Los Angeles Traffic

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If you are driving in Los Angeles, paying attention to traffic conditions is very important for saving time and making sure you can get where you need to be on time. There are many different web sites you can use to get directions and see the current Los Angeles traffic conditions. Each site has advantages and disadvantages, so I use different sites, depending on the information I need.

For example, if I'm headed to Downtown Los Angeles, and in addition to directions, I want to know where the cheapest parking is near my destination, I'll use Bing Maps, which incorporates a cool parking app from BestParking.com. But if I'm weighing the option of whether to drive Downtown or take public transportation, I'll check Google Maps, because it has better incorporated public transportation information for Greater Los Angeles.

If I want to know which route is better with the current traffic, I'll check Bing Maps or Traffic.com, but if I want to know what traffic will probably look like tomorrow morning between 8 and 9 am, I'll use Google Maps, which lets you switch between live traffic and historic/projected traffic for a specific time of day.
On the following pages, I lay out where each of the top websites excels (or lacks) when it comes to Los Angeles traffic and directions. While, at the present time, you'll notice Google Maps excels in more general areas, I still give Bing Maps priority, based on the ability to choose a route based on current traffic conditions, which more often than not outweighs all other factors.

None of them are perfect, and at times, they calculate routes that make no sense at all, so you really need to look at the map and the traffic and use your brain to determine if that route they mapped along a clearly jammed freeway or 5 miles in the wrong direction is really the way you want to go. Sometimes you just need to wait a few minutes and refresh the map to get a more logical route.
Some of the maps are increasingly useful for mapping public transportation, bike routes and attractions.

This information is accurate at the time of publication, but these sites are always adding new functionality, so it may have changed by the time you read this.
Take a look at the pros and cons for each of these traffic map pages:
Bing Maps
Google Maps
MapQuest
Traffic.com
Sigalert.com

01 of 05

Bing Maps for Los Angeles Traffic and Directions

Bing Maps
Screen Shot of Bing Maps

Overview

What Bing Maps Does Best

  • Gives you the option of choosing Best Route based on current traffic
  • Traffic cams (can be slow to load)
  • Good apps within map for gas prices (doesn't include all stations)
  • Incorporates bestparking.com info for Downtown LA and LAX
  • Taxi-fare calculation app (I haven't tested its accuracy for LA)
  • A round-trip function (helpful for finding that return freeway on-ramp)
  • Angled Bird's Eye view option rotates map & shows building facades

More Pros:

  • Real-time traffic
  • Turn by Turn Directions
  • Drag route to change
  • Has an option to map routes avoiding highways or tolls
  • Street view function for main streets in Los Angeles
  • Ability to map a route through multiple destinations
  • Multiple printing options
  • Traffic cautions include hazards, incidents, construction and street closures color coded for traffic impact, but all the same icon

Cons:

  • Public transportation info is limited
  • Street Views are limited
  • No historic/projected traffic info
  • Shows my address 2 buildings over
  • The apps don't necessarily work WITH Bing's own map function (you can't map a driving route, then click on taxi fare, you have to re-enter the addresses in the taxi fare app)
  • I don't like that I have to close the directions pane and lose my directions to get back to the main navigation index. There are navigation buttons at the bottom, but they don't have the same short-cuts.
Continue to 2 of 5 below.
02 of 05

Google Maps for Los Angeles Traffic and Directions

Google Map of Los Angeles
Screen shot of Google Map of Los Angeles

Overview

What Google Maps Does Best

  • Historic/projected traffic information - (i.e. Glick the "change" link in the Live Traffic box to find out what traffic will be like tomorrow during morning rush hour.)
  • Most comprehensive Street Views for Los Angeles
  • Best Public Transportation info for Los Angeles
  • Bike routes
  • Best Street-level traffic
  • More Attractions and businesses are labeled when you zoom into the map (locations not always precise)
  • Google is pretty good at routing by landmark names without an address
  • More printing options than Bing (including street view)
  • Different icons for road hazards, construction, accidents and road closures in traffic view, so easy to interpret at a glance

