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Transportation and Mobility

Traffic Data Now Supports Our Suspicions. There Are Best And Worst Days To Drive On LA Freeways

If you had to guess, which day of the week was this phot taken? (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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As data would have it, there actually are good and bad traffic days amid Southern California's soul-crushing work week commute. Place your bets now and read on.

About The Series
  • This story is part of How To L.A., our ongoing series of practical guides for day-to-day living in Los Angeles.

New number crunching from the Crosstown team out of USC's Annenberg School for Journalism broke down the fastest (by L.A. standards) and slowest (by glacial standards) days and times to trek from Point A to Point B across the Southland on a typical Monday through Friday.

Crosstown looked at speed data along several busy stretches of the 5, 101, 405, 110 and 10 freeways. Reporter Kate Lý Johnston explains their process:

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We divided freeways into 18 different [morning and evening] commutes across Los Angeles County. Then, we analyzed the average speeds on those freeway segments for between February and June 2018 by hour of the day and then by day of the week. We then calculated the average speeds during the peak of the [morning and evening] rush hour(s) [ 7 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.].

The Best And Worst Morning Commutes

Turns out the fastest commute day is a toss-up between Monday and Friday, Crosstown's analysis found. Each had nine of the fastest average speeds on the 18 freeway segments analyzed.

And the worst? That dishonor goes to Thursday with 11 of those 18 freeway sections lagging most. Tuesday and Wednesday tied for second place with three each. And Crosstown's data showed Friday is the worst morning to take the 405 north between the 10 and 118 freeways.

"The gap from the fastest to the slowest morning can be the difference between making it to work on time or getting that eye roll from your boss," Johnston writes. Heading west on the 10 toward Downtown, the average Friday morning speed is 54 mph. On Thursday, that slows to 45 mph, a 16% difference."

(Courtesy Crosstown)

The fastest Monday morning commutes, in terms of average speeds, are the 10 Freeway east between the 5 and Pomona (62.5 mph); the 405 north between the 10 and 118 (61 mph); and the 110 north between the 101 and Pasadena (58 mph).

Lighter traffic on Monday and Friday makes sense if you think about how the traditional norms of the 9-to-5 shift has evolved in more recent years.

"More companies are allowing their employees to work four days a week in the office instead of five, and often, the days employees take off are either Mondays or Fridays," Johnston wrote, citing Caltrans spokesman Peter Jones.

So, happy Monday and Friday (mornings) to you, commuters. Enjoy the slightly more open roads!

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The Best And Worst Evening Commutes

According to Crosstown's analysis, It's good to have a case of the Mondays when it comes to your evening commute.

The data showed that, across the board, traffic is smoothest on Monday evening. All 18 freeway segments analyzed showed vehicles moving fastest that day between 5 and 7 p.m.

Nine of the 18 slowest evening commutes were on a Thursday. Friday was closely behind with seven and the remaining two were on Wednesday.

(Courtesy Crosstown)

Friday evening is the absolute worst time to find yourself on the south 5 Freeway between the 10 and 405 freeways. The data showed the average speed on that stretch is a brain-mushing 17.5 miles per hour.

The difference between a freeway's best and worst evenings can be significant, as Johnston explains: "On the 110 heading north toward Downtown from the intersection with the 105, the average Monday evening speed is 41 mph. On that same freeway on an average Friday, it moves at just 31 mph, 24% slower."
So, in the scheme of SoCal commuting, Mondays are smooth and Thursdays are an absolute draaaaaaag, as this driver explains succinctly:

You can explore Crosstown's data in more detail in the graphics below (click the images for larger versions) and read their reporting on morning and evening traffic on