SoCal Traffic Observations – 2017


Once a year (at least), I make the trek to San Diego to visit my folks. This year, I did it for Thanksgiving (as I did last year). This time, I was traveling alone, as the boss (aka my wife) was staying in the Bay Area to be with her family. Knowing how awful traffic is on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I made the decision to shift the travel days to avoid the crush leaving on Tuesday early, and returning on Saturday.

That was a wise decision, all around.

I woke earlier than usual on Tuesday, and left the house at 6:15. Out of San Jose, through Pacheco Pass, and down I–5 all was smooth. I got through the grapevine by 10:00. Then I hit the 210.

Hoo boy.

First, I will point out that I purposely left my house in San Jose at 6:15, so I would avoid the LA Basin at rush hour (which starts at around 2:30 in earnest.) That was a wise move. I got to the bottom of the grapevine before 10:00 AM, and stopped for lunch in Arcadia (South-East of Pasadena) at 11:30. Smooth sailing, with almost no slowdowns.

But, there was plenty of zaniness nonetheless.

  1. Optional Turnsignals – While in the Bay Area, there are two makes of automobiles who seem to have no turn signals as standard equipment, Audi and BMW. In Los Angeles and the surrounding communities, it appears that both Toyota’s and GM brand crossover SUV’s all lack this most functional option.
    BMW Turn signal Meme
    Ever feel useless? Someone has the job of installing turn signals on BMW’s
  2. Formula 1 lane changes – I learned this phrase when I was learning to drive. This is people who (with or without turn signals) cross 2 or more lanes of traffic at one time. While this is a fairly rare occurrence in Silicon Valley, it is ubiquitous in SoCal. In fact this happened several times within the first 20 miles.
  3. Speed limits are for pussies – There, I said it. In SoCal nobody does the speed limit. It is a sign of weakness. Since I had fairly clear roads, traffic wise at least, there were no inherent slowdowns to navigate. I tried to keep within 10MPH of the speed limit, and I was being passed for dead. I swear, you are doing 75 in a 65 zone, and someone passes you at at least 90MPH, then they do a three lane Formula 1 lane change to get around two cars who are impeding their progress and then back to the left lane at 90+MPH. I saw this repeatedly.
  4. Work Zones? What work zones… – The 210 is perpetually under construction, just moving the chains every time I visit. Still the work zone is clearly marked, both the start, the fact that fines are doubled, and that the speed limit is reduced to 55MPH. Clearly, this should get the attention of the drivers in SoCal. cough Nope, I kept to about 10 over in these stretches, but I was a minority of one. I was passed on both sides, and even passed by a CHP cruiser. Shaking my head. Think of all the revenue they could collect by setting up an enforcement zone.
  5. Evidence of horrific crashes – One thing that kept me on my toes, and focused ont he drive was all the evidence of horrific crashes. The skid marks in the road, the chunks missing from the concrete dividers, the scattered detritus of the bumpers and headlight glass/plastic on the side of the freeways tells a story. A story of pain and suffering, of property damage, and where there are the paint marks of the post crash investigation, the place where someone lost their life. Tragedy, contemplation, reflection, and ultimately not a single care about the accident.

I made it through, safely, wondering how people live there and deal with this. Yet, even with their daily expectation of heavy traffic, and slow travels, the ]day before Thanksgiving](–20161123-htmlstory.html) has a reputation. This year was no exception.

Alas, I accomplished my mission, missing the afternoon rush hour, and the Wednesday crunch by traveling on Tuesday and Saturday. Less stress, but not stress free.

About the author


Product Manager in Tech. Guitar player. Bicycle Rider. Dog rescuer. Techie.

By gander


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