Southern California Transport

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By Car

Most Southern Californians drive their personal cars to get around. Just listen to the morning and evening traffic reports and you’ll get an idea of how many cars are driven in the area each and every day.

As such, a special vocabulary has developed surrounding the road system.

  • Rush hour – somewhat of a misleading name as the period lasts longer than one hour. Indicates the hours of 6AM-8AM and 5PM-7PM when the highest volume of commuters are on the road.
  • SigAlert – heard during a traffic report, indicates a long-lasting problem that closes one or more lanes.

The metropolitan regions of Southern California consist of many small cities that run into one another. It can be confusing and you can get lost very easily if you do not have a map, even with detailed directions. A Thomas Guide, which contains detailed maps of all neighborhoods, is a useful tool if you plan on doing any driving in Southern California. This book can be found in local stores and bookstores.

The freeways and highways are one of the major trademarks of the region. Extensive and complex freeway networks criss-cross the quickly-growing region, connecting urban centers with their suburbs, as well as the areas of urban sprawl between them. The major highways leading in and out of Southern California include Interstates 5,8,10,15,40, the Golden State, San Diego, Ocean Beach, Mission Valley, Santa Monica, Corona and Mojave Freeways.

Freeway System

The freeway naming conventions can be confusing to non-natives as a freeway will have multiple names depending on where in Southern California a particular section is located. When referring to a particular freeway by number, it is prefixed by the word “the”. For example, Interstate 5 is referred to as “the 5” and State Route 91 is referred to as “the 91”. Below is a basic guide to the various ways a particular freeway may be referenced.

  • Interstate 5 – the Golden State
  • Interstate 10 – the Santa Monica Freeway (western portions), the San Bernardino Freeway (eastern portions)
  • Interstate 105 – the Century Freeway
  • Interstate 110 – the Harbor Freeway
  • Interstate 210 – the Foothill Freeway
  • Interstate 405 – the San Diego Freeway
  • Interstate 710 – the Long Beach freeway (southern portions), the Pasadena Freeway (northern portions)
  • US Route 101 – the Hollywood Freeway (eastern portions), the Ventura Freeway (western portions)
  • State Route 14 – the Antelope Valley Freeway
  • State Route 22 – Garden Grove Freeway
  • State Route 60 – Pomona Freeway
  • State Route 91 – the Artesia Freeway (western portions), the Riverside Freeway (eastern portions)
  • State Route 170 – the Hollywood Freeway (note: the 170 intersects with the 101 near Hollywood thus sharing a name with the 101.)

There are a few key locations that are referred to in traffic reports that may be unfamiliar to out-of-town visitors.

  • The Sepulveda Pass – refers to the 405 between Santa Monica and Van Nuys.
  • The El Toro Y (or Wye) – the intersection of the 5 and 405 near Irvine in Orange County.
  • The Orange Crush – the intersection of the 5, 22, and 57 in the city of Orange.
  • The Grapevine – the 5 as it climbs over the pass between the Los Angeles Basin and the Central Valley of California.
  • The Cajon Pass (pronounced cuh-hone) – the 15 as it climbs the pass between San Bernardino and the High Desert city of Victorville.

Public Transit

Public Transportation in Southern California includes:

  • Metrolink
  • Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • San Diego trolley and San Diego County MTS
  • Orange County Transportation Authority
  • Omnitrans (southwestern San Bernardino County)
  • North County Transit District (northern San Diego County)
  • San Diego Coaster (Oceanside to San Diego)
  • Big Blue Bus (Santa Monica)
  • Riverside Transit Agency (western Riverside County)

Major hubs of transportation and logistics are planning major capital investments in Southern California over the next several years. They have the largest federal stimulus project in L.A. County: the Harry Bridges reconstruction project. This will be a big commitment consisting of 250 construction jobs for a $25 million project. They also just kicked off a six-year expansion to the China Shipping Terminal which will include new wharfs, new cranes, and about 4,000 jobs at full capacity.

Mass transit is available throughout the area, with many connecting together at shared stops. The regional commuter train,MetroLink, connects many of the outreaching areas, where many commuters live, with Los Angeles and Orange County, where they work. This train system comes in handy when you need to get from one area to another, even with their limited schedule.

By Air

While it is theoretically possible to get around Southern California by air, the cost prohibits all but the most affluent from doing so. The major airports in the area include the Los Angeles, John Wayne (Orange County), San Diego and Palm Springs International Airports. There are smaller regional airports in Burbank, Long Beach, and Ontario.

By Thumb

It is not worth trying. Cities are too close together and there are too many access points to the highway, making it nearly impossible to find someone going your way. Your best bets are the 101 north of Santa Barbara, the 5 north of Santa Clarita, or east until you escape the sprawling cityscape.