Saturday, December 29, 2018

Weekend Post

I’ve talked about this before – this is the best week of the year to be in Los Angeles. No one is here. You can actually get around. You can get restaurant reservations. You can find a parking space.

The sad thing is this is the way LA used to be all the time. We’ve always gotten a bad rap for traffic, but in the 50’s – 70’s there was rush hour traffic in the morning and afternoon and that was it. If you drove the freeways midday or after 7 at night you just flew. And weekends were always a breeze.

But the area has grown so fast (I blame the Rose Bowl – people snowed-in in the east see the sunshine and pack the SUV) that the freeways can’t keep up with it.

Believe it or not we have a subway. No, seriously. We do. Honestly. I’m not kidding. But it doesn’t go to most of the places that Angelinos (yes, we’re called that) need to go.  That's why locals don't even know we have a subway. 

Okay, back in the 60’s and 70’s there was terrible smog, but if you could see through the brown haze and didn’t have a choking fit, you had an easy commute on the 405.

You could claim that the mass exodus this week is because the entertainment industry shuts down for the holidays, but they’ve essentially been closed since the week before Thanksgiving. They’ll be back after the Super Bowl. No, it’s the whole town. The only distinction is that entertainment folks all flock to Hawaii or Aspen, where as the rest of city scatters everywhere.

So I try to take this week to eat in restaurants that are schleps and normally I’d avoid because of the commute. I might even venture downtown. No. Strike that. It’s still downtown.

But I will try to take as much advantage of this week as I can. I may drive over Laurel Canyon at 5:00 PM just ‘cause I can. I know – that’s crazy talk – but I might just do it. Come January it’s back to the house, Amazon home deliveries, and Post Mates.

27 comments :

Charles Bryan said...

I've made it a personal tradition on Thanksgiving morning to go to the big box retailer on my way to the family dinner. The store is practically empty, other than a few people getting last minute supplies. It's a shopping dream.

TireKicker said...

We've found Thanksgiving and even Memorial Day weekends (if you avoid the beach) are pretty empty days for L.A., too---and have started making that a regular time to come down from Sacramento.

Peter said...

Sounds like LA is as empty as the theatres showing Holmes & Watson.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Aaaaaaaaamen! Without cell phones, we’d all offend each other when we show up 15 or 30 or 45 minutes late to a meeting, lunch or dinner. At least the phones allow us to beg forgiveness because of gridlock.

I’d rather be eaten alive by scorpions than tolerate sitting in heavy traffic. Sadly, I’ve become more reclusive, and I hate that. I remember when the 110 freeway in L.A. was kind of the fast track for getting to anywhere. It can now be an exhausting test of human endurance.

I live in a wonderful city until I have to go anywhere. Then it’s back to those scorpions.

E. Yarber said...

SOMEBODY knows about the subway, since it's always packed when I'm riding it.

Mass transit in LA may seem esoteric to those used to cars, but it just takes a little getting used to. My area is served by three bus lines (LA, Santa Monica, Culver City) and light rail. If you pre-pay for a Transit Access Pass, you can transfer seamlessly from one system to the other, and I can usually wind up only a couple of blocks from where I need to be. They're still extending the system. It's a huge improvement over the days when a trip downtown took forever and the busses were equipped with TV monitors blaring infomercials. I still miss the line that used to go from LAX to across the street from my place for $1, though.

Jeff Boice said...

However, one should avoid Disneyland at all costs- because every grandparent in America gets the same idea around Christmastime- that the perfect present for the grandkids is a trip to Disneyland. I know because my mom thought of that one year for her granddaughter.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

It's been my experience, traveling on buses and the metro in LA, that *white* Angeleno don't know the subway and busses exist. he rule I have observed is that if you're white and on public transit in LA you are from out of town. I have very commonly been the only white person on the bus or train, or one of only two. I successfully tempted a friend who works in Pasadena onto the metro to meet me near Union Station for lunch and she was astonished how quick it was.

