Nobody Drives, There’s Too Much Traffic

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On the questions I get about life in Los Angeles, people always seem to want to know about the traffic out here.

Well .. it sucks.  It’s traffic, that’s what traffic is.

In the world of being fair and honest (I know, an oxymoron for an election season), when I compare the traffic in LA to that of other places I have been/lived – it’s not so bad.  Seriously.

To me, Chicago is the worst because of self-fulfilling pains in the backside.  For one thing, the drivers tend to be pretty rotten to each other.  When traffic is moving, someone is bound to tailgate you or cut you off.  When lanes are merging, you can bet that someone will want to get that extra two or three cars ahead, even if it jams up everyone else behind.  Add the toll booths in, and it just drains the life out of you going through that city during a rush hour.  The traffic reports sucked too.  If you haven’t been, they came up with their own names for interstates – instead of the 90 or the 55 or the 294, they call them the Dan Ryan and the Kennedy and the WeHaventWonASuperBowlin30Years.  And those names can change depending on where you are at.  THEN they say ‘It’s 35 minutes on the Stevenson to Addison’ … and you don’t know how far Addison is until you pass a road 35 minutes later that says ‘Addison’.  It sucks … It really really sucks.

The problem with trying to get around the LA metro area – including Los Angeles County, Orange County, and the parts of Riverside County that are inhabited – isn’t that the roads are filled with cars filled with jerks, or that you don’t know where you are going or what you are on.  It’s how far you have to go to get to anywhere.  It’s a big city.  The metro area is nearly 70 miles long and 30 miles wide.

LA is a diverse, long-reaching city.  While everyone knows about the entertainment business, it is actually filled with heavy industrial sections, heavy commerce, and all types of businesses built up to support the massive community.  All of which are in buildings for the most part only a couple stories high.  This means, it is very rare that people live and work in the same location; and because of the extensive diversity, it is just as rare that a group of people in a community are heading to the same place.  So nearly everyone drives – by them selves – with no car pool.  That’s why there are so many people on the road, and when you have a lot of people on the road they slow each other down.

That being said, the traffic is always moving.  Not always moving well, but it is always moving.  There is rarely idiots, and if you signal to move over, you are bound to get let in.  There is a general understanding here that everyone is in this hell together.

But it still sucks.

My hotel is about 25 miles away from where I work.  Even with using Waze (a great GPS router and traffic app), it can take between 45 minutes and 1-1/4 hours to get there or back.  Part of that, I am driving into the Belly of the Beast:  CA-91 to I-605 to I-5 to I-710, sometimes skipping I-605, sometimes skipping the I-710, sometimes city street routes.  Except for the 405 along the southern part of town, these roads and where I am on them are the notoriously bad slow spots.  They get so much traffic that when the I-5 shut down for a week just in the evenings they called it Carmageddon – businesses shut down because employees weren’t guaranteed to get there.

Still – it’s one thing to say it takes me an hour to go 25 miles.  Boston, it can take me an hour to go 7 miles (and it has, regularly).

Not just that, there is the LA experience.  When making the shift from the 710 to the 5 this morning, the high rise ramp lifted me up so I could see the whole of the downtown, and even a glimpse of the Hollywood sign.

And you can’t ever see that at a Chicago tool booth.

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