Crawling along Southern California's freeways at rush hour, you might have wanted to scream: "This traffic is the worst!"
it was a Thursday evening, you probably were right. At least, that's
the consensus of three companies that analyze traffic patterns using GPS
All agree that Thursday evening is one of the
slowest — if not the slowest — drive times of the week in greater Los
Angeles. TomTom, the Dutch GPS company, estimates that during the
Thursday after-work crunch, drivers in an area extending from Simi
Valley to Costa Mesa spend 40 minutes of every hour sitting in traffic.
congestion and delays by day and time is complicated, and there's some
noise in the numbers. One firm says Friday afternoons are just as
congested. Another says traffic on Wednesday is equally sluggish.
to Inrix, a Washington-based technology company, the worst delays are
between 5 and 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, when an average trip takes
47% longer than it would with no congestion. On Fridays, freeways begin
backing up earlier, but Thursday's congestion lasts longer, according to
company spokesman Jim Bak.
That general pattern is the same in
every major U.S. city, with the most severe traffic tie-ups coming near
the end of the workweek, Bak said.
Inrix, TomTom and Waze, all
firms that gather data from GPS-equipped vehicles or users of their
traffic services, agree Tuesdays have the worst morning delays. On
average, Tuesday trips at 9 a.m. in the Los Angeles area take about a
third longer than they would if highways flowed freely, Inrix says.
route seems jammed during rush hour, but several stand out as
consistently bad. At 50 minutes of delay, on average, the eastbound 10
is the most delayed route of any in the greater L.A. area, and the
second-most congested in the United States, the company says.
Angeles takes the dubious honor of having five of the top 10 most
congested freeway corridors in the country: the eastbound 10; the
northbound 405; the southbound 5; the eastbound 91 ; and the northbound
According to Inrix, the southbound 405 through the Sepulveda
Pass is at its worst Wednesdays between 8 and 9 a.m., when congestion
on average adds a half-hour to the commute. The longest delays
northbound through the pass are Thursdays between 5 and 6 p.m., when
congestion adds 40 minutes to the drive.
The worst time to drive
between Santa Monica and downtown on the 10 Freeway is Thursday from 6
to 7 p.m. — in both directions, Inrix says.
averages, of course, don't reflect the pantheon of problems on any given
day that can clog up commutes: a crash, a brush fire, a couch falling
off a truck.
And they don't answer the question: Why Thursday?
"If people knew the answer to that one, we'd fix traffic," said Kajon Cermack, 89.9 KCRW's longtime traffic reporter.
have some theories. One is that commuters leave work early, and more in
the heart of rush hour, near the end of the week, particularly on
Thursdays. That's partly because some Los Angeles-area commuters who
work flexible schedules, either taking Friday off or working from home,
are getting a jump on their long weekends. Also, college students often
commute to evening classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
And there's just more going on around town on Thursday and Friday nights.
you think about Los Angeles, and the surrounding area, you have a lot
of destinations," said Bill Eisele, a senior research engineer at the
Texas A&M Transportation Institute. "There's always something going
on somewhere in the basin, not only for locals, but for people who are
Peter Kallman, 28, of Mar Vista gets that. "People
come visit and they're like, 'What are we doing tonight?' And I'm like,
'I don't care, as long as it's close by,'" he said. "If we drive
anywhere on Thursday or Friday, we end up sitting in the car for two
Ultimately, Cermak said, avoiding L.A. traffic comes down
to individual drivers taking responsibility for congestion — and
adjusting travel plans or the modes of transportation they use.
so easy to think, 'All those other cars are making my drive worse,'"
Cermak said. "But you are a part of traffic. You are the traffic."