The Daily Mirror commuting challenge



July 3, 1957
Los Angeles

We complain about traffic all the time. But how much worse is driving in L.A. than it was in 1957?

We can find out.

Best of all, you can help!

You might be surprised by some of the results. I was.

In July 1957, the Auto Club of Southern California announced the results of a survey that examined commuting times over 17 routes in Los Angeles comparing freeways and surface streets. The Auto Club praised the freeways for faster trips and noted that it took less time to get to work in the morning than to get home in the evening. All distances were measured from the Auto Club headquarters at 2601 S. Figueroa.


(Travel time was unchanged between 1936 and 1957 even though the number of cars had tripled, according to the Auto Club. And commuting was about to get better because of the new freeways, club officials said). 

Here's how you can help: Pick one of the routes, send me your time and I'll post it. Note: All drives in the 1957 survey were conducted during weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

In the meantime, I'll be sampling a few of the routes myself. Check back and see how I'm doing. Here's one surprise: So far, driving at off-hours last weekend, I beat the commuting times from 1957 by a few minutes.

Let me say that again: So far, driving at off-hours in 2007 has been FASTER than the commuting times from 1957.

Above right, a freeway wreck and gawkers' block courtesy of the Los Angeles Police Department. Note that in 1957, the LAPD had jurisdiction over the local freeways rather than the Highway Patrol.

OK, let me know. I'm eager to hear your experiences!

Email me

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1957, Downtown, Freeways, San Fernando Valley, Transportation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Daily Mirror commuting challenge

  1. Gabe Fuentes says:

    OK, but was there a greater or lesser chance of getting shot at by that guy who flipped you off when you merged?


  2. I think the really eye-opening thing about this is how central Los Angeles was still seen as the center of the commuting universe as late as 1957. Just a few years later, the first skyscrapers were going up in Hollywood, the Miracle Mile, Century City, and Westwood.
    –An excellent observation, thanks for pointing it out.


  3. Mark says:

    Also interesting to note:
    In 1957, the San Berdoo freeway ended at Lark Ellen.
    The Auto Club moved its headquarters to Costa Mesa, to obtain bigger quarters and less traffic.
    It would also seem that our transit system is still oriented to all commuting going to downtown LA, even in 2007.
    –You raise excellent points. Thanks for sharing.
    –Cheers, Larry


  4. Don says:

    “(Google maps estimate: 25 minutes. Note: Google doesn’t like this route because Lark Ellen and the San Bernardino Freeway don’t intersect).”
    They do intersect.
    The difference is, in 1957 there were on-ramps and off-ramps at Lark Ellen and the San Berdoo Freeway, but no underpass.
    In the late ’60s/early ’70s, they removed the ramps and built an underpass (the same happen at Hollenbeck, on the other side of Azusa Avenue).
    –What I meant to say, and didn’t write it clearly, was that Google is smart enough to know that you can’t get on the freeway at Lark Ellen.
    –Thanks for the feedback!


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