Driving in Los Angeles

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  • 01 of 10

    Driving in Los Angeles

    If you're coming from outside LA, you may think you'll be fine driving in the city, but you're likely to find yourself frustrated by more than just the traffic. Driving in Los Angeles is not that complicated, but there are some laws, some customs and some neighborhoods that can be a little confusing if you're not used to them.

    In the next few pages, I've outlined some tips that can help you fit into LA's car culture, navigate the city and keep you from standing out as a tourist or ruining your trip with an expensive traffic ticket.

    Topics covered here include:

    • Driving in Los Angeles Intro
    • LA Driving Vocabulary
    • Navigating Surface Streets in Los Angeles
    • Cities within Cities and How this Impacts Driving in LA
    • Driving Behavior Laws in Los Angeles
    • Traffic Laws in Los Angeles
    • Los Angeles Traffic Etiquette and Unique Customs
    • Names and Numbers of Freeways in Los Angeles
    • Navigation and Traffic Map Apps
    • Los Angeles Traffic Reports
    • Parking in Los Angeles
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  • 02 of 10

    Los Angeles Driving Vocabulary

    Blurred view of traffic on highway
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    Freeways - In Los Angeles, even though freeways have official names, they are usually identified in conversation by their number, preceded by the word THE. For example, a person giving you directions will say, "Take the 710 north to the 5 north to the 10 east." This is pretty easy to follow since the 1990s, when most of the freeway signs were changed to reflect the number and direction instead of just the name, but there are still some signs that have only destination names without direction. The radio traffic reports often refer to freeways by name, and the name may change depending which piece of freeway they are talking about, so it is VERY confusing. If you have GPS with traffic, use that instead of trying to figure out radio traffic reports.

    You won't usually hear mention of the words interstate, state route or US highway, and you won't notice a lot of difference driving them; you'll just see a different colored sign on the freeway and map - a blue and red...MORE shield for Interstates, green for State Routes and white for US Highways.

    Freeway lanes are often identified by numbers, with the number 1 lane referring to the "fast" lane at the far left, and the numbers proceeding to the right.

    Surface Streets - In Los Angeles, the term "surface street" refers to any normal street that is not a freeway or limited access highway.

    Service Streets, sometimes access roads, in Southern California are smaller frontage roads that parallel a larger boulevard in a commercial or residential area to channel traffic from neighborhood streets to a limited number of intersections where you can enter the flow of traffic. The service streets are separated from the larger road by a grassy shoulder. If you are looking for an address on a side street off a major boulevard, you have to enter the service street at the nearest larger intersection, so you may have to pass your destination and turn back along the service street to enter the side street. In most cases, the service streets do not have a separate name from the primary boulevard. The one exception to this is an area of Santa Monica Blvd where the service street is marked Little Santa Monica Blvd and people refer to it as such.

    Service Roads - also sometimes called access roads - Some people use the term "service roads" interchangeably with "service streets," but more often "service roads" are roads on private land or park land that are not open for driving to the general public, but may be accessible as part of a hiking trail system. For example, there is a service road up to the Hollywood Sign that is gated, but you can hike up

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  • 03 of 10

    Navigating Surface Streets in Los Angeles

    Aerial View Of Illuminated City At Night
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    It is not uncommon for Los Angeles freeways to be jammed at any time of the day or night, but you can just about guarantee that the major arteries will be clogged from 7 to 9 or 10 am and from 4 to 7 pm and beyond. Weekend nights are jammed in and out of Hollywood and Downtown. At these times, taking surface streets can be much faster than staying on the freeway.

    ORIENTATION

    For the most part, the Los Angeles Basin is laid out on a grid with streets running north/south and east/west. So if the sun is out, it's pretty easy to keep yourself going in the right direction. There are a few major streets that run at a diagonal, like San Vicente through West Hollywood.

    On the West Side of LA north of Los Angeles International Airport, including the cities of Culver City and Santa Monica, the grid changes orientation to parallel the coast with streets running northwest/southeast and southwest/northeast.

    In Downtown Los Angeles east of Hoover and paralleling the 110 Harbor Freeway, the grid...MORE shifts in the opposite direction with streets running southwest/northeast and northwest/southeast. At Alameda, the grid straightens out again.

