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Opinion: Westside Traffic Pushing Residents to Brink

Gridlock traffic on the Westside has some residents ready to move.

This was written and submitted by Lisë Davis. Patch accepts opinion pieces on any relevant local topic. Your submission may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a piece to Patch, email it to the site editor.

My husband and I moved from two miles east of the 405 Freeway to two miles west of the 405 Freeway nearly four years ago. In the past three years, the traffic situation in our new neighborhood has only steadily gotten worse, and to the point where we are thinking of leaving Los Angeles. I was born here. My husband has lived here for over 40 years. I cannot imagine leaving, but I cannot imagine staying here if something does not change for the better.

To travel east from our home in Brentwood after 2:30 p.m. is beyond painful and nearly impossible. What would normally be a twenty minute commute turns into an hour. Last month, I left my home to travel east bound for dinner in West Los Angeles. I left my house at 5:00 p.m. and after sitting in basically gridlock traffic for over an hour, I turned around and headed home, having traveled less than one mile. It has gotten to the point where my husband and I feel trapped on an island without the ability to leave. As my husband has said, “We’re prisoners in our own home between 2:30-7:30 p.m. nearly every day.”

I find it ironic that there was a community meeting regarding the I-405 Project, scheduled by Metro, on Friday March 23 in Westwood from 6-8 p.m. My neighbors and I all laughed, though it was not in the least bit funny, that Metro actually thought any of us living west of the 405 would be able to attend at that hour. It could not have been more clear to us just how clueless our city planners are about what the reality of the traffic problem truly is for the communities living west of the 405 Freeway.

I am not renewing our season tickets for The Ahmanson or for The Mark Taper for the coming season. I am grateful that our children have chosen to attend universities outside of Los Angeles. I am grateful that I no longer have a job that requires me to commute eastbound. We no longer drive east unless we absolutely have to. Instead we head into Santa Monica. Los Angeles is losing out on much needed revenue from the communities west of the 405, and this is at a time when every dime could help our city. We are not alone in our choices here.  We have no choice. 

I have no idea how it has gotten so bad. I only know that for those of us who live west of the 405 Freeway, we are unable to live our lives the way we would like to. Perhaps it is time to leave. That is a choice we can make, but I really hope we don’t have to. 