The sad thing is that some of the places the metro does go are worth going to. Union Station is *gorgeous* - all Spanish tile, with a decent restaurant and an outdoor courtyard waiting area - and car-driving Angelenos have no idea what they''re missing. And downtown is rather fun, with museums and restaurants like any major city. I was last there a couple of years ago.

wg

YEKIMI said...

You want to know when you're in Ohio? You'll see orange barrels EVERYWHERE.....even inside a rest stop bathroom. I have to drive....errr, dodge....them on the way to work. I should buy stock in whatever company makes them. After 4 years I thought the end was in sight at the end of 2019 after 3-4 years of construction. Now they just announced they're going to do ANOTHER section of the same road and may be finished by 2023-25. You're lucky if you are able to do 30 MPH during rush hour.

Unknown said...

I lived in Ventura County from 74-this year. Past decade I was in LA proper at least once a month, often much more. I never noticed any kinda slowdown in the proverbial 405/101 traffic, with exceptions of after 10PM, or lucky times around 11A-2P. Even in the 70's, when the smog was so bad a passerby didn't realize the Valley was called the Valley because there were mountains on the north side, the traffic sucked. Seems live revisionist history to me.

MikeKPa. said...

Speaking of Amazon, there was an excellent article in The Atlantic the other day by a former longtime SI writer who is now an Amazon delivery man.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/12/what-its-like-to-deliver-packages-for-amazon/578986/

VP81955 said...

I'm white, haven't driven since 2010 as a result of problems with peripheral vision (can't get a license), yet moved here from Virginia in 2014 and make my way around nicely thanks to Metro. Sure, there are several compromises you have to make, but the improved rail and bus system is easy to use once you know the lay of the land. And as a senior, I can get a 30-day TAP card for $20. (My first visit to LA came in 1989, a year before the first Metro line opened. Had such conditions still existed now, I probably wouldn't have moved.)

Ed from SFV said...

Yogi might say, "Nobody drives in L.A. anymore. Too much traffic."

Nothing was worse for me than the dread of trying to gauge how long it might take to get from NoHo to LAX. Just getting on the 405 from the 101 was often a horror show. Sepulveda was always problematic.

I loved the Red Line subway to Union Station. So many excellent stops along the way, including Universal Studios. The Orange line they carved out for buses was perfect to get me to the terminus.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Ken speaks the truth. When I was a kid in the 60's radio stations only gave traffic reports during the afternoon rush hour. Then it expanded to morning and evening. Then all day. Now we have traffic reports 24 hours a day.
It will take you 45 minutes to an hour to go from Van Nuys to Northridge (+/- 10 miles) during a Friday rush hour. (Freeway or surface streets, no difference.) In the middle of the day it's still a half-hour. Yet, when I was a kid it only took about 15 minutes.
Online shopping also helped clear the streets. The malls were not as crowded as they have been in previous years.

As for the subway, Wendy G. is right. I used to jokingly say that the only people that ride public transportation are the homely and the ethnic. If you're a hot girl you'll probably have a lot of guys willing to give you a ride. (Sexist? Maybe. But, it's still true.) The subway is O.K. for certain destinations. But, waiting for a connecting bus ads considerable time to any trip.
There are some politically correct types on the subway, but even a hard-core environmentalist like Ed Begley Jr. would rather took around town in his electric car than take public transportation.
One group that takes the subway is the cheap. I HATE paying to park and there's no way I'm paying a valet if I don't have to.

If you see me on the 405 I'm the guy speeding, on my phone, drinking coffee, fiddling with my GPS, in the car with too darkly tinted windows and no front plate that doesn't know how to use his turn signals. In other words, I'm most people in L.A.
M.B.

Mike said...

Ironically, the best time ever for traffic was during the '84 olympics. For months folks like Bill Keene had been warning Angelinos what a mess things were going to be during the summer olympics. So all the residents left town! From home in Hermosa Beach to work at Olympic and the 405 in 20 minutes. Christmas morning every day for 2 weeks.

Max Clarke said...