    In Long Beach, after a jog around the Palos Verde Peninsula, the streets are still north/south, but the beach is south-facing, so instead of heading west to reach the water, you have to go south, which can be confusing if you're not expecting it.

    Surface streets in Los Angeles are generally bi-directional everywhere except in downtown areas, where streets become one-way. Downtown Los Angeles, Downtown Santa Monica and Downtown Long Beach all have some one-way streets.

    WEST/EAST CROSS_TOWN ROUTES

    There are many streets that run all the way from the beaches in Santa Monica and Venice to Downtown LA.

    NOT Wilshire -. One of the best-known streets from Santa Monica to Downtown is Wilshire Blvd. Don't even THINK of taking Wilshire across town through Beverly Hills, unless your purpose is to SEE Wilshire. Even if your destination is ON Wilshire, it will likely be faster to take a parallel street like Olympic until you get past Beverly Hills, otherwise, you can spend half an hour going one mile on that strip of Wilshire by Rodeo Drive, and you might as well have taken the jammed freeway with less chance of getting a traffic ticket.

    Santa Monica Boulevard gets busy, but it's a bigger street, and through some areas has limited access, so it moves pretty well through Beverly Hills, and takes a northern turn up to West Hollywood and Hollywood before merging with Sunset Blvd in Silver Lake, just west of Downtown LA.

    Sunset Boulevard is a winding road that goes every direction at some point. It winds northeast from the ocean above Santa Monica on a circuitous route through the West Side and Beverly Hills, then takes a relatively straight path east through West Hollywood (as the famed Sunset Strip) and Hollywood before heading southeast into Downtown LA, where it changes names to Cesar Chavez Avenue into East LA. Sunset is not too bad from the West side to West Hollywood, but slows considerably through the Strip and can be a parking lot on weekend nights. It's worth a drive while you're sightseeing, but not the best transportation route.

    Venice Boulevard is another route from Venice Beach into the southern portion of Downtown LA, where it becomes East16th Street. Venice Blvd east to La Brea Avenue north is a reasonable alternative route from the West Side into Hollywood. It has been narrowed to accommodate a formal bike lane, which caused some immediate gridlock, but traffic seems to have spread out and it's moving again for the most part.

    Washington Boulevard is another good cross-town option.

    Exposition Boulevard is good to get across town if you're further south. It's a smaller street, but there's an above-ground Metro Line along the street, so there are limited traffic signals and they are well-timed.

    From LAX to Downtown LA, try Sepulveda north to Slauson east (right) to Crenshaw north (left) to Washington east (right) into Downtown LA near the Convention Center.

    From LAX to Hollywood/West Hollywood, try Sepulveda north to Slauson east (right) to La Cienega north (left) into West Hollywood, or take La Brea north to Hollywood Blvd (Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood & Highland area) or Crenshaw north (left) to Wilshire west (left) to Rossmore north (right), which becomes Vine St for Hollywood & Vine area (W Hotel, Pantages Theatre).

    NORTH/SOUTH ALTERNATIVES

    La Cienega is a good shortcut to know if you need to travel between Beverly Hills/West Hollywood and southern destinations on the 405. Traveling north on the 405, traffic generally bogs down through the West Side just north of the La Cienega exit. Where the 405 turns northwest, La Cienega continues straight north, with a stretch through Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area with 55 mph speed limits. La Cienega will give you easy access into Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. La Cienega has a Y split to Fairfax on the right, north of Jefferson, near the 10 Freeway ramp. Fairfax is a really slow route through to Hollywood, but La Cienega and Fairfax will be about 10 blocks apart by the time you reach Sunset Blvd, and those are a very slow 10 blocks on Sunset. Consider crossing over from La Cienega to Fairfax on Beverly Blvd, which is actually 14 blocks, but will move much faster than inching the whole way on Fairfax or crossing on Sunset. 

    N/S Sepulveda Blvd runs north/south along the 405 freeway from LAX into the San Fernando Valley, crisscrossing the freeway several times. When the 405 is parked, sometimes Sepulveda moves faster. At times it can be equally parked. 

