THE CONVENIENCE OF COMMUTING IN THE SFV
The San Fernando Valley is car culture in a nutshell. Neighboring Downtown L.A. is far past the threshold of the automobile’s convenience. Ask our crowded neighbors about their commute and they’ll say the same thing: “L.A. traffic sucks.” Ask any major metropolitan city, especially outside of the U.S., and they’ll tell you about public transportation and taxi cabs.
Here in the Valley, cars still make sense. It’s a sweet spot between space and distance. As long as you pick your home wisely in relation to your daily schedule, you can get anywhere within 20 minutes. If it takes 30 minutes, it’s certainly pushing it - but therein lies the point. A 30-minute commute in the Valley is considered long. We’re spoiled. Angelenos would love a half-hour ride.
Here’s why commuting in the Valley is pretty darn nice.
The Valley has a diverse selection of jobs, allowing many to find work without commuting too far. Unemployment hit a 40-year low in early 2018.
Even neighboring Burbank took the title as the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation's Most Business Friendly City in Los Angeles County in 2006, 2007, and 2011. Glendale took the title in 2015 and was a finalist in 2008, 2011, and 2012.
There are near-endless opportunities for work in the entertainment industry. Although Hollywood will always be the epicenter, there are many satellite locations in the Valley.
The aerospace industry employs all types of skilled workers for aviation and defense. It also provides opportunity for manual labor.
Finally, Valley residents are also notable business owners. Half of all L.A. County contractors, a third of all business professionals, and many healthcare professionals have addresses in the Valley.
The SFV, oftentimes referred to as the “Valley of the Stars”, has for a long time had a reputation as a home to the entertainment industry. One of the earliest industries to arrive in the Valley was filmmaking and today this “Valley of the Stars” is the center of the motion picture industry.
Disney, Warner Bros., Universal Studios, and Dreamworks Animation are all headquartered around here. This multi-billion dollar economic engine supports countless allied companies and creative professionals who showcase their art from here.
Entertainment is far from the only star that lights up the San Fernando Valley’s economy. Aerospace is also a big industry here. Companies do both design as well as manufacturing here, creating a wide range of jobs that are both white-collar and blue-collar.
A lot of other creative-based companies have sprung up due to the large pool of smart people that are already here. This is partly because of all of the entertainment that was already here, and also because of the schools in the area. Cal State Northridge is one of the biggest public schools in California, and has a diverse catalogue of majors.
Manufacturing is no longer a big part of the Valley economy, but it is where it all started. Many of the aerospace companies that still design here have moved their production facilities to cheaper, more open area - like the Antelope Valley. This has a lot to do with environmental regulations that have increased with population.
But Budweiser has a large factory in the Valley!
Though there are no large tech companies based out of the Valley, it is a great place to start one. Many small tech companies choose the Valley over Silicon Beach. Real estate prices are too high for them and their employees. There is a great pool of talent to draw on with so many great schools in the area.
There is really no reason to deal with the traffic of LA proper for a small company. This is especially true with tech companies who are unlikely to have walk-in traffic or any visitors at all. We were even lucky enough to find an Internet marketing company right here in Northridge.
The sheer number of schools in the Valley is overwhelming. If you live in a good area, then you have access to great schools. If you don't, then you apply for the lottery in the good schools. If that doesn't succeed, then there's over 200 private schools.
For higher education, there's adult vocational centers throughout the entire city. Pierce College and CSUN provide excellent education choices at promising prices.
For those that are more ambitious, UCLA is right over the hill. National powerhouse California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) is in Pasadena as well.
Strip malls are the signature of any suburbia, and the Valley is no different. You're almost always less than 10 minutes away from shopping destinations. Furthermore, the variation in shopping caters to every level.
For competitive pricing, there's 3 Wal-Mart's. If you desire bulk family shopping, you can choose from 4 Costco's. Furthermore, there's supermarkets for almost every ethnicity. Don't miss the Korean Galleria, Vietnamese Bangluck, Sunshine Indian Groceries, or Mexican Vallarta.
There are two main malls - the Northridge Fashion Center and the Topanga Westfield Mall. Both have a diverse selection of shops for every fashion or gift.
Proximity to Other Locations
Tired of the Valley? There's many other locations to check out as well.