Other Pros:

  • Real-time traffic
  • Turn by Turn Directions
  • Drag route to change
  • In Driving Directions, gives multiple route options
  • Has an option to map routes avoiding highways or tolls
  • Ability to map a route through multiple destinations

Cons:

  • Doesn't calculate route times based on current traffic info (gives basic with/without traffic estimate not based on current conditions)
  • Doesn't have all the cool parking and taxi fare apps that Bing has
  • Shows my address 2 buildings over
  • Has a 45 degree aerial view, but it's limited and difficult to access
Continue to 3 of 5 below.
03 of 05

MapQuest Los Angeles Traffic and Directions

MapQuest Map of Los Angeles, CA
Screen shot of MapQuest

Overview

What MapQuest Does Best

  • Gives helpful tips in directions, such as identifying the major street or landmark before your turn.
  • Business icons at the top of the page make it easy to find gas, parking, hotels and a variety of kinds of businesses along your route with the click of a mouse.
  • More ways to narrow route by avoiding not only highways and tolls, but also ferries, country borders, seasonal roads and timed restrictions (most not too relevant for LA, but interesting).
  • Unique print options include "Track Odometer" so you can set your trip odometer and see what it should read when it's time to turn, and not have to mentally calculate the odometer change. You can also change font size.
  • Send to Mobile or GPS: you can email a Google or Bing Map, but MapQuest has the most options and easiest interface for sending to a mobile browser, Garmin GPS, Facebook, OnStar and more.

Other Pros:

  • Real-time traffic
  • Turn by Turn Directions
  • Drag route to change
  • In Driving Directions, gives multiple route options
  • Ability to map a route through multiple destinations
  • The 360 View (same as Google Street View)
  • You can choose between most direct or fastest route

Cons

  • Fastest route calculations don't factor in traffic.
  • Traffic cautions including hazards, incidents, construction and street closures are not as comprehensive as other traffic sites.
  • The "print gas stations" and "print parking" functions replace the driving route instead of showing stations along the driving route or parking at the destination. Hopefully they'll get that bug fixed.
Continue to 4 of 5 below.
04 of 05

Traffic.com Los Angeles Traffic Maps and Directions

Traffic.com Map of Los Angeles
Screen shot of Traffic.com

Overview

What Traffic.com Does Best

  • Very simple interface without all the bells and whistles so it's easy to navigate
  • Gives you a choice of the most direct route or fastest for current traffic conditions, both showing simultaneously on the map
  • Shows some more subtle street-level detours than Bing
  • Gives the jam-factor, speed and estimated time-delay of each traffic-slow-down

Other Pros:

  • Real-time traffic
  • Turn by Turn Directions
  • Drag route to change

Cons:

  • Most of the time, you need to be more precise about your addresses than with Google or Bing
  • Strictly traffic and directions, no extra bells and whistles like parking, public transportation or bike trails
  • The route-dragging function doesn't work very well, and if you drag a route, you lose the "fastest route" tab in favor of "custom route" and you have to resubmit the route to get back to the "fastest" option.
  • Sometimes route recommendations are inconsistent with traffic information (i.e. tells you a route is fastest in current traffic, yet routes you right through a traffic jam, where it indicates a 22 minute delay, despite other route options being available to get around it).
Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05

Sigalert.com Traffic Map of Los Angeles

Sigalert.com Traffic Map of Los Angeles
Screen shot of Sigalert.com

Overview

What Sigalert.com Does Best

  • Side by side time comparison of four alternative freeway routes based on current traffic
  • Detailed exit by exit speed and incident report for each freeway
  • Extensive network of traffic cameras

Other Pros:

  • Real-time traffic
  • Shows traffic delays on map color coded for severity

Cons:

  • No point to point routing; you have to know your freeway on and off ramps
  • Only shows freeways
  • Route options don't show on map
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