There is no way to avoid traffic altogether in Southern California, but here are a few tips to save a little time on some of the worst freeways and interchanges.
1. Truck lanes and frontage roads – Even though truck lanes are thought to be the slower route, often times they are wide open, while the rest of the freeway experiences bumper-to-bumper traffic. So even if you get stuck behind trucks going 40 MPH, you still are better off than those on the main freeway. One freeway I’ve had some truck lane success is on the 5 FWY around where it intersects with the 14. In some areas, frontage roads run alongside the freeway and act as great alternatives. One such example is the 5 FWY especially going south through Santa Clarita. I’ve often exited at Magic Mountain Pkwy or even farther north and took the Old Road (it turns into San Fernando Road south of the 14) for as many as 10 miles. There are several options to clearly re-enter the freeway, though I usually get back on north of the 210 after the congestion has let up.
2. Take alternatives freeways to bypass the 5 Freeway – The 5 is the main north-south artery in Southern California and unfortunately much of it is without carpool lanes, making it terribly congested during rush hour and during the weekends in the afternoon especially. If you are traveling to San Diego during these times, I recommend looking for alternate freeways that are farther as the crow flies but shorter in actual time spent in the car. The best option I’ve found is the 15 South. Depending on where you are departing from, there are several ways to get to the 15 South using combinations of the 134, 210, 60, and 10 freeways (among others). Check a map to see what works best for you. Most of these freeways have carpool lanes that take you to the 15 South, which also has a carpool lane. Once you reach Orange County the 5 South usually lets up, but through downtown LA and surrounding urban areas, it is usually a very slow go.
3. Dodger Stadium shortcut – If you are coming from Downtown LA or further west on the 110 and want to get to the 5 North or vice versa, you will usually find that interchange, and often the parts leading up to it, to be extremely slow. To avoid this, if you are heading on the 110 East, get off on Stadium Way and make a left. Stay on Stadium Way as it loops the park. Follow the signs and before long you’ll be on the 5 FWY, missing out on the interchange gridlock. From the 5 North, exit Stadium Way make a left and stay on Stadium Way around the Ballpark. Eventually you will see a sign for the 110 East. This has saved me time on many occasions.
4. Avoid the 101 to get through the valley – There are a couple options you have. First, many times you are better off taking a major road such as Victory, Van Owen, or Burbank Blvd., rather than battling the 101 gridlock during rush hour. Your other option is to take the 5 North, which is usually a bit lighter north of Burbank in comparison to the 101 and is currently working on adding a carpool lane, to the 118 West. Exit the 118 West at Topanga Canyon and take Topanga Canyon or one of the other major thoroughfares of your choice across the valley to your destination.
5. Off ramps that go through – This is one that will save you 30 seconds here or there but nothing major. The “fast” lane often is everything but during heavy traffic. Many times you are better off staying in the slower lanes and taking the “off ramps” that go through. On these off ramps you have an option to stay on the freeway and these lanes are usually quicker than any of the lanes on the main freeway.