May 20, 2003

Reverse Gopnik Commuter Dia...

Reverse Gopnik Commuter Diary, Day Two -- The Core Conundrum: (To skip down to the next post, click here.)

For L.A. nine-to-fivers like me, there is one eternal, ultimately unanswerable question: What's the best route between the West and East sides? "East," in this yuppified usage, does not refer to the actual area called "East L.A." (the spiritual center of Southern California's Latino population), but rather the west-of-downtown neighborhoods of Echo Park, Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Hollywood. "West" is Santa Monica, Venice, Westwood. Both sides basically detest each other (the subject a future Reverse Gopnik entry), and cannot agree on the dividing-line; for now, let's accept my definition of La Brea Blvd..

My specific commute is 10.5 miles as the crow flies; 12.9 miles according to Yahoo's Driving Directions (which claim, comically, that my trip should last 23 minutes). A good look at that map will spell out the geographical quandary -- there is no freeway that connects East Hollywood to Santa Monica, and the surface streets are shaped all funny (due to the conflict between the Spanish "diamond" layout of streets and the Anglo-saxon rectangular grid, which clash near our house). What you don't see is that most of the major east-west and north-south boulevards are all unbearably clogged as well. Yahoo would have me take a straight line south down Vermont Ave. and catch the westbound 10 Freeway, but that section of Vermont (like its cousin Western a few blocks to the west) goes through incredibly dense sections of Koreatown, and bisects the congested Wilshire business corridor (plus, the 10 becomes impassible just a few ticks west of Western, at Crenshaw). The two most potentially useful east-westers, Sunset Blvd. and Santa Monica, are choked with tourists & commerce, and can become parking lots during peak hours.

The Four Main Principles of driving in L.A. are: 1) Never drive during rush hour, 2) Avoid left-hand turns against traffic unless you have an arrow, 3) If you're in a hurry, use as much freeway as you can, and 4) If you're not in a hurry, explore a new side street every day, for learning. My commute flouts all four. The quickest route to the nearest freeway (the 101) involves three high-risk left-hand turns (on Hoover, Virgil and Silver Lake). The quickest freeway route (the 101 to the 110 to the 10) takes me on an extended loop out of the way, and exposes me to one of the most crowded and dangerous freeway interchanges in California (the four-level in downtown L.A.). And the only viable surface-street route relies on Venice Blvd.

The choices are even more bountiful than I portray (the strategies for getting to the southbound 101 alone could fill up a blook). It is possible, Triangle Offense-like, to react to the defense's posture before making your decisive move. For now, and to cut this entry short, we shall identify the three main routes to work:
1) 101-110-10
2) Vermont-10
3) Vermont-Venice

So far, in three days of leaving my house around 8:15 in the morning, these have taken me 45 minutes, 50 minutes and 40 minutes, respectively. Any other bright ideas out there? I know Ben Sullivan's a Pico man, but that always struck me as suspicious....

Posted by at May 20, 2003 01:10 AM
Comments

get a bike, cager ! Or keep on waiting.

Posted by: philippe at May 20, 2003 02:50 AM

Get one of those back-pack rockets that launch you into a one-man air navigator -- such as what James Bond used in one of those old flicks.

Posted by: Robert Light at May 20, 2003 03:13 AM

Fountian, La Cienega, Fairfax - then Olympic going west. Then if you see a tie up coming, you dodge down to Pico.

Posted by: not for publication at May 20, 2003 08:13 AM

Matt,
That's a tough one. I found that Wilton is a good street to take south to Venice because there's no freeway onramp so it tends to be a little quicker than Vermont.
Good luck

Posted by: greg at May 20, 2003 08:30 AM

Going from atwater to culver city (which ends friday - woohoo!) I'm going through hollywood, taking vine and staying on as it turns into rossmore, right on 3rd, left on highland all the way down til it hits la brea, right on venice.
Seems to work ok.

Posted by: gary at May 20, 2003 08:35 AM

But if you come back on Venice don't look for Wilton, you have to turn North on Arlington which turns into Wilton after a few blocks.

Posted by: greg at May 20, 2003 08:37 AM

I hate to say this, but 45 minutes is par for the course in the morning driving west from where you are. If your destination in SaMo is on Wilshire Blvd., you might like to check out the RapidBus; it would be doing me a favor, since I do a lot of carousing at 14 Below, and I've always wondered about useful the LA Transit system is.

Posted by: Steve Smith at May 20, 2003 09:16 AM

There was a stocking stuffer book of LA shortcuts published in the early '90s with several useful paths, but all were ten-block hop-arounds.

