Share This Article


This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Fri, Jul 9, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


In Los Angeles, the average speed on the freeways during rush-hour traffic can be less than 10 miles per hour. Not surprisingly, Angelinos have come up with some ingenious ways to cut down on their commute time (albeit often to some infinitesimal degree). In homage to this tradition, LA Car has gathered its 15 favorite freeway shortcuts in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Freeway Shortcut No. 1: Southbound 605 to the Southbound 5  The fastest moving traffic is in the extreme right-hand lane. Stay in it for a long as you can stand, and you'll gain about a 1/4-mile lead over moving immediately into the left-hand lane. The actual time benefit of this maneuver is questionable, but there's probably a fractional psychological benefit here.

Freeway Shortcut No. 2 Westside LA to Hollywood This one comes courtesy of LA CAR Feature Editor Harvey Schwartz: 

My favorite shortcut is from my studio/office on the Westside to Hollywood. I take the 10 East off at La Brea, then North on La Brea Avenue, to a right onto Edgewood Place, to left on Highland Avenue, and then to Santa Monica Blvd. or Sunset Blvd. or Hollywood Blvd. It is so good because most of the traffic is cut off. La Brea generally moves well, Highland has very little traffic and the traffic lights are synchronized all the way to Hollywood Blvd. I always take this route. - Harvey Schwartz

Freeway Shortcut No. 3 Northbound 5 (between the 91 and the 605)

During rush hour traffic, this stretch can get really bad. However, you can literally save up to five minutes of drive time if you have the chutzpah to take the shortcut: Stay in the right-hand exit lanes all the way. It will require that you cut across to the lane to your left just before the exit arrives. And you'll have to do this around three times. Of course, a lot of drivers who've been politely waiting their turn stuck in traffic will think you're a putz.

Freeway Shortcut No. 4 Northbound 110 to 5 Northbound Courtesy of Curbjumper: Northbound 110 Pasadena Fwy, after the downtown interchange, stay in the rightmost lane to avoid the backlog of cars transitioning to the 5 Northbound which is a single lane on the left. Once you past the 5 Northbound interchange, cut two lanes to the left and stay in the leftmost lane to avoid the merging traffic from the other freeway.  

Freeway Shortcut No. 5 Chinatown to San Gabriel Valley; San Gabriel Valley to Chinatown  Courtesy of Dim Sum: This is a great shortcut for anyone stuck in downtown Los Angeles in rush-hour traffic, and needs to get the San Gabriel Valley (Alhambra, South Pasadena, San Gabriel, etc.): Take Broadway northbound, through the district of Lincoln Heights. The street will end at Mission. Hang a left at Mission. Mission will turn into Huntington Drive. Huntington Drive will take you through El Sereno, South Pasadena, Alhambra, San Gabriel, Temple City, Arcadia, Monrovia, etc. Pretty scenic too.

Here's a variation of the above route:  If you're in San Gabriel Valley and taking the 10 westbound all the way to Chinatown, conventional wisdom will have you go to the 110 towards Pasadena (northbound) and get off of Stadium Way. It's actually quicker to take the westbound 10 to the northbound 5, and get off at Broadway. Hang a left on Broadway and it'll take you straight through the back door of Chinatown.

Freeway Shortcut No. 6 Alternative to Hwy 5 Through East Los Angeles Courtesy of Physical Graffiti: Anyone who's tried to go northbound on the 5 through East Los Angeles in rush-hour traffice knows that it's a bear. This shortcut is physically longer, but it's faster time-wise: While going northbound on the 5, instead of going through East Los Angeles, take the 710 offramp towards Pasadena (northbound). Then take the 10 to Los Angeles and hook back onto the 5 northbound.

Freeway Shortcut No. 7 Southbound Hwy 5, Between the 605 and the 91 This shortcut tip is similar to Physical Graffiti's. Southbound Highway 5, between the 605 and 91, didn't benefit from the freeway expansion that has been completed further south (near Disneyland). Consequently, this is still a bottleneck. It's often shorter to take the longer way - i.e., from the southbound 5, take the 605 south to the 91 south, and then get back on the 5 south. Once you do, you'll be right at the point where the freeway opens up to more lanes.

Freeway Shortcut No. 8 Southbound 101 to the 110 Freeway Those who work in Hollywood and live in LA know this one: Traveling on the southbound 101, the last three offramps leading up to the 110 allow for through traffic. Take an offramp and zip through the clogged traffic. It'll take you directly to the 110.

Freeway Shortcut No. 9 Southbound 5 to the Orange Crush Okay, here's one for Angelinos entering the Orange Curtain via the Southbound 5: As you approach the Orange Crush (where the 5 meets the 22 and 57), get in the right-hand lane. It's, by far, the fastest-moving lane. Once the traffic slows down, you can proceed to one of the left lanes.

Freeway Shortcut No. 10 Valley Boulevard Back in the days before freeways, Valley Boulevard was the route to take when Inland Empire residents wanted to visit the city in Los Angeles. Today, it remains a good freeway alternative when things get heavy on Highway 10. I know of one Duarte resident who makes Valley Boulevard his daily commuter route to Monterey Park (Valley Boulevard to Garvey). Stretches of this street remain low density, and you can move at a pretty good clip. While you're at it, you can enjoy seeing the many Mexican restaurants and shops that now populate Valley Boulevard. 

Freeway Shortcut No. 11 The Dirty Little Secret About Trucks & SUVs Courtesy of Juggernaut: "So, you want to have fewer interruptions on the freeway? Most people know about the height advantage of trucks and SUVs - the fact that it allows you to see over most vehicles and to get a better sense of the flow of traffic. Here's a dirty little secret about trucks and SUVs that most owners won't talk about: The intimidation factor. Not only do more cars get out of your way if you have a truck or SUV, people are less likely to cut in front of your lane. Of course, the size of your truck or SUV will make a difference. You are more likely to experience this phenomenon in a big SUV than in a small one. I think trucks work even better than SUVs. I drive an old, restored pick up that resembles the one in the last scene from Easy Rider."

