Wednesday, September 11, 2013

SocalTrafficExpert Lesson 1
(Originally posted 3/13/13)

I am in the process of writing my book "LA Traffic Expert: Your Guide to Understanding and Avoiding traffic on Southern California Freeways" and will be using this blog to preview and give information about it, as well as offer an avenue for user input.

Lesson number 1:

Don't trust

I have talked to countless people who have used as a reference, only to be disappointed. has somehow gained a monopoly on "traffic information" in Southern California.  Nearly every TV and radio station's website points to for traffic information.  Here are some fallacies:

- Old information -
 The "incidents" that are listed on their site (accidents, Caltrans projects) are coming from a third party source.  Sometimes it takes an hour for the incident to first appear.  This is an eternity in LA traffic "time."  It is much more useful, for incidents, to go straight to the source, which for all freeways in California, is the CHP website.  Simply click on your region and instead of trusting sigalert, search for any incidents on your freeway.  CHP Incident logs use "cop jargon" which either can be decpihered using glossaries of traffic and 10- and 11- code terms, or you can stay patient for future blogs :).

- Inaccurate speeds -
 There are many spots that either have faulty or nonexistent information. gets their freeway speed info from Caltrans, and even the primary information from Caltrans is not always completely right.  While you can trust the live camera views (there is usually a timestamp verifying updated imagery), the sensors under the pavement do not always provide an accurate reading when translating into the map.  Places like the 405 through the Sepulveda pass and 5 in the Newhall pass have sometimes only 1 or 2 "dots" on the Caltrans maps that are supposed to aggregate speeds over a period of several miles.  It simply cannot be 100% accurate.

- Annoying navigation
 I don't know about you, but every time I use, I get seemingly a pop-up window everywhere I go.  I know the information is supposed to be detailed and useful, but usually I get too distracted by all the windows popping up -- and this is on my desktop.  I can imagine trying to use this on my Iphone.  Surely you can donwload LA Traffic Apps, which will make navigation a little easier, but again the information on freeway speed is exactly the same as what gets.  All freeway maps stem back to Caltrans, which doesn't fix the "faulty sensor" argument.

Stay tuned for more updates on the LA Traffic Expert Guide.  Upcoming chapters/issues:

-How to listen to a traffic report
-Best ways to attack LAX/driving through and parking
-Managing trips on holidays -- the "unexpected" traffic patterns that surface