getting beyond LA traffic

For media punters, and just about 99% of all our visiting out-of-towners, the first “go-to con” of living in Los Angeles must be its stifling traffic, right?  I guess if you can’t knock the weather, driving on highways is the next most relatable attribute.

We’re not going to lie to you.  We hate sitting in traffic just as much as the next person.  (And heads up, in LA, that person next to you may just be passing time in front of their steering wheel with a book, magazine, or even a guitar!)  In fact, we hate traffic so much, that we simply won’t tolerate it.  And we’re happy to report, our strategy seems to be working.  In the six (or so) years that we have lived in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, we’ve only been stuck in bad traffic about seven times.  That’s six times in five years!  Not bad, particularly when considering the hordes of others who struggle through bumper-to-bumper mania on almost a daily basis!  

Our trick is simple.  Avoid LA’s most popular routes if you can, and above all, stay away from driving at rush hour altogether. 

Here’s a list of some of our more practical tips:

Heading east/ west in Hollywood?  Use Fountain Avenue and stay away from Hollywood or Sunset  - unless you’re into cruising the freaks, drug-pushers and hookers at a snail’s pace.  (You’d be surprised how many are.)  Further south, we recommend two-to-three laned Olympic Boulevard to get you across town, though in rush hour, this too can get pretty chewy.

How about north/ south off from the 10?  We’re a fan of Virgil and Western on the east - even if they’re not necessarily pretty to look at.  The rest of the horde is probably using Fairfax or LaBrea, so a quicker option more close to the heart of Hollywood may be LaCienega.  (There are other workarounds, of course, but we don’t want to give away ALL of our secrets.  You may end up clogging our favorite shortcut!)

Best Freeway to Avoid If At All Possible?  The 405 is an abomination pretty much anytime of the day outside of 10:00 Am until 3:00 PM and 9:00 PM until 5:00 AM.  The only way we can handle it is by snubbing the interchanges near the 10/ Wilshire Blvd., and taking Sunset to meet up with the 405 instead.  (Even this can be a bitch if you are driving in the 4:00-7:00 PM timeframe.)  Another option is to head to and from “The Valley” via a series of roads that whisk you up through some rather picturesque canyons.  (Laurel or Coldwater Canyon come to mind.)  Even if you aren’t bothered by traffic, this may be an option for you to grab the real pulse of Hollywood.

Heading to the “West Side” from LAX:  Didn’t you just read above?  Screw the 405.  Take “Sepulveda” heading north and then switch to Lincoln Boulevard.  It may not be the prettiest of drives, but trust us, anything is better than the 405. 

Best Freeway Ease?  Interstate 10 heading west from downtown is almost always a breeze after 10:00 AM, and particularly after 7:00 PM.  We also seem to have fairly consistent success with the 101S/ 134E if heading to Burbank or Glendale.  That being said, the reverse of these trips are not always so pleasant, so check traffic reports.

Best (Worst) Freeway Squeeze?  When the 110 Freeway mixes with the 10E, chaos often ensues.  (In general, the 110 Freeway is pretty gnarly, but sometimes unavoidable.)  If there’s a huge event at Dodgers Stadium, you can bet both the 110 and the 101 are going to set you off in sheer Michael Douglas Falling Down mode.

Best Roads to Confuse Tourists?  #1 - San Vicente Boulevard.  We’ve been living here for five years and still do not understand its meanderings.  If you are seeking an address on this road, CAREFULLY plan ahead and make sure you know where you are going.  #2 - West 3rd Street.  This is another great east/ west route in Hollywood that will take you through some nice homes in Hancock Park.  Still, once you get into Beverly Hills, all bets are off, especially where the road meets up with Burton Way, and yes, San Vicente!  #3 - The roads around Silver Lake are all over the place.  You can easily get lost here, but perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.  Turn on that GPS!

To PCH or not to PCH?  We say PCH it for sure!  There’s nothing quite like the picturesque drive from Santa Monica through Malibu on a sunny day.  Then again, there’s nothing quite like the drive from Malibu back to Santa Monica in bad traffic.  Avoid going to the beach on bright, beautiful weekends if you can, and travel during bright, beautiful weekdays instead.  Just make sure you’re not heading to Malibu around 3:30 PM - 7:00 PM.  Yikes!  (Set of Drifters tip:  Paradise Cove is our favorite end destination - see “sights” for more information.)

Best crapshoot?  Santa Monica Boulevard.  Sometimes it’s fantastic, and other times, it’s frustrating.  Try it, you may like it, and if not, head on up to Fountain, or down to Olympic.  Set of Drifters tip:  Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica swap latitudes around Beverly Hills.  Keep that in mind as a shortcut, but don’t use Wilshire all the way from downtown to Santa Monica or vice-versa.  Because it turns diagonal to the regular grid, the road becomes plagued with a series of very long stop lights!  And if you’ve already seen it once, it’s a bore.

Overall, keep in mind that it’s entirely possible to drive in LA and not go crazy, though we surmise that for visitors, it may just be inevitable.  Everyone in this town seems to believe they are entitled to the road and rarely “shares” it.  (Don’t count on spotting too many turn signals in use.)  Our best advice?  Keep your wits about you and plan your trip carefully.  (Like most places, it only gets easier the more experience you maneuvering new paths.)