Common commuting destinations include places such as the West Side/Silicon Beach, the vast high rises of Downtown Los Angeles and some of the outward less populated areas by the North End of LA County. We will take a close look at all these different commuting options that people living in the valley have.
The West Side
Tech Companies like Google and Snapchat have been expanding greatly throughout what has become known as silicon beach (Santa Monica, Venice, Mar Vista). Unfortunately for most people who move to LA for these jobs, the area is not affordable. Especially for someone who wants to have a house of their own. This is what brings many people into the San Fernando Valley.
Downtown los Angeles is also going through a huge growth in jobs. Even if not as big as the westside, its still brings in many commuters and has just as many options to get there. They have essentially the same commuter bus system, and even though it is farther than the west side, Google maps estimates it taking between an hour and thirty minutes and an hour and fifty minutes.
DTLA has some emerging tech industry but is actually becoming known more for the arts and fashion. An influx of artists started during the 2008 recession due mainly to cheap real estate that was available. Many formerly industrial warehouses were repurposed as studios for creative or performing arts. Often times people move to LA too work in Entertainment or creative arts, but the valley might not have the right fit for them. If the Valley’s creative job market doesn’t work out for you, DTLA is the next logical place.
Oxnard and Ventura are very common places for people to commute to. The traffic has gotten slower over the years as more people make the drive. But it is still not bad and probably better than commuting to many parts of Los Angeles. There are a lot of manufacturing and agricultural jobs out the 101 North from the valley. The San Fernando Valley used to have a lot more manufacturing jobs, which people moved here for in the 1970’s and 80’s. As the factories shut down or moved elsewhere, many people wanted to stay in the area, without having to leave their industry.
Palmdale and Lancaster
The Antelope Valley has gained a lot of manufacturing over the years as companies have left L.A. due to high operating costs and regulations. When traveling to these smaller cities, there are much fewer options for public transit. There are very few commuter buses that go out in those directions. As long as you have a car you will be fine. By going in the opposite direction of most commuters they have a lot less traffic in general than people heading to parts of LA that have a lot of jobs.
Getting out of the Valley is not hard at all. The 405 is a straight path to the West Side and has plenty of transit buses that take people along it. Then, there are the 5 South and 101 South which will take you to LA proper. All of the aforementioned freeways can be quite hectic during commuting hours.
With that said, any type of commuting in L.A. proper or the West Side is a nightmare, so be careful! The Valley also has the 210 for anyone traveling east in the morning, which rarely gets slowdowns.
Then there are the 5 North, 118, the 14, and the 101 North which all take you farther from the city and farther from the traffic. Going in any of these directions are ideal if you can’t manage to find a job in the Valley.
Solutions If You Don't Have a Car
Even without a car, there are plenty of transit options. On weekdays, there are the transit buses which start at the top of the Valley and head South. These run only in one direction and for one hour at 7-8 am and 5-6 pm. These are obviously specifically for commuters.
For other travelers there are many local buses but the main line is the Orange Line. It will take you to L.A. proper to connect with the Red Line. From there, you can easily get to Downtown L.A. Simply use Google Maps! There's a bus function on it.
They're specifically for long-distance commutes for workers. Don't forget about Commuter Buses! They start in several locations throughout the Valley. According to Google Maps, on a normal weekday morning, it takes no more than two and a half hours to get to the West Side by public transit. And in general, should not be more than 2 or 3 buses.
In a car, it will take at least that long, if not 3 hours. Being that LA is so spread out, there are commuter buses that run specifically when people are going to and from work and have routes that are designed to cater to working professionals. The commuter buses are faster because they oftentimes have a dedicated bus lane, allowing them to pass by commuters traveling by car.
The commuter buses are designed with professionals in mind with everyone being given a seat so that people can get rest or work done on the ride. By car this will take at least as long, and by not bringing a car you're saving money on parking, which alone is an absolute nightmare on the West Side.
ZipCar, Uber, and Other Ridesharing Apps
ZipCar is platform where you can rent a car for a very brief amount of time. Once you're done, you park it in a designated station. With monthly packages around $150, it certainly beats leasing!
Uber and Lyft are apps that allow you to call a cab right to your location. A 10-minute drive will cost around $10.