Lisë Davis

MJ May 01, 2012 at 09:11 PM
We live west of the 405 in Brentwood and we have a rule where we only drive WEST to go to dinner during the week. We save the EAST bound trips for the weekend. We also enjoy walking to dinner down on San Vicente and over in Barrington Plaza area. Also, no more Clipper games for me, traffic is too much of a nightmare on the weekdays.
Richard F. May 02, 2012 at 05:13 PM
It doesn't help that almost every road that crosses the 405 is also an on-off intersection for the freeway. This means you cannot go east without getting caught up in the traffic trying to get onto the 405.
BJToepper May 02, 2012 at 06:50 PM
I'm with Gary on this. For trips of five miles or less, I tend to take my bicycle. It's usually about as fast and parking is easy. I just wish we were smarter about how we install lanes and paths.
Ezra Horne May 02, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Yes, because motorists are all angels that signal every lane change, wait patiently for pedestrians without aggressively yeilding, come to COMPLETE stops at every stop sign. Yes, people on BIKES are to blame. //sarcasm.
Ezra Horne May 02, 2012 at 07:15 PM
This is very true... highways really destroy the cohesive grid network of streets, by their very nature.
Samuel Q. Sixpack May 02, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I challenge the statement "What would normally be a twenty minute commute turns into an hour." We live in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, and the west side of Los Angeles (including adjacent cities) is one of the most densely populated areas in the entire US. During peak commuting periods, mornings between 6:30 AM and about 10:30 AM and afternoons between about 2:30 PM and 8:30 PM, there are hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the roads and highways. Under these conditions, it is normal for car trips of even short distances to take a long time. Why not plan ahead? If I need to be somewhere in west LA after 4pm, I leave a minimum of an hour, sometimes more for travel time. Its what it is.
Chris Loos May 02, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Have you considered moving to the more transit friendly Eastside or central LA neighborhoods? Since I've been in Los Angeles, I've lived in Echo Park, Downtown, and now Koreatown, and my experience with traffic has been completely different than yours. In fact it sounds like you are describing a completely different city than the one I live in. I expect more traffic around rush hour, but its the kind of thing that might add 10 minutes to my journey, not an hour. More often than not, I don't sit in traffic at all. From here in Ktown we can get to Downtown, Hollywood, and Pasadena easily by Metro.
Ezra Horne May 02, 2012 at 07:23 PM
I don't really have a lot of sympathy for Santa Monica. Clearly, a wonderful and desirable place to live, they attract many top-notch companies, who hire many employees. However the lack of affordable housing is the main reason so many people commute into your community to work. Perhaps if you built more densely in the future, more people would be able to afford to live near where they work, and be able to walk to bike. Take it from this East Hollywood resident (East Hollywood has the red line, dozens of major bus routes, and is very low income, and not too much traffic) your traffic problems are a direct result of your own success and social elitism (E.G. bikes are a menace, buses are for the poor, it's those valley outsiders, (even though they work in your city), etc)
Ezra Horne May 02, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Exactly... I was writing a similar comment as you posted this!
Barrett Meeker May 02, 2012 at 07:44 PM
I'm not really sure how bicycles are endangering others on the road considering they weight at least 1/10th what a car does. I don't see how anyone in a car could get hurt from colliding with a bicycle. Bicycles are legally allowed to ride in car lanes and allowed to take the whole lane if they don't feel safe sharing it. Yes many bicyclists don't stop at stop signs or obey traffic lights if they feel it's safe, but they are the ones taking those risks. Cars break many laws also. You could always advocate for more enforcement of bike laws, but they are usually just risking themselves where as a car breaking a law is more likely to be risking harm to someone else.
Barrett Meeker May 02, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I think we need more high-density transportation quickly. I think we need bus/bike only lanes. Both buses and bikes are higher-density and more environmentally friendly. Many of our roads have two lanes each way, we should look at these to designate one of the existing lanes to only bus and bicycle traffic. While it will make the remaining car lanes even slower there will still be a net gain in transportation density. It will also encourage more enviromentally friendly transportation and in the case of bicycles a good source of fitness for the city. It would reduce pollution and could reduce noise, if not immediately then in the future with quieter bus technology.
Gary Kavanagh May 02, 2012 at 07:54 PM
I find it a little odd that you scoff at the suggestion of bicycling as a transportation solution when it apparently took you 3 hours to drive the distance a bicyclist at casual speed can ride in about 20-25 minutes. If more people felt safe enough on our streets to ride bikes for trips under 5 miles, it would free up the streets considerably since bikes take up so much less space. As for hazards, the real hazard is motorists who don't follow the rules, you know the ones that regularly kill people and destroy property on a frequent basis.
Cathy May 02, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I am a 60+ woman who rides a bike to work everyday. Just got rid of my car. I obey all the traffic laws and ride on side streets when I can. It is incredibly easy and relaxing. I pass traffic jams all the time. 5 miles is nothing on a bike. I don't worry about parking. I have saved literally $1000's this year. I love public transit and use it in conjunction with biking. People who sit around waiting for someone else to do something to fix the situation should rethink their options.