But friend, Silver Lake to WLA in drivetime is the Kobiashi Maru. It's like a golfer worrying that hitting the ball harder diminishes accuracy.

Try to learn to like NPR. Or buy books on tape. Or move over to the wet side of the 405!

Aside from earthquakes, why does the four-level strike you as dangerous?

Posted by: Cridland at May 20, 2003 09:49 AM

I'm a big fan of Beverly. For some reason, it seems to keep moving no matter how many cars are on it (not really true, but whatever). And if Beverly's slow/pissing you off/etc., you can alway duck down to the next east-west artery -- repeatedly, 'till Venice.

Where's the best place to turn South, though? I dunno. Like Greg said, Wilton's fast, usually. Highland might be better.

Being psychic would also be a big help. I don't know if you've considered that, but if I were you, I'd totally try it.

Posted by: Charlie at May 20, 2003 10:11 AM

40-50 minutes from Los Feliz to WLA is not bad -- in fact, as good as you're ever gonna do. I like Fountain to Hauser to Olympic.

Posted by: Cathy Seipp at May 20, 2003 10:37 AM

fountain's always done right by me, and olympic's not bad until you get to beverly hills, at which point you can do that pico jump.

but there are other options. have you considered pressuring your more influential friends to install a citywide system of pneumatic tubes?

Posted by: dan reines at May 20, 2003 10:44 AM

Ah memories. As I recall from my shortlived Beverly Hills bartending days, Beverly was my route of choice from Silverlake. But hey, wait a minute! What about the Metroliner. You don't mean to say the Feds spent billions on a useless, disruptive, methane filled monstrosity for a small percentage of Angelenos?

Seriously, I believe the original freeway plans called for extending the 2 (currently Santa Monica Bl) across Hollywood out the 405 thru the foothills of Santa Monica mountains.

Posted by: Lloyd at May 20, 2003 11:10 AM

http://mtaweb6.mta.net/scripts/esrimap.dll?name=trip&day=TOD&m=A&fare=RG+&min=21&hour=11&time

Westwood is decidedly EASTSIDE!

Posted by: Joel at May 20, 2003 07:14 PM

Joel, you think 26th Street is Eastside. You think PCH (at Lincoln) is Eastside. Haven't you hear the new Tsar song? "Eastside up, Westside down!"

Posted by: Matt Welch at May 20, 2003 07:48 PM

Tell Nick your wife has gotten a job in some out-of-the-way town and that youv'e got to telecommute. It's amazing how well that works.

Posted by: Virginia Postrel at May 20, 2003 08:24 PM

Virginia -- Actually, it's my choice. I haven't worked in an office since, oh, the week before I got married (July 1997). In the beginning, especially, I want to soak in the vibes & institutional memory of the place; and since I'm still writing the National Post column (and trying to update this blog), a workday provides some useful structure. Plus, it's pretty funny to commute like a normal human in L.A., at least as a temporary experiment.

Posted by: Matt Welch at May 20, 2003 08:43 PM

Everyone -- I am going to try each and every one of your suggestions, and report back with my findings. Today, leaving at 10:20 instead of 8:15, I took the standard 101-110-10 route, and it took 40 minutes.

Posted by: Matt Welch at May 20, 2003 08:46 PM

Matt -- I think you should undergo this commute as, indeed (as you put it) a "temporary experiment" for a couple of years. Then we'll see if you think this city is as kick-ass as you think it is. Prague -- or some other European locale -- might assume an entirely new allure as something imperative to return to after all. In L.A., one's immediate surroundings are way cool (such as Los Feliz, etc.), with the wonderful local culture(s) and color, etc. -- as long as you never have fucking leave them on a daily basis to commute for a living!

Sure there are still great things about this city -- but it must be said, this city -- from a planning, development and infrastructure point of view -- was something hatched in Satan's imagination.

I don't exactly care for everything author Mike Davis stands for (say, his Marxian politics), but nonetheless there's an awful lot of truth in some of what he's written in those books of his about L.A. No? Or maybe I've been huffin' too many fumes in the garage.

Posted by: Robert Light at May 21, 2003 01:41 AM

That Robert Light guy clearly belongs in San Francisco

Posted by: greg at May 21, 2003 12:13 PM

Nah, I prefer L.A., believe it or not. Here I was born and here I will die.

Posted by: Robert Light at May 21, 2003 08:29 PM

I think the dividing line is actually La Cienega (where 310 begins)

Vermont is a bad choice. That said, Virgil to the end, left on Wilshire right on Hoover to the 10 freeway.

