There’s a sketch on SNL called “The Californians“. All the characters, regardless of the compromising positions in which they find themselves, always end up discussing the traffic routes in L.A.
That skit wasn’t funny before I moved here.
While it doesn’t take much longer to drive from Santa Monica to Silver Lake than it takes to get from Sunnyvale to SF, the first journey is infinitely more frustrating. This is because in L.A., it can take a half hour to travel five miles. Psychologically this is pretty devastating, especially if you have a GPS that keeps reminding you of how long it should take.
Once you arrive to your destination in L.A., you actually get to exit the car.
With the exception of Hollywood, parking is cheap and plentiful in L.A. If you go shopping, the first 90 minutes of parking is often free with validation. No where in Union Square has that kind of deal. In fact, in SF, it is cheaper and more convenient to just buy everything online. Especially since most places have free returns.
Moreover, street parking exists in L.A.! Therefore, when visiting friends (or coming home) you are not haplessly orbiting your destination for a half hour. I have had more spontaneous visits and last minute coffees, dinner dates, and after work drinks, because no one is concerned about parking.
In SF, there is no quick “popping” by unless everyone lives within walking distance, because you’re always calculating the extra time for parking or the extra money for a cab. The latter which can run you an extra forty dollars for the evening, making that “let’s just meet for a quick drink” idea, super expensive. Yes, you can take public transport in S.F., but here are some of the highlights of my experience with Muni in SF.
1)A bus driver closed the door on my arm and leg, and drove away, leaving the rest of me hanging outside.
2)A crazy person picked a fight with my friend and followed us off the train.
3)A driver inexplicably announces that he is going no further, leaving all of us, twenty blocks from where we were supposed to be. (This happens frequently.)
So taking Muni to a supposedly fun event is a good way to guarantee that you will arrive late and in a bad mood…if you’re lucky enough to arrive at all.
That being said, the mythical awfulness of L.A. drivers can rival the mythical awfulness that is Muni in SF.
To be fair, the majority of L.A. drivers are fine, but the two percent that make up the stereotype are jaw dropping.
I’ve seen someone speed in a left hand turn lane, as if it were a third lane, cutting in at the intersection. I’ve seen guys drive ON THE SIDEWALK to get around cars waiting at a four way stop. At an intersection before a freeway entrance, I saw a guy stop, hit his hazards, to send a text, blithely waving traffic past him.
I know sexist jokes about bad drivers are generally directed at women drivers, but these were all men, with heavily gelled hair and sunglasses, driving sports cars. They could have achieved the same result with a lot less effort and danger to others by tattooing “cliché douchebag” onto their foreheads.
But ultimately, on this topic, rather surprisingly, I prefer LA. This is probably because I live less than five miles from work, which isn’t something that occurred much when I was living in SF.