    Sepulveda South of LAX is one of those streets that changes names and routes as it goes through different cities. It becomes Highway 1 through Manhattan Beach, then becomes Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach, jogs over a couple blocks at Torrance Blvd in Redondo Beach to become S. Camino Real for a few blocks before emerging again as East/West Sepulveda heading east across the South Bay, north of the Ports until it becomes Willow St in Long Beach. It's an ugly drive, but if your purpose is to bypass stuck traffic, Sepulveda is the best route through the South Bay. Be careful to take the jog to the left at Torrance Blvd or you'll stay on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), which is just as ugly through the oil refineries and much slower through Lomita and Harbor City. 

    Crenshaw Blvd reaches from San Pedro in the south up to Wilshire Blvd in the Greater Wilshire/Hancock Park neighborhood just south of Hollywood. A short jog west to Rossmore, which becomes Vine St, will take you right into Hollywood. Crenshaw (usually off the 105 or alternate east/west street) can help to bypass Downtown gridlock getting to Hollywood from Long Beach at rush hour.

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  • 04 of 10

    Cities within Cities and How this Impacts Driving in LA

    Beverly Hills, California
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    The Fingers of LA - It's not shaped exactly that way, but I think of the City of Los Angeles as a hand that reaches across Los Angeles County with the fingers splayed in many directions from East Los Angeles toward the beaches. In between each of the fingers, are other cities. So depending on which way you're driving, you could travel almost 60 miles one way along one of those fingers without ever leaving the City, or you could drive 12 miles inland from Santa Monica to Hollywood crossing 4 cities and entering LA 3 times. The neighboring cities of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills are completely surrounded by the city of Los Angeles. 

    Street Name Changes - One of the things that can happen with cities interrupting cities is that the street names sometimes change from one city to the next, then maybe they change back, or maybe they get a new name or keep the same name and go a different direction. The other thing that happens is that every town has its own Main Street or Civic...MORE Center Drive and many other popular Southern California street names that are totally unrelated to each other. There is also the phenomenon where a street is interrupted by an airport, a park, a body of water, a large cemetery, or some other obstacle, then continues with the same name on the other side.

    Same Name Freeway Exits - It's easy to be tempted to exit off a slow-moving freeway at a familiar street name, thinking it will take you where you want to go via surface streets, but if you don't have a GPS or someone navigating to tell you that it is, in fact, the same street, you could end up in a totally wrong city from where you intend to be.

    Law Enforcement from City to City

    In that 12 mile stretch I mentioned from Santa Monica to Hollywood, you have the opportunity to get a ticket from five different law enforcement agencies including the police departments of Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and the City of Los Angeles, the LA County Sheriffs West Hollywood Division and the California Highway Patrol (if you spend any time on the freeway).

    Each law enforcement agency has its own little quirks about traffic tickets, from the prevalence of speed traps to the cost of the ticket to how strictly infringements are enforced. As a general rule of thumb, when the city coffers are low, more tickets are given out, and even if their coffers are not low, the Beverly Hills Police Department will be happy to supply you with your own autographed traffic ticket for being a typical, confused tourist trying to turn from the wrong lane at the intersection of Wilshire and Rodeo Drive

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  • 05 of 10

    Driving Behavior Laws in Los Angeles

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    Most traffic laws in Los Angeles are the same as the rest of the country, but there are some laws specific to California. The first section is an alphabetical list of laws about how to behave with relation to driving. The following page includes laws about moving your vehicle in traffic. They are both partial lists. For a complete list of California driving laws, you can check the California Driver Handbook

    Alcohol and Other Substances

    Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is taken seriously in LA and sobriety checkpoints spring up often in popular entertainment areas. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.08%, but you can be charged with lower levels if they can show you are impaired. If you're drinking or using other substances, take a cab, hire a limo, call a rideshare service, use public transportation, or have a designated driver in your group who is not partaking. The legal drinking age in California is 21. You can also be cited for DUI if you are groggy from prescription drugs or...MORE over the counter cold or allergy remedies.

    Open Alcohol - Driving (or sitting) with opened alcohol in the passenger area of the car, including the glove compartment, is against the law. Any opened container of alcohol has to be transported in the trunk. Anyone under 21 years old caught with alcohol in the car can lose their license for a year, car for 30 days and face a $1000 fine. 

