When looking at traffic conditions in some of the major urban and suburban Californian areas, conditions tend to be either busy and fast moving or downright slow. Driving during rush or commute hours in Los Angeles and the Bay Area is almost impossible as L.A. is often rated as having the worst traffic in the country with the Bay Area being second or third. This pattern of high traffic is also surprisingly visible on primary and rural freeways like Interstate 5 and State Route 99 particularly in the holiday season.
When looking for an excellent analysis of traffic, Google’s traffic reports for major cities like L.A and San Francisco tend to very accurate. Using Google maps on a mobile phone is a boon towards traveling with a lot of relevant information unless you do not have an active internet connection. Another good source for traffic reports is the local media. For instance, many local radio stations provide up to date traffic reports that can be used while driving unlike phone maps. Two good examples of radio stations in the Bay Area are KCBS AM 740 and KQED FM. KCBS provides traffic reports every ten minutes while KQED provides them every 15 minutes during busy hours.
Although traffic reports can be helpful, sometimes driving in the Bay Area can mean that there are simply no alternative routes to go on your commute rendering the reports useless. Still, traffic reports can tell you whether to stay and wait or leave an area if it is exceptionally busy. Finding alternative routes in the height of traffic can be tough unless you are a local to the area and aware of the best routes to avoid the mess. Sometimes avoiding urban highways can lead to a quicker arrival to your destination. This tactic is often known as surfacing, and it is very prominent in some parts of L.A and the Bay Area. Surfacing can be dangerous if the driver is inexperienced as he might take routes that might be dangerous if his car breaks down or routes that have worse traffic conditions than the route he is trying to avoid. Similarly, surfacing or taking a surface route (as it is sometimes called) the wrong way can lead to undesirable effects like a traffic gridlock if a lot of other drivers attempt to do the same thing.
Another way to determine what traffic conditions are in much of California State including Los Angeles and the Bay Area is calling Caltrans. By just dialing 511, Caltrans can provide any driver relevant information like traffic delays and public transit status.