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San Diego Commutes to Avoid

Knowing which direction traffic is going and locating the choke points can help you decide where to live and work

Photo: Shutterstock

While we’re not as bad as LA (and let’s hope we never will be), some of our commutes have become horrendous over the past decade. If you can’t live near work, at least try to move to a place where you can take mass transit or drive against the flow. For an idea of what you might face, view the live traffic cams on the Department of Transportation’s website.


In the Morning:

5 Northbound. You’re bound to see some red starting around Pacific Beach. If you live in PB, the on-ramp is a nightmare. Any destination north of La Jolla will take a minimum of 30 minutes. 

5 Southbound. It’s bad in North County from Cannon Road in Carlsbad to Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach. Some residents take the Coaster. (Note: The 5 in North County is also bad on the weekend. A lot of LA people are going south on Saturday and north on Sunday, but you’re likely to hit traffic at some point no matter when you go.)

8 Westbound. It’s a straight shot from El Cajon to Mission Valley, but one that’s going to take up to 40 minutes depending on what time you start in the morning—the earlier the better!

15 Southbound. This freeway is pretty massive and bottleneck-free, except around Scripps Poway Parkway and Miramar, where the 163 begins.

52 Westbound. The trek is somewhat smooth until you enter La Jolla. La Jolla Parkway can be a parking lot in the mornings (and evenings). At least you can gaze at the ocean while you wait.

78. Avoid this North County freeway if you can.

163 Southbound. Heading downtown brakes right where people are merging on from the 8. It’s only a rough distance of about 5 miles, but can take about 15 minutes.

805 Northbound. This freeway has few stretches that aren’t clogged. Certain sections offer a carpool lane, but it’s not consistent. A typical 15-minute drive can easily become 40 minutes. 


In the Evening:

5 Northbound. It’s not bad leaving downtown, but once you get to the merge north of La Jolla, it gets ugly. From 56 to Cannon Road in Carlsbad is a minimum 40-minute drive and can take as long as an hour fifteen.

5 Southbound. Just like in the morning, it doesn’t matter at what point you’re driving south on the 5—you’re going to be bumper-to-bumper. Rush hour can span from Sorrento Valley to Chula Vista.

8 Eastbound. Remember all that traffic heading west in the morning? It’s just as bad heading back toward La Mesa and El Cajon in the afternoon.

15 Northbound. Get comfy. The journey from Miramar to Escondido is full of stop-and-go traffic. On bad days, it’s close to a 60-minute trip.

56 Eastbound. Between Carmel Valley and Rancho Peñasquitos, try to find surface streets instead of crawling along the 56.

78. Avoid this North County freeway if you can.

163 Northbound. Getting on where the freeway starts is the biggest feat. Whether you’re coming from downtown, the 5, or Balboa Park, everything feeds into two lanes and causes serious slowdown.

163 Southbound. At any point between the 52 and the 8 (leaving University City going toward Mission Valley), driving south on the 163 can take 20 to 50 minutes.

805 Southbound. The traffic starts as soon as the 805 does (splitting off from the 5), and continues all the way down to National City. Sorrento Valley to Clairemont, for example, should take only 12 minutes, but becomes a 40-minute commute.

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