    Carpool/HOV Lanes

    On many LA freeways, one or more lanes at the far left are designated as High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes. Carpool Lanes are designated with a diamond painted on the pavement and most of them have limited access and you can only enter or exit where there is a break in the double yellow line. Most carpool lanes require a minimum of 2 occupants in the car, some require 3. It is marked at the lane entrances. In some parts of California, carpool lanes are only valid during rush hour. In LA and Orange County, the high occupancy limitation is 24/7.

    The limited entry to carpool lanes causes traffic in the other lanes to slow down when people are trying to exit the carpool lane into the flow of traffic, so the limited entry has been removed as an experiment on the 22 freeway in Orange County. On that freeway, cars with two or more passengers can enter at any time.

    Motorcycles and some low emission vehicles with a special CA DMV decal can also drive in the carpool lane unless otherwise marked.

    Vehicles towing trailers are NOT allowed in the carpool lane, regardless of how many people are in the car.

    It may seem like a good idea to take the risk and jump into the carpool lane to get around a traffic jam, but the ticket will cost you hundreds of dollars, and you can be cited if the incident is picked up on a traffic camera, even if there is no police officer in sight.

    Toll Lanes

    On certain freeways, the carpool lanes are double-purposed as toll lanes for people driving solo who have a Fastrak or other related transponder. Since this change, you also have to have a transponder to drive in that lane as a carpool, which is inconvenient if you're just visiting. Fastrack is in effect on parts of the 110 Freeway between the 405 and 10 freeways, and on parts of the 10 freeway east of Downtown LA. There are some toll roads in Orange County where toll booths have been removed and you can use the same transponder or drive first and pay the toll online within 5 days.

    Cell Phones

    Talking on the phone at all while driving is discouraged, but it is legal to talk on a cell phone while driving in California ONLY IF you use a hands-free device. Holding a cell phone to your ear while driving is a good way to get a ticket, not to mention cause an accident.

    Texting while driving is against the law, whether typing or reading. Typing into your GPS is just as bad, whether you're texting or typing into your map app, so plan your alternate routes ahead of time.

    Children

    Car Seats - Children under the age of 6 or 60 lbs (27 kg) must be in an approved child safety seat, booster seat or child restraint in the back seat.

    No Child (or Pets) Unattended - It is against the law to leave a child 6 years old or younger in an unattended car. Even with the window cracked, the temperature inside the car can become dangerous in just a few minutes. A child must be 12 or older to watch other children 6 or under in a car (i.e. You can leave an 8-year-old alone for a few minutes while you run into the store, but you can't leave them in charge of a 4-year-old.). It is also against the law to leave pets unattended in cars under any conditions that may endanger their health. Note: If you don't want to wake the baby, and you leave him/her sleeping in the car seat while you run in somewhere for a few minutes, concerned Angelenos WILL report you. There have been too many cooked babies (and pets) for people to take this lightly.

    No Smoking with Kids in the Car - It is against the law in California to smoke in a car if you have a minor with you.

    Emergency Vehicles

    Yield to Emergency Vehicles - Emergency vehicles including police, fire or ambulances with sirens or lights flashing always have the right of way, and you must pull over to the right and stop to allow them to pass, regardless of which direction they are coming from. Don't stop in intersections. Wait until the last emergency vehicle is at least 300 feet ahead of you before moving back into traffic.

    Move Over, Slow Down - Motorists are required to move over or slow down when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying emergency lights or a stationary tow truck or marked Caltrans vehicle that has its flashing amber warning lights activated. The law is designed to reduce the deaths of police officers, highway workers, tow truck drivers, paramedics, and other emergency personnel who are aiding stranded or injured motorists. Use caution if lane changes are required. This is being strictly enforced after several emergency personnel were killed in on the side of the freeway in different incidents.

    Earphones - When choosing a hands-free device for your cell phone, pick one that doesn't cover both ears. You're not allowed to block both ears with earplugs, earphones, or other headsets so you can hear emergency vehicles coming and other imminent dangers.

    Insurance

    To drive in the state of California, you must be able to show Proof of Insurance, regardless of where your car is registered or the laws in your state. If traveling from another state, check with your insurance company to ensure you have bodily injury and collision coverage in California.

    Littering

    There is a $1000 fine in California for throwing litter, especially smoldering cigarette butts, from a vehicle. Don't do it! Burning cigarette butts tossed carelessly out car windows have caused numerous roadside fires.

