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city of brake lights

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City of Brake Lights If Paris is the “City of Light,” then Los Angeles is surely the city of brake lights. If you plan on driving in L.A., the notoriously congested and sometimes confusing freeway system can be intimidating. But a little advance planning is all you'll need to avoid spending half of your vacation behind the wheel and behind schedule.

L.A. freeways are designated with a route number. In addition, each stretch of freeway can have several nicknames, depending on its location or final destination. Knowing these names will help you understand traffic reports given by local radio stations (KNX 1070AM airs reports every 10 minutes).

Know the Major Roadways

Here are the nicknames of some major L.A. freeways:

I-5: Golden State Freeway, from downtown north to Bakersfield; Santa Ana Freeway, from downtown south to Disneyland® Resort and south Orange County.

I-10: Santa Monica Freeway, from downtown west to Santa Monica; San Bernardino Freeway, from downtown east to San Bernardino.

I-110: Harbor Freeway, from downtown south to the Los Angeles Harbor; Pasadena Freeway, from downtown north to Pasadena.

I-405: San Diego Freeway.

I-710: Long Beach Freeway.

US 101: Hollywood Freeway, from downtown north to Studio City; Ventura Freeway, from Studio City north to Ventura.

Lights, Camera...Traffic!

It's best to avoid freeways during weekday rush hours, which generally last from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m., unless you want to spend most of your trip in gridlock. Also, bumper-to-bumper traffic on weekend afternoons is not uncommon, especially in West L.A. But no matter what day it is, Angelenos are all too familiar with some of the freeway system's chronic trouble spots. These are usually interchanges or narrow sections of freeway, and some commuters avoid them at all cost.

The San Diego Freeway (I-405) is universally despised by drivers, and with good reason. North from Los Angeles International Airport, heavy stop-and-go traffic is the norm as I-405 heads through West L.A., over the dreaded Sepulveda Pass and meets US 101 at what is routinely ranked the most congested interchange in the country. Near downtown, you can usually count on crawling through the Four Level and East L.A. Interchanges.

If seeing the world famous HOLLYWOOD sign is on your itinerary, you'll have ample time to admire it from US 101. The freeway's legendary congestion often delays drives through Tinseltown and the San Fernando Valley.

Not to be outdone, Orange County is home to the maddeningly slow SR 91, and the extremely busy Orange Crush Interchange, where I-5, SR 22 and SR 57 converge.

Every motorist visiting L.A. should be familiar with the term “SigAlert,” an announcement issued by the California Highway Patrol when a traffic accident causes the closure of at least one lane of traffic for 30 minutes or longer.

Despite the problems, L.A.'s freeways remain the most effective way to cover long distances. Pick up detailed city maps at your AAA office and remember what former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley once said: “I've seen congestion in almost every major city in the world far worse. By comparison, L.A.'s a paradise.” If traveling by air, leave plenty of time to get to the airport, especially for international flights.

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Los Angeles, CA

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Travel Information

City Population

3,792,621

Elevation

267 ft.

Sales Tax

State and county sales taxes total 9.5 percent in Los Angeles. A lodging tax, called a transient occupancy tax, of 14 percent also is levied along with an 8.25 percent rental car tax.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

(877) 275-5273 (within the city of Los Angeles only)

Hospitals

Kaiser Permanente-Los Angeles Medical Center, (323) 783-4011; LAC+USC Medical Center, (323) 409-1000; Providence Little Company of Mary, (310) 832-3311; Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, (310) 825-9111; Valley Presbyterian Hospital, (818) 782-6600.

Visitor Information

6801 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028. Phone:(323)467-6412

Air Travel

The Los Angeles area is served by several airports with cheap airline flights including Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which is about 20 miles southwest of downtown L.A. Several other airports serve the area.

Rental Cars

Most major car rental agencies serve Los Angeles. Hertz, (800) 654-3080, provides discounts to AAA members.

Rail Service

It's almost worth traveling by train just to experience Union Station, the combination Spanish Revival-Art Deco-Streamline Moderne-style terminal at 800 N. Alameda St., near Olvera Street and Chinatown. Amtrak trains, (800) 872-7245, use the station, as well as depots scattered throughout the region.

Buses

Greyhound Lines Inc., (800) 231-2222, has a terminal at 1716 E. 7th St., near Alameda Street, about 1.5 miles south of Union Station. Caveat emptor: ticket purchase does not guarantee a seat on the bus.

Taxis

Taxis are plentiful downtown and at major tourist sites. They can be hailed or boarded from stalls found at the airport, Union Station and major hotels. The base rate is $2.85 at flag drop and $2.70 per mile. The fixed fare between the airport and downtown is $46.50 plus a $4 surcharge for fares originating from the airport. Some large companies are Checker, (800) 300-5007; Independent (800) 521-8294; United Independent, (213) 483-7660 or (800) 892-8294; and Yellow Cab, (424) 222-2222 or (800) 200-1085.

Public Transportation

Transportation by bus, minibus shuttle, light-rail and subway is available in Los Angeles.

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