The San Fernando Valley is a pleasant place to live. Truly.
Once you get out of the basin of downtown, things open up – the streets are wider, the levels are flatter, there seems to be more air. You have some elbow room in the valley.
But the one problem with living in the valley is that at some point most of us have to commute from the valley. And this phenomenon generates a level of traffic congestion the likes of which few ever care to see.
Anyone who has faced low-level asphyxiation in the wake of seven tractor trailers while packed onto the 405 at 7am with four hundred thousand fellow commuters has clung to hope in any way they can.
But are we really just lying to ourselves? Telling ourselves that the situation isn’t that bad simply because we need something to get us through the grind? Let’s examine the predicament to take account of some of the things we convince ourselves of that may or may not be true.
1. I’m Saving A Lot Of Money
LIE: A primary rationalization behind living in the valley and commuting to, say, Santa Monica would be to save money on rent. But at what cost?
TRUTH: Time is money, and then some. Tally up the minutes, blood pressure points, and plain boredom that it costs you to save so much money and… well, the numbers don’t lie. What is your life worth to you? If you consider the minutes of it invested in rush hour bumper-to-bumpering, the total time/life suck can be rather staggering. All things considered, maybe it’s not so cheap to live in Van Nuys (guess where I live).
2. It’s Not THAT Bad
LIE: In our minds we may try to tell ourselves that the situation isn’t as bad as it might seem. After all, isn’t the actual drive distance a mere 20 or so miles to get from point A to B? How bad could it be?
TRUTH: Mileage in Los Angeles is like how time works in the dream levels of Inception. The further out you are from a destination, the more the commute time is compounded as comparing to some more ‘normal’ part of the country. So basically, 1 mile in L.A. transit is equivalent 10 miles in, say, Twin Falls, Idaho. And, of course, just like in the film, if you spend too much time in this “dream world” you’ll eventually be brought to madness.
To take it a step further, a few years back some science guys calculated that the 405 Northbound from the 105 to Getty Center Drive was the absolute worst commuter stretch in the entire nation. You can’t just wish that away!.
3. I Just Need To Find The Sweet Spot
LIE: “The Sweet Spot,” a mythical time/place that is always something other than now/here. You left this morning at 7:30, but you were running late and really wanted to get on the road by 7:15 to “miss traffic.” You would have headed home by 3, but got pulled into a meeting which put you on the road at 4:30 – “just in time for traffic.”
TRUTH: The time for traffic on the west side is… always. So unless you have the flexibility to go to work at noon…. wait, never mind. Traffic still sucks then.
Every surface street, every hour of the morning, every human being in the valley is heading south.
Bottom line: Don’t worry about getting out the door on time cause it won’t even matter!
4. At Least Traffic Will Be Better When School is Out
LIE: Have you ever heard the myth that during the summer traffic lets up because school buses and parents shuttling their kids to and from school are off the road?
TRUTH: One word. Tourists. So it’s summer, and there are fewer cars on the road due to school employees, carpools and general school-related activity. Now we have inrushes of out-of-towners who are constantly bewildered by L.A. traffic and L.A. traffic systems. Yeah. That’ll be great.
5. Working Late Will Actually Save Me Time
LIE: Have you been convinced that working late to avoid traffic will actually save you time/money because you’ll make it home quicker after traffic “settles down” … LIES!
TRUTH: This could actually work… if you decide to leave the office at 10pm. That sounds like fun, right?
6. I Can Take Advantage of My Time Stuck in a Car
LIE: Educational podcast? NPR? Language Tapes? There’s so much we could do with all this extra time to ourselves that in the end, it’s actually beneficial to have a long-ish commute, right…?
TRUTH: The only thing you’ll learn for sure is the chorus to the latest Arianna Grande song as you belt out the lyrics each morning while simultaneously hoping that no one is watching (they are).
7. That New Lane-Widening Construction Project Will Finally Fix the 405
LIE: Just a few more weeks, than that new Caltrans project will be completed, with new lanes added that promise a smoother, safer commute.
TRUTH: The 405 has been, and always will be, in a perpetual state of construction madness. And no matter how much supply we create by adding extra lanes or optimizing onramps, the demand will always exceed it.
8. Waze Will Make it Better
LIE: Maybe you’re perpetually stuck on Cloverfield waiting to turn on to Santa Monica Blvd. Or perhaps it’s a grinding crawl on Venice Blvd that eats at your soul on the daily. But now you have a solution. You have technology. You’ll utilize the Waze App, which will significantly decrease your commute time and give you an edge on other drivers in the area.
TRUTH: It doesn’t work when everyone else and their mother is also using it to navigate shortcuts on “hidden” side streets. Just ask the NIMBYs who are trying to trick commuters from using Waze in their ‘hoods. (Pro-tip: You can’t trick Waze).
Conclusion: You Gotta Believe In Something
Now before I go making anybody feel bad, let’s just point out that the lies we tell ourselves are no better or worse than any other little white lies a working person might use to get through the day. We can’t very well start a morning with hopelessness and despair, now can we?
After all, what would we do without the valley? In the end, it’s all in how you look at it.
What’s your favorite lie you tell yourself about commuting in Los Angeles? Let us know in the comments below!