    Motorcycles

    Helmets - Motorcyclists must wear approved helmets.

    Lane Splitting - Motorcycles can legally split lanes (drive in between traffic lanes), so watch out for them.

    Noise

    Car Stereo - It is illegal to play your car stereo loud enough that it can be heard more than 50 feet from the vehicle.

    Don't Honk - Angelenos don't honk unless there is imminent danger or possibly a light tap to get the person distracted at a red light to notice the light is green. It's actually in the CA driver code "Do not honk your horn unless it is a safety warning to avoid a collision." Honking simply because traffic isn't moving just identifies you as a tourist (or transplant). Don't do it.

    Pets

    No animal Unattended - No animal may be left unattended in a vehicle under conditions that "endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal." In 2008, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a law that would have prohibited drivers from having pets on their lap while driving, but the practice is still discouraged and you can still get a ticket if a police officer notices you being distracted by your lap dog.

    Tricked Out Cars

    If you're planning to bring your pimped out ride to California, make sure it meets these Guidelines for Street Legal Vehicles

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  • 06 of 10

    Los Angeles Traffic Laws

    Low Angle View Of A Sign And Buildings On Hollywood Boulevard; Los Angeles California United States Of America
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    Photo Red Light Enforcement - some traffic signals in LA cities have been rigged with red light cameras that take a photo of the front of a car, showing the license plate and driver, if the car enters the intersection after the light has turned red. So even if you don't see a police officer nearby, you could end up with a traffic ticket for running a red light.

    Right on Red - You may turn right on red after coming to a full stop if the road is clear for you to not impinge any oncoming traffic and there are no posted signs to the contrary. A red turn arrow in the traffic signal, a posted sign of a right turn arrow with a red line through it or the words No Turn On Red are good indications you shouldn't turn on red. If cross traffic is flowing quickly, don't let the person behind you intimidate you into turning right on red when it's not safe. They don't see what you see.

    Passing on the Right - In addition to passing on the left (standard with faster lanes being to the...MORE left), it is legal to pass on the right on multi-lane LA freeways. 

    Slower Traffic Keep Right (or Middle) - While maintaining that you shouldn't drive over the speed limit, even the California Driver Handbook states "If you choose to drive slower than other traffic, do not drive in the “Number 1” (fast) lane. (See page 33.) When traveling below the speed limit always move to the right when another driver is close behind you and wishes to drive faster, unless you are already in the extreme right lane."

    U-turns are allowed at intersections unless otherwise marked. On low traffic roads, U-turns are generally allowed anywhere, as long as there is not a solid yellow line down the road and the view of traffic is not blocked.

    Flashing Traffic Lights - if a red light is flashing at an intersection, treat it as a stop sign. If the light is flashing yellow, you should slow down and watch for opposing traffic or pedestrians, both of which have the right of way. 

    Broken Traffic Lights - if you get to an intersection and the traffic signal is not working, you should treat it as an all-directions stop sign and take turns.

    Don't Block Intersections - in slow-moving traffic on surface streets, don't move forward into an intersection unless you are sure you can clear it or you can get a ticket. This is a favorite reason for dishing out traffic tickets on LA surface streets. When traffic is inching along, it's easy to find yourself blocking smaller side streets. 

    Pedestrians have the right of way at any intersection, whether marked as a crosswalk or unmarked (an implied crosswalk). At a marked crosswalk, drivers are required to stop for waiting pedestrians. At an unmarked crosswalk, pedestrians are supposed to wait for a break in traffic. Pedestrians may get a ticket for crossing against the light or in the middle of a block, but you'll still be the one in the wrong if you hit them, so keep an eye out for jaywalkers.

    Traffic Meters - At freeway on-ramps in high-traffic areas, which is almost everywhere in LA, there are red/green traffic signals to regulate the flow of traffic onto the freeway. Often there is a separate carpool (HOV) lane on the on-ramp that does not have to stop. Specific rules for each meter are posted. It may be one car per green light or three cars per green light, for example. The meters only operate in heavy traffic, but running a red light on a traffic meter has the same or greater penalty as running a red light on surface streets.