KEN,

If you drive over Laurel Canyon at 5pm, how about some pictures?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Mike Bloodworth: I was once staying with someone in Redondo Beach and planning to depart for the airport. "Do you want me to call you a cab?" he asked. He was *stunned* when I told him that literally right outside his front door was a bus stop where for $1.50 or some such I could get a bus direct to LAX. He never used his front door because the carport was at the back, so he really had no idea.

wg

Bryan said...

Ken,
Just finished the first episode of the second season of The Good Place. It's got your man Ted in it so I was wondering if you've been watching and what your thoughts are. The whole time I've been thinking through what I've learned about story from reading your blog. How could you pull humor out of a perfect situation? Then I was concerned that they were writing themselves into a corner by resolving the main conflict of the first season. Just finished the first episode of the second season and it seems like they had that planned but to me the solution seems ... not ideal

Anonymous said...

Every one I ever known that lived in New York have said the same things ( well not about the 405 but similiar) about new york during this week.

Janet Ybarra said...

Enjoy the quiet. The DC area empties out like that, only it happens in August.

So how has LA earthquake-proofed its subway? That would be my fear...an Irwin Allen flick waiting to happen.

DC's Metro subway used to be state-of-the-art. I remember the first time I rode in the late '80s, it looked like something out of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.

Today, it's been the subject of too many rate hikes and service cuts, and now entire service lines seem to go randomly offline for maintenance.

estiv said...

When I was in college, I had a part-time job on campus that didn't depend on the academic calendar. So for about a month between the fall and spring semesters, on my workdays I was one of only a handful of people on a campus usually holding fifty thousand students. It was glorious. However, I understood that the only reason it was possible was because of those zillions of people the rest of the time--a large college campus that always had only a few people would be shut down or shrunk pretty quickly. Life lesson, I guess, that everything has a price.

E. Yarber said...

I lived in Washington DC when the Metro was humming, and went from there to San Francisco which also had an excellent light rail service. When they tried to set the same sort of thing in LA, I was initially skeptical. Digging under Hollywood Boulevard was a nightmare, the stops seemed confined to a limited stretch of the North, and activists were making good arguments that a subway system was way too expensive an undertaking compared to beefing up existing bus lines.

These days, however, the rail has expanded in all directions and more stations are being constructed. There's a combination of underground routes and elevated platforms keeping the trains from gridlock on the streets. Twenty-seven bus services from Pasadena to Long Beach are coordinated with the trains through a consolidated payment system which treats moving from one line to another as a transfer, not a fresh fare.

The rail reached my neck of the woods two years ago and I was converted once I found how easy it made getting around. I typically add credit to my TAP card at the Santa Monica transit store, but you can do it even more easily online, and there are ATM-type ticket booths for the same at every station. Mass transit in Los Angeles may seem like an afterthought to many, but there are civic planners who realize that that there has to be an alternative to the freeway system and are developing a viable transportation grid to address traffic congestion. It may not be big news, but a lot of people are discovering the new trains and in time there should be an entire generation that take them for granted.

Jen from Jersey said...

I watch The Good Place too. I like the original fish out of water premise, but they kept me interested and each episode ends in a mini cliff hanger.

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Joe Klein said...

Who remembers L.A. back in the SUMMER OF '84? Traffic nightmares were predicted ahead of the Olympics for months, prompting hundreds of thousands of local residents to either bail or hunker down in their homes. By that time, traffic in L.A. had gotten pretty bad, but the two weeks of the Summer Olympics defied the predictions and resulted in a blissful period of traffic that as even lighter than the early 60's!

VP81955 said...

Moreover, all the lines now stop at midnight -- even on weekends (they formerly stopped at 3 a.m. Fridays ans Saturdays) -- so if there's a rain delay at a Nationals game (or it goes extra innings), you're in big trouble.

Stephen Robinson said...

What Ken describes about L.A. and traffic reminds me of what some friends say about Seattle just 20 years ago. Yikes.

@randywcgcomics said...

I live in West LA and really enjoy taking the Metro Expo Line to both Santa Monica and downtown L.A. Downtown has really changed (still is), with plenty of restaurants, shopping and city activity going on.