Is it a good idea to drive out of LA on friday 23rd may for SFO bwn 4-6 pm, if we avoid highways?
May 22, 2008 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Is it a good idea to drive out of LA on friday 23rd may for SFO bwn 4-6 pm, if we avoid highways? -- we are driving to SFO for memorial weekend. we cannot leave before 5 due to work. some friends advised us to start at 8-9 pm due to traffic. Is it a good idea instead to leave at 5 pm but avoid highways till we get out of LA and then get onto I-5?
posted by tvjoshi to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, LA (8 answers total)
Well, there is no good way out of town at the start of a holiday weekend. Traffic will likely stink even until late. You can fight through it and get on the 5, but you will be in traffic. Even if you just stick to avoiding the freeways. I do agree with your friend that if you want smooth sailing it is best to leave late. Good luck.
posted by skewedoracle at 10:15 AM on May 22, 2008

The later the better is the rule. You will sit on the 5 pretty much no matter when you leave, but it will be that much worse if you leave in the dreaded 6-8pm time slot. It would be much much much better if you were able to leave town by 3:00 PM (although, on a holiday weekend, even that would have you in a good amount of traffic).

Best thing to do is set yourself up for the long haul and bring some good tunes/food/etc. Be prepared for the drive to take a 1.5 - 3 hours longer. Personally, I'd wait until 9PM and just deal with getting there late.

To answer your question, no, I don't think it's a good idea to leave at 5PM even if you avoid highways as long as possible (you can only get so far on surface streets going north, and those will be filled with traffic too).
posted by rooftop secrets at 10:30 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Start later; if you leave at 5, you won't get to SF much earlier than if you leave at 8. By 9, the traffic will hopefully get decent. Remember that once you get out of LA, the 5 is a long stretch of fairly narrow road that can get traffic as well.
posted by bsdfish at 10:39 AM on May 22, 2008

I'd wait until 9PM and just deal with getting there late.

I feel more drained from sitting in LA gridlock for three hours than I do from driving on the open road for six. Wait until later at night. Avoiding highways won't do you much good, as the roads are just as logjammed at that time.
posted by HotPatatta at 10:40 AM on May 22, 2008

More traffic on I5 is exponentially worse, not just linearly. This is how I5 usually works: the left lane is a fast moving stream of passenger vehicles with an occasional slowpoke to right-lane-pass around, and the right lane (what we here in the Bay Area call the fast lane) is a steady line of trucks with breaks here and there to do said passing in. The passenger traffic is mostly made up of folks familiar with how I5 works and in general you can keep a steady 80-90mph.

However, on holiday weekends, the extra passenger traffic makes life hell because now most of the drivers are new to I5 and try to stay at the speed limit, making life absolute hell for passing or making progress. It makes the veterans angry and the newbies even slower.

I've been stuck on the 405 for hours at 1am and later on holiday weekends.

Take 101. :)
posted by kcm at 10:57 AM on May 22, 2008

I agree that leaving later (or taking the 101) is the better option. Be aware that when you come back on Monday, you will be in bad traffic as well. If you're lucky, you'll have moving traffic; if you're not, you'll be at a full stop on the 5, enjoying the scenery.
posted by mogget at 11:34 AM on May 22, 2008

I commute the other way at that hour, 5 south...the 5 north is a parking lot. As for surface roads, I've done those too, its no better northbound on the surface streets. I'd really suggest having a nice dinner and a nap and leaving later.
posted by legotech at 4:52 PM on May 22, 2008

From LA, in ideal traffic, taking the 101 only adds an hour to your trip (unless you're a speed demon on the 5). In less than ideal traffic, the differences tend to disappear. 101 is a much nicer drive, too, and not just because it lacks Harris Ranch cows.
posted by pmbuko at 8:53 PM on May 22, 2008

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