Another alternative:
Virgil to Wilshire (not much traffic in the AM)
left on Crenshaw to the 10 or Venice Blvd.

Posted by: marc brown at May 22, 2003 12:30 PM

In an alternate universe, you could take the Whitnall Freeway to the Beverly Hills Freeway--
http://www.fixtraffic.org/masterplan.jpg

Posted by: Patrick at May 22, 2003 06:35 PM

I discovered the perfect solution. About 10 years ago I packed up everything and moved out of LA. BTW, I used to live in Venice.

Posted by: Rossz at May 22, 2003 06:40 PM

Here's a closely guarded secret. Washington or Adams MOVES between Crenshaw and La Cienega, after that, the 10 starts to open up, so you can hop back up, or cut over to pico.

Posted by: chipc at May 22, 2003 09:31 PM

I second Brian Linse's 6th street option. Also I used to work in Marina del Rey and I swore by Venice Blvd (of course I'm a little further West than you are).

I used to experiment and found that even though the freeways move at a snail's pace -- total driving time came up less than taking surface streets (barring any accidents or matresses in the fast lane).

Posted by: moxie at May 23, 2003 09:31 PM

Beverly doesn't move like it used to five years ago. In rush-hour, it's fifteen minutes just between LaBrea and Santa Monica Blvd., and then you're still stuck on Santa Monica Blvd. I can't recommend it. The 6th Street idea has some appeal.

I dated a Brentwood woman (who quoted you in one of her books--small world) who refused to step foot east of LaCienega, so I'd have to call that the dividing line between West and East.

Posted by: Max Power at June 11, 2003 09:03 PM

Here's the basic rule of LA driving you're all ignoring: East-West is (relatively) easy. N-S is always hard, and gets harder the farther west you go. That said, what you want to do is take Sunset west to Kenter Avenue, Kenter (aka N. Bundy) to San Vicente, SV to where you're going, & you're very welcome

Posted by: Eric at June 18, 2003 07:40 PM

Several thoughts:

1. I vote for Fairfax as the divider.

2. 45 minutes really isn't so bad.

3. Getting home at night is the real challenge. And it's not simply a matter of retracing the morning commute in reverse....A whole new set of obstacles arise. I find that getting home takes maybe 30% longer than getting there.

Posted by: tim deroche at June 20, 2003 10:36 AM

...a whole new set of obstacles ARISES

Posted by: tim at June 20, 2003 10:37 AM

I've been told by an LADOT engineer that Wilton is the highest average north-south speeds in the City. Haven't seen it on paper, but it sounds plausible, if a little counterintuitive. Just don't tell everybody.

Posted by: Josh at June 20, 2003 04:08 PM
Post a comment









Remember personal info?






total driving time came up less than taking surface streets (barring any accidents or matresses in the fast lane).

Posted by: moxie at May 23, 2003 09:31 PM

Beverly doesn't move like it used to five years ago. In rush-hour, it's fifteen minutes just between LaBrea and Santa Monica Blvd., and then you're still stuck on Santa Monica Blvd. I can't recommend it. The 6th Street idea has some appeal.

I dated a Brentwood woman (who quoted you in one of her books--small world) who refused to step foot east of LaCienega, so I'd have to call that the dividing line between West and East.

Posted by: Max Power at June 11, 2003 09:03 PM

Here's the basic rule of LA driving you're all ignoring: East-West is (relatively) easy. N-S is always hard, and gets harder the farther west you go. That said, what you want to do is take Sunset west to Kenter Avenue, Kenter (aka N. Bundy) to San Vicente, SV to where you're going, & you're very welcome

Posted by: Eric at June 18, 2003 07:40 PM

Several thoughts:

1. I vote for Fairfax as the divider.

2. 45 minutes really isn't so bad.

3. Getting home at night is the real challenge. And it's not simply a matter of retracing the morning commute in reverse....A whole new set of obstacles arise. I find that getting home takes maybe 30% longer than getting there.

Posted by: tim deroche at June 20, 2003 10:36 AM

...a whole new set of obstacles ARISES

Posted by: tim at June 20, 2003 10:37 AM

I've been told by an LADOT engineer that Wilton is the highest average north-south speeds in the City. Haven't seen it on paper, but it sounds plausible, if a little counterintuitive. Just don't tell everybody.

Posted by: Josh at June 20, 2003 04:08 PM
Post a comment









Remember personal info?






= true; } else { document.comments_form.bakecookie[1].checked = true; } //--> = true; } else { document.comments_form.bakecookie[1].checked = true; } //-->