charles cordero May 02, 2012 at 09:53 PM
This is what happens when you plan a city around an auto mobile suburban ideal. Or conversely a group of disparate suburbs coalece into competing urban centers . People by the canyons are screwed. Its a function of rampant growth and simple topography. I doubt the solutions I'm reading here will help these people anytime soon. I recall an LA where everyone grew up with all riding bikes. I still do but face it. It can be dangerous. There are crazy cyclists and hot head drivers, flip a coin when you go out there. I do what it takes to get around. But I feel fortunate I live and work close to Wilshire (Miracle Mile), bike, walk and take public transit. Dont have the nerve unless I really really really want to , to brave the traffic to see cultural events or friends across town. Face it Its best do do things local. It aint like back in the day when you could get anywhere easily . Remember the polite good natured drivers in LA! It looks like cyber commuting and flex schedules can help those trapped in their hillside getaways; at least they've got a view. I just hope the inherent jostling of all this community angst doesn't balkanize our great city into utter paralysis! Time to chill out.
Barrett Meeker May 02, 2012 at 10:41 PM
If it takes you 3 hours in a car to go the same distance it takes 30 mins to go on a bike simple math says the car's average speed is 1/6 the bike speed. If your biking in car traffic that is averaging the same or slower speed as you it's not very dangerous. Since the cars aren't really moving faster you can take up the whole line, ride in the middle it's quite safe.
Dennis Hindman May 03, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Some Brentwood and Condo Canyon residents decided that keeping Wilshire Blvd a parking lot was preferable to creating a peak hour bus only lane that could also be used for emergency vehicles such as the police and paramedics. Hopefully, westside residents will not continue to advocate keeping their primary streets a parking during peak hours when LADOT begins to try and implement bike lanes on them. Installing bike lanes would increase a streets capacity if it is now a parking lot during peak hours. If a trip of three miles or less is faster by bike, than by car, then many people will choose traveling by bike if given a comfortable and safe place to cycle on. The amount of people showing up on a bicycle for CicLAvia is proving that.
Bart Hayes May 03, 2012 at 01:55 AM
I follow the rules of the road on my bike, and yet you people try to kill me every day. I'm a professional, who contributes quite a bit to LA's fisc, and you're telling me that I am a danger to myself and others on my 20 pound bike with my yellow shirt? Roads are for everyone. Cars, bicyclists, pedestrians, little kids . . . it's your attitude, and its prevalence among millions of your fellow Angelenos, that renders this city unlivable.
BK May 03, 2012 at 05:31 PM
There is no practical solution (that will be to the author's liking) for what the author is requesting. The west side is densely populated, and was built for the car. If it were spartan and for the car, no problem. If dense and built to pedestrian/bike/bus/metro standards or scale, no problem. But that's not the way it was built, and thus we have car gridlock. We have to totally change the orientation and the infrastructure of the area, to have alternate transport means that people can use - and they will. But in the meantime we're basically stuck, and complaining that you can't get around in your car sufficiently is missing the point.
doug osborne May 03, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Lisë I share your frustration, having lived on the Westside since '84 and having seen traffic go from bad to worse. You seem to have money. Have you never traveled to a first world city with a reasonable public transportation system. Everywhere in the world there are great examples of egalitarian transport that is paid for and shared by all, with buses, subways, light rail, trollies, (and yes, bike lanes) etc. If public transportation isn't the first thought, and the first statement, about this problem, you aren't understanding the situation or seeing the proven solutions.
K. Jay May 03, 2012 at 08:56 PM
I live in West Los Angeles. A month ago, I headed up 5 miles to Brentwood School off of Barrington Ave. and Sunset for a track meet taking place up there around 5:00 p.m.. My goodness. What should have been a 5 minute drive up Barrington Ave. (according to my GPS) took me almost one hour. By the time I got there, I missed the event. Call me a newbie at heading up to Brentwood during rush hour. I told myself I'll never make that drive again. I was wondering how people can live up there and deal with this traffic every day even if the houses there are huge and beautiful. Now I know. West LA is not much better heading downtown though. I also avoid heading east during rush hour. I moved to LA 20 years ago and actually lived on Barrington Ave. for a while. Traffic was never this bad. What can you do with Barrington Ave., though? The lanes are so narrow. Buses just stop the flow of traffic behind it when it make stops.
CS May 03, 2012 at 09:39 PM
I'm a Glendale native, been in Brentwood for 5 yrs. It's lovely here and in SaMo, but I'm at my end. Will likely move back to the San Gabriel Valley - which I love and is beautiful in its own right. I don't even enjoy being a pedestrian anymore - I've been almost hit twice by distracted, frustrated drivers. Even though I was raised in a suburban car culture, I agree we need subways and better public transportation. Those of us on the westside, particularly west of the 405, are getting what was bound to happen. And blaming people east or in the valley is absurd. Everyone works, needs to work and goes where the work is. They're all trying to get through - via freeway or street - like everyone else. Brentwood doesn't belong to only those who live here. It's Los Angeles - for better or worse.