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  • 07 of 10

    Los Angeles Traffic Etiquette and Unique Customs

    Be Courteous & Don't Take it Personally

    Los Angeles drivers tend to be self-absorbed, but generally considerate. Perhaps it is due to several episodes of violent freeway attacks over the years, but people are generally trying NOT to piss off other drivers. Drive defensively, but don't take other people's bad driving personally. That person who just cut you off probably just realized he needed to be three lanes over. The first three people who don't let you change lanes, even though your turn signal is on, were too busy talking on their cell phones or rehearsing lines to notice you. The next person was back far enough to see your signal, make room and let you over. Be that considerate person. When you see a turn signal from someone trying to change lanes, make room; it won't make you any later than you already are.

    Left Turn on Red

    When I moved to Los Angeles, cars turning left after the light turned red was one of the things I found most disconcerting about driving...MORE in LA. Things have improved since then, with more left turn signals in Hollywood and other areas, but there are still many intersections where there is no left turn signal, and the flow of traffic will make you wait a half hour to make a legal left turn. 

    Common practice in Los Angeles when you want to make a left-hand turn at an intersection with a standard signal is to pull as far as possible into the intersection as you can while you have the green light, and after opposing traffic has finished clearing through the yellow light, make the left turn to get out of the intersection. Up to 5 cars will often push through that left turn after the light turns red, even though only two or three were in the intersection.

    It's not impossible to get a ticket for doing this, but it is a well-established practice in LA, and if you're sitting at a red light, you need to be prepared to wait after the light turns green for the cars in the other direction to finish turning left. In the same vein, if you're a few cars back and the light turns green, be patient for the first car to start moving because they have to wait for the cars turning left on red. Honking at them won't speed things up.

    On the Freeway

    Don't drive in the exit lane. Freeways in Los Angeles may have six or more lanes in some places. The far right lane on the freeway is considered the "slow lane," but on a multi-lane expressway in LA, it is considered the "exit lane", for people getting on and off the freeway. By avoiding driving in this lane for long distances, you allow a better flow of traffic.

    Don't drive the speed limit in the fast lane - If traffic is moving, and you're planning on driving the speed limit, stay out of the fast lane. Try the second lane from the right.

    Move Right for Faster Drivers - Whatever speed you're driving, if someone is coming up fast behind you, move right.

    Go with the Flow - The best way to avoid getting a ticket is to stay with the flow of traffic, even if it is over the speed limit.

    Don't Weave -You're more likely to be pulled over for weaving back and forth between lanes, or obstructing the flow of traffic by driving too slow in the fast lane.

    Leave Time for Lane Changes - Give yourself plenty of time to cross multiple lanes for your exit. Along most LA area freeways, green signs on the left or right identify the next three exits. When you see your exit in the third position, start moving to the exit lane.

    Exit Right, or Not - Most surface street exits off the freeway are to the right, but other freeways may exit on the left. Sometimes the exits for the opposite directions of a freeway are on opposite sides, so when you're approaching a freeway interchange, look for the overhead signs and pay attention to the direction you want to head. When you see an exit number at the top of the freeway exit sign, it will be on the right for exits to the right, and on the top left for exits to the left. The number is usually only on the final exit sign, so it doesn't help to notice when you're 3 lanes away.

    Don't Honk

    Angelenos don't honk unless there is imminent danger or possibly a light tap to get the person illegally texting at a red light to notice the light is green. It's actually in the CA driver code "Do not honk your horn unless it is a safety warning to avoid a collision." Honking simply because traffic isn't moving just identifies you as a tourist. Don't do it.

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  • 08 of 10

    Los Angeles Freeway Names and Numbers

    In case you do listen to a radio or TV traffic report for Greater Los Angeles and Orange County, these are the names you'll hear for the numbered freeways. 

