My Way or the Highway

Here’s a good party trick: Glibly mention your imminent travel arrangements at a crowded cocktail gathering — maybe a 4 p.m. flight out of LAX — and then openly question your sense of direction. “Freeways or surface streets?” you might muse. “Slauson or Stocker? Caribbean Treehouse or Pann’s Coffee Shop along the way?” Now sit back, drink comfortably in hand, and watch how many people fall in line to inform you — with all the uptight, back-seat-driver, know-it-all fervor of a cab-riding Holly Hunter in Broadcast News — how to get there. Everybody, it seems, has an opinion about how to get to the airport, a die-hard, personal philosophy about the best shortcut or route to take — basically their route and nobody else’s. Maybe it’s due to some form of urban claustrophobia, a mass anxiety not unlike the need to know where all the emergency exits are in a crowded theater. Or chalk it up to a kind of communal panic brought on from watching too many cheesy, B-rated disaster flicks — pedestrians being chased in the streets by a massive, jellylike blob. It aggravates the urge to map out the most direct escape. Maybe it’s Darwinian, a “fight or flight” kind of thing. Or simply a high concentration of type-A personalities butting heads in a car-dependent culture. Who knows? But with 18.5 million people expected to pass through LAX this summer, a record high for the travel season, having a solid exit strategy is critical. Consider the following routes and unsolicited driving advice:

The Basic “It’s a really telling thing. Like how you tie your shoelaces. There’s a lot of ritual involved. Some people take SuperShuttle; some people always get a ride. I’ve had friends pay me to drive them to Long Beach. That’s a big thing since Jet Blue flies outta there. Some people use long-term parking, and then there’s that valet long-term — you drive in and it’s like, all Bentleys. “But you can’t fuck with the whole 101 south to the 110 south to the 105 west. It just works. The 105 spits you out right at the airport. If you have someone with you, the carpool lane just beams you right there.”

—Andrew Gura, music-video producer

Superfly! “I’m too far from the 110 to use the handy 110 to 105 connection so I almost never take freeways to the airport, opting for the much quicker La Brea–to–Stocker–to–La Cienega–to–La Tijera route. But my new favorite north-south shortcut (from K-town/Hancock Park, anyway) is to take Pico east to West Boulevard, then cut south on West to Adams or Jefferson and take one of them east to La Brea. Not only do you miss the worst of the La Brea bottleneck (basically, Pico to the 10), but you get to sail over Venice on a bridge. Supercool!”

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—Colleen Wainwright,

Mob Rule “My route is Highland to La Brea, then all the way, baby! But the important thing is not just knowing a good route but a good bathroom. A grueling airport trip can take hours, and if you’re an Angeleno who hydrates properly, that can make for some dire circumstances. I like to take advantage of the many clean and comfortable hotel bathrooms along Century Boulevard. In a pinch, the gas station minimart on Century and La Cienega is a well-lit alternative. A SuperShuttle driver recommended it to me. “And remember, driving someone to the airport is like a mob favor: someday — and that day may never come — they may call upon you to return the favor. I know that when I ask someone for a lift, I must choose wisely. Do they live near me? Do they take many early morning flights? Will I be forced to attend their sketch show?”

—Tess Rafferty, comic

Beam Me Up “It depends where you’re coming from — it’s kind of Zen-like. And there are all these factors: the weather, the time of day, the location, your personal style. Some people don’t like to zigzag through streets, they like the freeways. Direct. Some people like to navigate the ‘back country’ route. “The best back-country shortcut — from Hollywood — is to go down La Brea all the way. (From slightly further east you’d take Wilton to Adams to La Brea.) Right on Slauson. Left on La Cienega. Right at that La Tijera junction. That takes you right there. “But if you’re truly Zen, it doesn’t matter when you go or what the weather’s like. You just get on the freeway, sit in traffic and divorce your mind from the subjectivity of it all. Time ceases to exist and before you know it, you’ll be at the airport. But if you can do that, then you could just astral project yourself straight there.”

—Joshuah Bearman, L.A. Weekly Web editor



“From Studio City, the 101 to the 405 — only when it’s open. If the 405 is stopped, then you can either dab a little lavender aromatherapy on the dash, crank up the Yanni and deal with the slow ride, or take Coldwater Canyon to Mulholland west to Sepulveda south, take a right onto Getty Center Drive, park, hop on the monorail, grab a cup of coffee, walk over to the cactus garden and watch your plane take off from the LAX runway. Because frankly, that’s as close as you’re going to get to your flight. When people are visiting we insist they fly into Burbank, which has no traffic and is 15 minutes from anywhere in the Valley and Los Feliz.”

—Lee Miller, writer-director

Look It Up Yourself ANONYMOUS: From midcity you’d go — what’s that street? — it’s one of the best shortcuts in L.A. in general. It really moves quickly from Third to Venice. Can’t think of the fuckin’ name. Starts with an “H.” Lemme just draw you a map. (Starts to scribble.) L.A. WEEKLY: No, wait, I need words. Why can’t you just fuckin’ use the map? Because it’s an interview. I need you to describe . . . The thing about this shortcut is that if traffic is moving, and you’re not already annoyed enough, you can stop at the Costco on La Cienega and Rodeo and then you’d be really annoyed. You’d be in the right state of mind for the airport. The street: What’s the name? Fuck if I know. I’ll think of it though. (Answer: Hauser. Then right on Venice. Left on La Cienega to airport.) Road Tested “I’ve been in the ground transportation industry for 20 years — once a customer had us stop to get pills for her dog and it turned out to be a stuffed animal in a cage — anyway, one lady showed me this shortcut once into the city from LAX. The 405 north to National Boulevard and get off. Head east to Overland, go north to Pico, then head east on Pico into Beverly Hills. But there’s no getting around bad traffic, no magic pill. At some point during the day, you’re gonna be in bumper-to-bumper. Real shortcuts? That’s just urban legend.”

—Paul, SuperShuttle dispatch/driver

As for me, I’ve driven to LAX dozens of times and I don’t think I’ve ever gone the exact same way twice. But I haven’t missed a flight yet.

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