Home | Guide to Commuting in Orange County, CA
Without a doubt, commuting adds extra time and money to your work day. Southern California is notorious for high commute times and traffic challenges; however, there are ways to make your commute more enjoyable.
Maneuvering the OC: Basic tips
If you’re new to the area, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed by the all of your navigation options. Check out the public transit in your area first; Metrolink, Vanpool, and Express Bus run from Orange County to surrounding areas. A lot of employers offer public transit and carpooling benefits, as well as incentives for biking. If you intend to cycle to work, make sure your bike is in good working order, and you have all the necessary gear.
If you’re driving, invest in a dashboard phone holder so you can safely use your navigation tools. Before you get on the road, you should always investigate traffic conditions along your route. Try using Waze or Google Maps; these apps will tell you which roads take to avoid construction, congestion, and accidents. They will also to help you choose the best routes and estimate drive times, which you can also access if you have a GPS built in to your car.
A general rule, inland and longer routes are faster in Orange County. The coast is densely populated, and highways—especially I-5—become packed because they tend to be the shortest route. However, there is often less frustration in taking a longer route, especially if you are able to move continuously. If you have to take the highway, try using the 73 instead of the 5, or 405. If it’s in your budget, Orange County toll roads are similarly less congested than main routes simply because many drivers don’t want to pay the fee. Additionally, be conscious of weather. Southern California is warm and sunny, and drivers aren’t accustomed to poor weather conditions. Rain is particularly dangerous and causes numerous accidents, because drivers tend to speed and aren’t used to wet roads.
Choose Your Transportation Wisely
Getting around Orange County takes a bit of planning. Getting from here to there will vary based on your location. The OC roads are usually packed with environmentally friendly cars, bicyclists, and eccentric skaters. If you’re from out west, you already know how environmentally conscious Californians are, especially the folks down in the OC. So when choosing your means of transportation, make sure you think like a local and Uber, drive electric, or maybe invest in some sweet rollerblades.
Avoid the Chaos
Orange County and the Los Angeles area can turn into real tourist traps, particularly during school breaks. Disneyland is right off the 5 in Anaheim, so you’ll want to avoid that area during spring, summer, and winter break times. If you must drive during the tourist season, try to leave early in the morning or later in the evening, and plan for extra drive time.
Like most urban areas, the busiest times to be on the road are between 7:30-9am and 3-6pm. Rush hour is worst on freeways, especially in the 30 miles surrounding Los Angeles. Whenever possible, don’t plan to drive into or out of LA on a Friday afternoon. Everyone is either fleeing the city or coming in for the weekend, and it is usually a traffic nightmare. Sunday afternoon is similar, as people are going leaving to be at work on Monday. This is a good argument for living as close to the city as possible if you’re planning on commuting from Orange County to LA.
Making Your Commute Worth It
Whether you’re driving or taking public transit, there are plenty of options to keep you occupied. Audiobooks, podcasts, and language learning apps are an educational alternative to the radio. If you’re ready to jam, create drive-time playlists to get you going in the morning or wind you down at the end of the day. If you don’t have time to catch up with friends and family, long commutes are excellent times to make some calls (hands free, of course). And, you can always go for silent reflection. Whatever you choose, make your commute worth the extra time.