Trapped in LA

April 10th, 2009

LA traffic sucks. There I said it.

Los Angeles is a strange town. Having lived more than five years in the Bay Area and only about 10 months in LA, I might still have a jaded view of NorCal vs. SoCal. But one thing is clear: Los Angeles is not a city. It’s a conglomerate of small communities that pretty much only function on their own.
If you live in Santa Monica, best to have your friends, shop, go out to eat and do business in Santa Monica. If you live in Beverly Hills, best to have friends around there. God forbid you live outside of central LA, say in Pasadena or down south in the OC.

Here is a prime example of what I’m talking about. A random shot of Google Maps on my iPhone, taken at the same time. Left is the peninsula of the San Francisco Bay Area (where I used to live) and on the right is West LA (with the blue dot marking my current location).

Now in San Fran, my options to get from place to place are almost endless. If I live in SF and want to go south to see friends in the valley – let’s hit 280 and I covered the 50 miles in 45 mins. And vice versa.
In LA, the story changes. When you check the map, you’ll notice I really only have one option: go west on the 10 to Santa Monica, i.e. go home. That’s all. If I want to go to the valley (the San Fernando one), I’d be stuck in south-north traffic. If I’d want to hit downtown to see a show, I’d be stuck in bad west-east traffic. If I’d want to visit friends in Orange County, god forbid I’d be stuck forever in north-south traffic.
The map only shows part of the story. When you zoom out you’ll see lots of more red and even black (stand still) traffic.
Now I don’t want to use this post for random ranting. It’s actually not even about what is better or worse. There actually is an interesting social difference I have noticed between those two places. In the Bay Area, it was never really an issue where people lived. You can pretty safely guesstimate how long it would take each other to meet and just plan accordingly. In LA, it’s more like – OMG you live 20 miles away? Er… I think I’m busy or… Maybe let’s meet later in the evening (i.e. when the roads are free). This seems to lead to smaller communities who are much more focused on themselves than the interconnected communities in the Bay Area seem to be.
Interesting stuff…

Update: Here’s some statistical data to back up my case. Study: Los Angeles has worst, most costly traffic jams and the mobility data report for Los Angeles. The Los Angeles area topped a study looking at urban traffic congestion, saying that area motorists spent 485 million hours idling in traffic delays in 2007, which was the most in the nation. The delays also caused area motorists to use up 367 million more gallons of fuel in 2007 than they would have if it were not for traffic delays. Overall, traffic congestion in the area cost an estimated $10.3 billion in 2007, again, ranking number one amongst all areas.

2 responses to “Trapped in LA”

  1. glyphic comments:

    Meh. I’ve tried going from Redwood City to Berkeley around 4PM and it was pretty wretched.

  2. ulfw comments:

    Oh don’t get me wrong. The 101 gets super backed up around San Carlos going north around the 92 interchange and in the morning from Menlo Park southwards. (the yellow zones in the picture). But fortunately it’s only a few miles and you have an alternative with the 280, if you really want to.
    Yesterday 405 North was completely backed up (on Good friday around maybe 1pm!), so my only alternative was to get off in El Segundo and take Lincoln (and then smaller streets once I hit Venice, because Lincoln was completely back up too). That was a useless 50 min exercise. For a distance of 10 miles.

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