    US1 = Pacific Coast Highway is NOT a freeway. It is a surface street with traffic signals all the way through LA and Orange Counties. It is also NOT along the coast from Santa Monica down to Seal Beach in Orange County. However, traffic reports often mention problems on Pacific Coast Highway in north LA County and in Orange County, where it becomes Coast Highway.
    SR 2 = Glendale Freeway from Silverlake north to the 134.
    I 5 = Santa Ana Freeway from East LA south, Golden State Freeway from East LA north.
    I 10 = The Santa Monica Freeway west of downtown, San Bernardino Freeway east of downtown.
    SR 14 = The Antelope Valley Freeway from the 5 north of Sylmar, inland to Palmdale and Lancaster.
    SR 22 = Garden Grove Freeway from Long Beach to Orange.
    SR 23 = The Moorpark Freeway from Thousand Oaks north to...MORE Moorpark, where it merges with the 118 to the east.
    SR 47 = Terminal Island Freeway/Vincent Thomas Bridge through the LA/Long Beach harbors.
    SR 55 = Costa Mesa Freeway, Costa Mesa to Anaheim.
    SR 57 = Orange Freeway from Orange north to Glendora.
    SR 60 = Pomona Freeway from East LA east to Riverside.
    SR 73 = Corona del Mar Freeway/San Juaquin Hills Transportation Corridor is a toll road from the 405 to the 5 in south Orange County to bypass congestion at the intersection of the 405 and 5.
    SR 90 = Marina del Rey Freeway is a short link from the 405 into Marina del Rey. There is another chunk of freeway in Orange County also called the 90 from Brea near the 57 to just beyond the 91 in Anaheim Hills.
    SR 91 = The Gardena Freeway from the 110 east to Artesia; The Artesia Freeway east to the 5; The Riverside Freeway from the 5 to Riverside.
    US 101 = The Ventura Freeway north of Burbank, the Hollywood Freeway south of Burbank to East LA where it merges with the 5.
    I 105 = The Century Freeway or Glenn Anderson Freeway from LAX in El Segundo, just west of the 405, east to the 605 in Norwalk.
    I 110/SR 110 = The Harbor Freeway from the LA Harbor in San Pedro to the 10 in Downtown LA, then the Pasadena Freeway into Pasadena.
    SR 118 = The Simi Valley Freeway or Ronald Reagan Freeway from Moorpark east to San Fernando.
    SR 133 = Laguna Freeway from the 405 to the 5, Eastern Transportation Corridor toll road from the 5 to the 241.
    SR 134 = Ventura Freeway from Pasadena west to North Hollywood, where it merges with the 101 and 170
    SR 170 = Hollywood Freeway from the 101 north to the 5.
    I 210/SR 210 = The Foothill Freeway from the 5 near San Fernando west to the 10 in Redlands.
    I 405 = The San Diego Freeway branches off from the 5 north of LA in San Fernando and travels through west LA County and south Orange County to re-connect with the 5 at the "El Toro Y" in Irvine.
    I 605 = San Gabriel River Freeway from the 405/22 in Seal Beach north to the 210 in Duarte
    I 710 = The Long Beach Freeway (never completed; signs show Pasadena as north terminus, but the 710 does NOT go to Pasadena, but ends in Alhambra, just below South Pasadena )

    Here are some Freeway Interchanges that you might hear mentioned in traffic reports:

    The Four Level Interchange (Bill Keene Memorial Interchange) refers to the intersection of the 110 and 101 Freeways in Downtown LA.
    The East LA Interchange is the junction of the 5, 10, 101 and 60 freeways just southeast of Downtown LA.
    The Hollywood Split is where the 101,134 and 170 intersect and trade names in North Hollywood.
    The Kellogg Interchange is the juncture of the 10, 57 and 71 freeways at the border of Pomona and San Dimas.
    The Newhall Pass is where the Antelope Valley Freeway (14) splits off from the 5 north of Sylmar.
    Orange Crush Interchange is the junction of the 5, 22 and 57 freeways in Orange County.
    El Toro Y is where the 405 rejoins the 5 in Irvine in south Orange County.

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  • 09 of 10

    Map and Traffic Apps

    Every smartphone comes with a map app, and there are many others you can download. However, not all map apps are created equal. There are two main kinds of navigation apps - live online maps and downloadable offline maps.

    Live Online Maps

    The most common map apps use live GPS and traffic information to give you multiple route options based on current traffic conditions. If you're driving in Los Angeles, you absolutely want a live traffic-based navigation system - either in your car or your phone - that can help you find the fastest way through traffic.

    Online maps use your cellular data, which can get expensive if you don't have a generous data plan or you're traveling internationally.

