines guarantee the lowest fair will be on their site, so always double check with them. The discount airlines are also not listed by consolidators, so their websites are also shown below. The list is in order that I tend to find most useful for booking plane flights. www.mobissimo.com, just sends you to the airline’s own home page, but is often the cheapest way to book flights www.kayak.com, also sends you to the airline’s home page, but gives more options as to multi-city trips and other airports www.jetblue.com, only good if they serve and airport close to your destination, also be wary that a shuttle from Long Beach can be $40 or more added to your ticket price www.southwest.com, this is really nice if you book early and they fly to where you want to go www.studentuniverse.com, you have to book a number of days in advance (it might be 45), but they sometimes have rates the airlines don’t publish even on their websites
Other somewhat less useful websites include, orbitz.com, travelocity.com, priceline.com, and expedia.com.
Then you will want to get to the airport. There are several ways to do this, namely finding a friend to drive you, taking a shuttle, or taking public transport. Especially if you’re leaving at the same time someone else is, or if you’re going at night or early morning, getting someone to drive you is probably the way to go (seeing as people with cars can often be bribed with less food or gas money than it takes to pay for anything else…$15 is the usual amount its polite to give…give more if its 4am and they had to wake up to take you). To LAX, take Arroyo south. It will turn into the 110; keep following it to the 105, and go west on the 105. Get off at Sepulveda. If you’re driving to Burbank, take the 210 west to the 134 to the 5 north, follow signs.
Supershuttle is probably your best bet as far as shuttles are concerned; I know of three or four people who missed a flight because of PrimeTime. It’s $19 each way to/from LAX and slightly less to Burbank. They expect tips, so it’s more like $25. If you want a shuttle to the airport, make a reservation at least 6 hours in advance at www.supershuttle.com. These prices now can tack on about $50 to your flight and 6 hours of travel time round trip. This all makes public transportation much, much more appealing.
Public transit in LA is a lot better than people think, and getting to the airport only takes ~2 hours. What you want to do is end up at Union Station in downtown LA. There are two ways to do this. If you don’t have much luggage the 485 bus picks up along Lake Ave. and then runs express to downtown ($1.75). If you have more luggage then the Metro Gold Line ($1.25) is often a bit easier (and depending on the time of day also faster), the closest station to campus is probably the one at Del Mar and Raymond. If you have so much luggage that getting off campus seems impossible (and you cannot even get a ride as far as the train station), try taking the Arts bus number 10 ($0.50) on the north side of campus to the Allen St. Gold Line station. From Union Station you walk out the non-Amtrak entrance (there are signs to buses, follow those). Go all the way up the stairs and head outside to your right. Go to the little booth at the end of the traffic oval and purchase a FlyAway ticket ($3.00). This ticket lets you get on the bus that goes directly to the terminals at LAX from Union Station. They leave every half hour during the day and every hour late at night. Be wary about coming back however, while the FlyAway buses run all night, Gold Line currently stops at 11pm and the
485 stops running at about 1am.
Long-distance buses and trains
Greyhound is very cheap, but also very uncomfortable; an over night trip is not recommended. www.greyhound.com. It’s $15/way to Santa Barbara, and pretty reasonable to the Bay Area if you book in advance.
Amtrak is grossly incompetent as far as being on time is concerned, and takes about double the time it would take you to drive anywhere, but they have much nicer seats. It’s sort of an experience thing, not an efficient travel thing. It’s ridiculously expensive over long distances. However, if you look for the weekly specials on their website (www.amtrak.com), you can often get tickets at exorbitantly cheap prices; a previous editor got from Seattle to LA for $50 a few years ago.
Metrolink will get you from Union Station (you can take the Gold Line here) to other destinations in Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange County, or Palmdale. It’s cheaper than Amtrak and way more efficient.
DMV website is www.dmv.ca.gov. The closest office is on the west side of Rosemead, just south of Colorado.
Having a car, or at least a friend with a car, in Los Angeles is pretty useful. (Be sure to give your friends with cars lots of cookies if they drive you places). Buying a decent used car should run you $2k-$4k. Minimal insurance is about $100/month at first, and then goes down somewhat after you’ve driven for a while. Registration is $70 yearly. Gas is really expensive out here – look for a car that gets good mileage.
To get a driver’s license, first get a friend to teach you how to drive (you could also go to a driving school, if you have a lot of money — check http:// eg.dmv.ca.gov/olinq/welcome.jsp). Concurrently, go to the DMV website and read the drivers manual and take practice tests. After you’re done with these, make an appointment to take the written test at the DMV. It’s $24. You will also need to schedule a driving test with the DMV.
If you have an out of state license, and want a California one, you just need to take the written test at the DMV, though making an appointment so that you do not have to wait is highly recommended.
- Car Rental
If you need to rent a car while on Caltech business, check out Caltech’s agreements with Hertz, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise. Many car rental companies will not rent out to anyone under 25 without exhorbitant fees, which is kind of useless for us. Enterprise (www.enterprise.com) will rent to anyone over 21 with a major credit card, and will give discount with a Caltech ID (code: C50320).
Watch out for mileage limitations, and don’t buy their insurance unless you have to (either your own car insurance, or often times if you pay by credit card, the credit company will provide you with insurance). Rates are cheaper on weekend days than weekdays. Be sure to not prepay for gas unless you’re good at driving cars on empty. Bring the car back with a full tank; otherwise they will charge you three times the cost of gas.
U-Haul is $20/day and 79 cents/mile, and will rent to 18+. www.uhaul.com. If you just have to move a few things and need a pickup truck for only ~10 miles I managed it for under $40.
- Public Transportation
For more complete information, check out the website transitguide.caltech.edu, compiled by Ameera Chodhury (Caltech 2004).
Despite the sprawl of the city, public transit in this area is surprisingly good (though if you are used to anything like New York, Boston, or DC its going to be pretty bad). www.mta.net is a useful resource to figure out a way to get rom point A to point B. It helps to look at a map first so that you can try different combinations of streets around Caltech for a better start point. Good choices include Colorado and Hill, Lake and California, and Lake and Del Mar. Standard fare anywhere on the system is $1.25, or $1.75 if it’s a long trip (be warned they do not make change, so if $5 is all you have, $5 is what you pay…). Ask the driver if you are not sure. Metrolink, the mta train system also costs $1.25 and can get you much further, much faster, but doesn’t cover the area the buses do. If you plan a lot of travel in one day, buy a $3 day pass, it will quickly be worth it. Both allow you to take bicycles on board. If you go outside the system, but plan to stay in Southern California, try latranstar.tann.com/transtar/tripplanner.asp.
For transport just around Pasadena, the ARTS buses can be extremely helpful. The 10 stops at three points on the north side of campus and goes from the Allen station (east bound) to Old Pasadena (west bound). The 20 stops on lake and goes down foothill, passing the Gold Line stations there. There are a number of others, but the 10 is probably the most useful to students. It comes every 15 minutes from 8am to 8pm M-F and from 11am8pm Sat and 11am-5pm Sun. It only costs you $0.50 and you can ask for a $0.25 transfer that is good for mta buses and trains as well as other ARTS buses. Its an exciting form of transit, I once had a driver get out and run to the bank across the street during a trip. Another time the driver missed the turn and I had to give him directions back to the route, the next day with the same driver he does the same thing. Like I said…interesting. The website with the entire map is at www.ci.pasadena.ca.us/trans/transit/trans_arts.asp. At shelters at the bigger bus stops you can often see an overlaid route map for ARTS and MTA buses along with the MetroLink.