Barrett Meeker May 03, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Make some of the lanes or roads into bus and bicycle only lanes. Yes it will increase remaining car congestion but will increase transportation density, a bus can hold about 40 people and takes about 3 cars worth of space. With limited space the only thing we can do is make more efficient use of it, bikes and buses do that, subways and rail is expensive, takes time and doesn't go as many places as bus and bike only lanes can. It's time to give up on car dominated transportation and embrace bus and bike.
Louis Schillace May 04, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Well....go through the V.A.??? Tunnel under it????Anyone? Anyone? Do any of you realize that the problem in Brentwood is that the ONLY way to get to or pass the 405 is Wilshire, Sunset and Ohio. What about Montana??? (Oh NOT MONTANA! That would be in my back yard right?) Or extend San Vicente to Sepulveda instead of dumping it on to Wilshire? Remember that EXTRA LANE they wanted to put on Sunset ??? THE ONE THAT YOU ALL FOUGHT because it would turn Sunset into a super highway??? You people in Brentwood crack me up....bitch about the traffic and then fight every effort to relieve it. You're all ridiculous.
John hacker May 04, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Oh you poor dear, prisoner in your own mansion in Brentwood. My heart bleeds for you.
W M A May 04, 2012 at 08:47 PM
There are things we can do: Ride bikes, walk and just don't drive so much as so many commenters have suggested. Fight city council's and city planning commision's green-lighting more huge developments in the Water Garden/Bergamot Station district that will bring in thousands more cars per day. Help pass the next Proposition to try to curb uncontrolled development (the previous one being sunk by voter inertia and huge spending by hotel/developers mostly out of state). Support rational groups like Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (go to their web site).
graciela huth May 06, 2012 at 02:47 AM
I read all the comments and I only see complaints, no actual facts. We are the only culprits of the traffic mess - not the victims. Los Angeles and particularly the West side, had the most wonderful system of mass transportation. Then the automotive industry, mostly based in other States and the oil industry - with our blessing - completely destroyed it. Until recently, we could still see the rails in many of our main arteries. One of the underground terminals in downtown Los Angeles - a jewel with walls covered in tiles- is carefully hidden behind a locked door. We have a web of tunnels that were never affected by the earthquakes. Why instead of complaining we do not review all those blue prints and see what we can reopen and use to rebuild our public transportation system? Let's -for once- look at the errors of the past and use them to build the future. AND NEVER forget, we are as guilty as the ones who took advantage of us with our full consent.
Mark Elliot May 14, 2012 at 04:45 AM
Very frequently I bike from central Beverly Hills to downtown Santa Monica and it takes me only 30 minutes if I don't tarry. And on most return trips after 4 pm I just marvel at both avoiding the jam and enjoying my own movement, under my own power. Once our roads become more friendly to cyclists, we'll reach the tipping point quickly: the bike will not only be more convenient as a choice, but more enjoyable too. Give it a try today for your short trips and you'll find your legs, lungs and gumption accommodate to the challenge.
Robert H H May 28, 2012 at 04:56 AM
Exactly. There should be a few through surface streets reserved for drivers just trying to get to the neghborhood on the other side of the 405!
cs 5228 June 29, 2012 at 10:14 PM
i work for a lovely couple in the palisades and leave their home for mine in the valley at around 5pm. Im one of those 'valley' people clogging your roads apparently but what would you have me do? there is literally no alternate route to get to my job and no way i can afford living on the west side. i get as frustrated as you do, probably more, when i have to spend an hour and a half commuting from one of my two jobs. the other job which is high end catering brings me back to this area often as well. the residents in this area employ many people which is wonderful but you have to know that we can't possibly afford to live over here so as not to inconvenience your commute to the theater. i understand it absolutely stinks to sit on sunset and literally go .4 miles in 45 minutes but it is what it is. Might I suggest a good audiobook...
Kristin Eberhard August 08, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Amen to bus and bike only lanes! Biking in LA can be dangerous (not least because drivers are so enraged by traffic) and we really need more bike lanes Nonetheless, I, like Cathy am a female biker who follows the rules and rides in bike lanes and smaller streets whenever I can. I live in West LA and ride my bike for all trips less than 5 miles, and it is amazingly liberating! I go so much faster than the people stuck in traffic for hours (my commute to work is 4 miles and 20 minutes with parking right out front every day). For the various commentors sitting in the car for hours to go a few miles - maybe try, one day getting on a biike. Google maps can show you your local bike lanes. For those of you with great suggestions about bike lanes and high speed bus routes, the City of LA wants to hear from you! They are updating their mobility element right now and soliciting feedback from citizens. Go tell them what you want. http://la2b.org/participate/kit/

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