    The most popular apps are Google Maps, Waze, Apple Maps and Mapquest. None of the apps are perfect, but they are getting better all the time. They give you the option to avoid toll roads and avoid freeways. Unless you're nervous about driving on freeways, I wouldn't set that one. However,...MORE the only toll roads in Los Angeles County require a transponder box, so set that one to "avoid" before you start if you don't have a box.

    I tend to use a combination of Google Maps and Waze to get around traffic. Google Maps has the best visual overview of traffic, with clear red and green colors to show if traffic is moving or jammed. Orange is slow and dark red to black is a dead stop. If my route is green and I know where I'm going, I may not use Waze. If there is a lot of red showing up on my route, I'll switch over to Waze, my number 1 navigation resource.

    Waze

    The Waze app uses the actual speed of everyone driving with the Waze app open to calculate the fastest routes. The other apps tend to keep you on freeways, even when surface streets are faster. Waze will route you off the freeway and around the traffic jam. Unfortunately, since Google acquired Waze, it has gotten a lot more glitchy, and can sometimes send you on a wild goose chase for no reason at all, like directing you around the block back to where you started. Despite that, it's still better than the others for getting around real problems.

    Waze may take you through industrial neighborhoods, through residential neighborhoods or through Skid Row if it's faster than the freeway. Waze also has a tendency to want you to cross or turn left on a major thoroughfare without a traffic signal. This can be nerve-wracking for some people, and you can turn off that feature, but waiting for a break in traffic to turn or cross at a stop sign can be faster than waiting through three green lights to get through the traffic signal at some busy intersections. 

    If you're routed through a residential neighborhood, watch out for kids playing and people out walking, running, skateboarding and biking.

    Another key benefit of Waze is that active Waze users are reporting traffic hazards along the way, so the app will tell you if there's a hazard in the middle of the road, an accident or police sighting ahead, and how many minutes you'll be stuck in this particular bit of traffic jam.

    Like the other online map options, Waze gives you three route options, heavily weighted toward the most obvious choices. I'd really like a feature to be able to ask for more than three route options, or request a route option via a certain route that looks better to me.

    As a local, I know some faster routes that Waze doesn't seem to consider. For example, on the way from Downtown LA to Long Beach during  rush hour, Waze told me I should go from the 110 to the 405 south, which was pretty jammed, and I would reach my destination in 29 minutes. I knew that if I stayed on the 110 and cut across the Ports, it would be faster. As soon as I bypassed the 405 off ramp, Waze recalculated to my intended route and cut 6 minutes off the projected arrival time. It's a great tool, but you still get to make the decisions. It used to learn your preferred routes, but that doesn't seem to work anymore.

    Waze uses more battery than some other map apps, so I usually keep my phone plugged into the car charger if I'm using Waze.

    Offline Maps

    Offline maps allow you to download maps onto your phone and access them without using your cellular data. They still use your phone's GPS to locate where you are on the map, so you can use them to get directions, navigate and see by the dot if you're on the designated route.

    The biggest downside of offline maps is that they can't take traffic into account, so the drive that says 43 minutes will really take you an hour and a half. Another minor inconvenience is that you usually can't search for your location by name; you have to know the address. In any of the online maps, they're connected to search, so you could type in Hollywood Bowl, and it would find the address. In the offline maps, you have to know the street address. 

    Some offline map apps: 

    ForeverMap - iOS

    Here Maps - Android

    Maps.me - both

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    Los Angeles Traffic Information

    If you don't have a smartphone or dedicated GPS unit, you can still find out what's going on with LA traffic along your route.

    On the Radio

    Most Los Angeles radio stations have periodic traffic reports during rush hour. For 24-hour radio traffic, tune in to the station below. On weekends, traffic may be pre-empted by sports broadcasts at inopportune moments.

    KNX AM 1070 News Radio - Traffic Reports every 10 minutes on the 5s, traffic 24 hours online

    Traffic by Phone

    For Traffic Reports by Phone, you can dial 511 anytime to get traffic reports for specific freeways.

    Traffic Websites:

    There are a variety of websites that show real-time traffic conditions. Some have only traffic; others include driving directions, attractions, parking and more. To figure out which site works best for you, take a look at my comparison of Los Angeles Traffic Map Websites.

    >Parking in Los Angeles