A friend of mine, who had just purchased a pickup truck, noticed that drivers of smaller vehicles - either consciously or subconsciously - seem to get out his way on the freeway. He also believes that fewer cars cut in front of him, which in turn allows him to be a little more aggressive on the freeway. That, in turn, makes other drivers even less inclined to cut in front of him. In all likelihood, this cycle will continue until someone gets in an accident. 

For some people, there's a war going on - and it's not the one in the Middle East. 

Freeway Shortcut No. 11 (Further Thoughts) Yininyang responds to Juggernaut: "If I recall correctly, the truck in Easy Rider had a gun rack.

I'm not so sure it's the type of vehicle as much as how aggressive the driver is. I usually don't like moving in front of any vehicle barreling down the lane at a good clip. They're not always truck or SUV drivers. Wannabe race car drivers in BMWs or hopped-up Hondas are frequent violators. Sometimes, it's just some aggressive driver in a puny Hyundai."

Editor's note: Wannabe race car drivers are addressed in LA Car's ("Are BMW Drivers A-Holes?").

Freeway Shortcut No. 12 Southbound 605 Toward Highway 5 Courtesy of Southside Johnny: Traffic usually gets clogged up on the Southbound 605 as it approaches Interstate Highway 5 - especially if you plan on taking the 5. One alternative to being stuck in the right-hand lane is to take the Washington offramp and to stick to the "through freeway" lane on the left. It'll take you back to the 605 just before it merges into the 5."


Columbia Pictures 1969

Freeway Shortcut No. 13 Ride A Motorcycle If you can tolerate the danger of not being seen by your fellow drivers, a motorcycle is one of the best ways to move along in rush hour traffic. In California, lane-splitting - the motorcycle art of sharing a lane to pass an vehicle stuck in congested traffic - is legal, so long as it's done in a safe manner. In addition, motorcycles are one of the few vehicles allowed to travel on the state's high-occupancy vehicle (carpool) lanes without a carpool (see the April 4, 2004 LA CAR Blog entry about the other vehicles that can travel the HOV lanes).

Freeway Shortcut No. 14 Pasadena to Downtown: Take the Gold Line Arguably, this is the most picturesque of all the light rail routes in the Los Angeles area. The Metropolitan Transit Authority's Gold Line starts at Sierra Madre Villa (on Madre, just north of the 210 freeway). The parking lot is huge. The Gold Line takes you westbound alongside the 210, and then cuts across through the Mission area, Highland Park, to the Southwest Museum, Heritage Square/Arroyo, Lincoln Park, Chinatown, and finally to Union Station. Eventually, plans are to stretch the Gold Line all the way to Montclair. When that happens, it'll become the shortcut of choice for many San Gabriel Valley commuters. 

Freeway Shortcut No. 15 Consider a Honda Civic GX Those of us who use the freeways and highways of California are well aware of the advantages of having a carpool. The HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes are the most uncluttered during rush-hour traffic, and the envy of single-occupant vehicle drivers. Did you know, however, that certain cars and trucks can use the HOV lanes in California even if there's only one occupant in the vehicle? It's the result of a law enacted allowing cars and trucks that meet the Federal ILEV (Inherently Low-Emission Vehicle) and California SULEV (Super Ultra Low-Emission Vehicle) standards to use the HOV lanes, regardless of the number of occupants. In order to use the HOV lanes with only one occupant, eligible vehicle owners must first obtain an identification sticker from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Once qualified, the owner receives a sticker, known as the AB71 single driver sticker (named after the 1999 State Assembly bill number authored by Jim Cunneen). To obtain the application online, visit the California Department of Motor Vehicle's website for Form REG-1000.  So, can your low-emission Honda Civic Hybrid, Insight or Toyota Prius qualify for an AB71 sticker? Unfortunately, gasoline powered vehicles, including-electric hybrids, do not yet qualify for the single-occupant HOV sticker (there's a bill working its way through the legislature to change that). The cars that qualify are presently confined to pure electric vehicles and cars that operate on compressed natural gas (CNG). If you're looking for new car, there's only one game in town: The compressed natural gas-powered Honda Civic GX. The Civic GX runs pretty like like an ordinary Civic - except that the engine in the GX has been named the cleanest internal combustion chamber engine on the planet by the Environmental Protection Agency. The biggest drawback to owning a GX is that not all gas stations offer compressed natural gas. Compounding this problem is the mileage range of the GX, which is not as high as that of an ordinary Civic. For this reason, the Civic GX has been confined for years as an institutional fleet vehicle. 

Honda has now made it easier for consumers to buy the GX (see the link below). Honda says it will also be easier to own and operate one, with the soon-to-be introduced Phill-a home-refueling appliance. Manufactured by FuelMaker Corporation, the device promises to allow refueling of the GX from the comfort of your home garage.

Honda Civic GX prices start at $20,760. For more information on the GX and on the Phill-a home-refueling device, check out the Civic GX site. 

We welcome your freeway shortcut suggestions: Letter to the Editor

You Might Also Like These Articles:

hand filling a car with gas

Urban Fuel Hacks

a blue Genesis G70

2024 Genesis G70 AWD 2.5T Sport Prestige

image of man working in car engine

What to Do If You Bought a Defective Vehicle

a packed suitcase

48 Road Trip Essentials

White Vehicle Parked on Road Between Trees in Beverly Hills

Academized Tutor Mary Watson on Driving Tips for Students New to Los Angeles