This week, I've needed to be at work by 9:30am three times. That's unusual for me, as I normally work from home for an hour or two and then come in sometime closer to 10:30am. Only on Wednesdays do I need to get here "early."

Traffic is the main reason for this. If I leave before 9:00am (when the carpool lane opens up) I end up spending far longer sitting in traffic, mildly pissed off at the city or state's inability to plan ahead.

What I discovered this week is that I can leave my house 8:40am, 8:55am, or even 9:05am and I'll still find myself arriving at work withing 2-3 minutes of 9:30am.

This was surprising at first, but it really does match what I've noticed in the 16 months I've been living in San Jose. Traffic really does seem to peak around 8:30am before it gets progressively better. By 10:15am or so (the time I left this morning) there's virtually no wait at the two highway entrance ramps I need to use (Almaden Expressway to Highway 87 North, and 87 North to 101 North).

I guess this means that the ideal strategy is to wait as long as possible before leaving on those 9:30am days. Leaving earlier has little benefit--unless there's a big accident, of course. But they usually mention that on the radio anyway. And I can just check Yahoo! Traffic before leaving.

Posted by jzawodn at May 13, 2005 11:17 AM

Reader Comments
# Steve Ametjan said:

Living in Long Beach and commuting to LAX, and then Santa Monica, and lastly Chatsworth I know exactly what you're going through. When I worked over by LAX, I was supposed to be at work around 10 o'clock. If I left my apartment at 8 o'clock, I would get there at around 9:55. If I left at 8:30, same thing. And again at 9 o'clock and 9:30. It seemed that no matter what time I left, I would always make it to work right at 9:55 which gave me just enough time to park, and take the short elevator ride up to my cube. Now that I work in Chatsworth, it takes me just as long to drive from Long Beach as it does to drive from Bakersfield. 150 miles difference, but the same amount of travel time.

on May 13, 2005 11:29 AM
# Jon Oropeza said:

Your post got me thinking about the funny correlation between your position in the world and the expectation of your timeliness. When I was a pimply faced youth working at a coffee shop, the boss expected us to be punctual to the minute - if your shift started at 8AM, 8:02 was a serious transgression. When I started working in an office as an admin assistant, the magnitude shifted to the ten minute level - 8:02 was cool, 8:12 was trouble. Then when I was transferred to the MIS department and stated working help desk, 8:12 became ok, but 8:35 was not - we'd shifted to the half-hour being the significant time frame.

Now that I run my own department? I'm in whenever, 8:35, 9:00, 9:40. Only if I miss a meeting or don't make it in by noon is it much of an issue - and even then it's only a problem with my boss if he isn't able to get me via email or phone.

on May 13, 2005 11:34 AM
# Mike said:

Where do the Yahooligans fresh out of college with little money live? Are they the ones with 2-3 hour commutes you hear about?

on May 13, 2005 12:22 PM
# Barnaby James said:

The car pool lanes only run until 9 am so that might be having some effect and I suspect many people have to be at work by 9. Things like when in the school year it is make a big difference.

Have you tried taking Lincoln -> 280 -> 85 -> 237? It's "further" distance wise but 87 is usually a parking lot.

Having lived in the bay area for close to 10 years, I've had the following epiphany about the traffic: The existing freeway infrastructure is more than adequate. Traffic is bad for exactly three reasons:

1) Most delays are caused by things (sofas, matresses, washing machines) falling off trucks which are carrying unsecured loads, usually in violation of the laws of California and Physics.

2) Drivers are complete pagan rubbernecks - if someone is so much as changing a tire by the side of the road people will slow down in case they can see some blood. You can tell because traffic picks up right after...

3) People need to learn how to merge lane...

And that is why I take the train to work.

on May 13, 2005 12:47 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


You'll get no argument from me. And when it *rains*... Dear god, California drivers don't know how to drive in rain.

Anyway, yeah, I've tried numerous routes to/from work. But there are a few more to test, including the one you suggested. Maybe I'll give it a go next week.

on May 13, 2005 12:55 PM
# dan said:

What would be really impressive is if you figured out how to leave at 10:30am and still get to work by 9:30am.

on May 13, 2005 01:08 PM
# Jack said:

Maybe alternative travel routes by time (even user submitted suggestions) could be a new feature in Yahoo! Maps. Yahooligans is a term I think reserved for kids under 13 or 18, not Yahoo! employees, who refer to themselves as "Yahoo!'s". Rent in the Bay Area has come down (unlike housing prices) since the bubble, so most college kids don't need to commute in from 2 or 3 hours.

on May 13, 2005 01:41 PM
# DeWitt said:

I have the same experience. I live up in the city and take 280 down to Palo Alto. I've found that the commute takes about 50 minutes if I leave at 9:10, but over an hour if I leave at 8:50. So now I just wait for the traffic to thin out.

I'm an east coast driver and I happen to think that, in spite of all the accidents you see every day, driving is actually pretty sane out here. My theory is that with a much higher average value per car on the road, drivers are more inclined to not hit things. Back in NYC people would just bounce their cars off of other vehicles, bikes, buildings, pedestrians, etc. And unlike here, people didn't bother to stop after the accident. That's why there are so many delays on 101 and 280 -- people here actually take the time to check for internal bleeding and whatnot.

One site I want to set up is People can submit a start point, an end point, and all the turns they take along the way. Then they can post their start and end times and the site will be able to compute best commutes for a given route. (Sort of like Yahoo/Google/Mapquest driving directions with more useful data.)

Tie this in with a GPS enabled vehicle and you have a killer app.

on May 13, 2005 06:06 PM
# Alan Lewis said:

Have you tried taking Camden/San Tomas to 101? Both 87 and 85 are hellish in the morning, and San Tomas is a more direct shot.

on May 13, 2005 10:55 PM
# Aaron Brazell said:

I hear traffic is bad out there. Not sure of the mileage you drive but here in the Baltimore Washington Metro, I drive 30 miles and spend an hour and 15 on the road. The poor plannig here is there are really only two routes between Baltimore and Washington - I95 and MD-295.... 295 has two lanes only and 95, everyone uses...

on May 16, 2005 08:19 AM
# Ryan said:

There have been times in the morning when I'd take san thomas to el camino or homestead or ... to lawerance and around to the building. The problem is with all the stop lights make the commute just as long in the morning (coming from stevens creek/winchster).

I also find it funny just how often people here in CA stop to gawk at an accident.... drive on people, thats what the emergency crews are there for.

Another odditity seems to be traffic slowing down for no apparent reason only to speed back up again for no apparent reason. Kind of freaky but I've noticed it more near highway on/off-ramps and when you're forced to merge.


on May 16, 2005 11:30 PM
# Moshe Eshel said:

It is funny, when I read your post, I felt you were talking about me, about half the way across the earth.

I live in Israel, until a year ago I was living in a small village near the Lod Airport. I work in Tel-Aviv. And it was the same way exactly (including the hours in the day discussed). No matter when I left within a certain timeframe between 8:30 and 9:00 I still arrived at 9:30 (unless some unpredicted event occured that either lenghtend or shortened usualy the first).

Then I moved to a closer location and since then I can leave at 9:15 to get there at 9:30.

on an empty road it takes about 15 minutes to do the distance that could take 1:30 hours in heavy traffic.

on May 23, 2005 04:34 AM
# tash said:

Im going to start school in santa monica soon but im staying somewhere in long beach. I need to know how long it would take me to get there. anyone know??

on July 17, 2009 04:47 PM
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