Getting Around: Echo Park to Santa Monica with the help of NPR

The road to Santa Monica

“The fact is, there’s no good way across the city. It is too broad and too packed.”| Marni Epstein-Mervis

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Masa of Echo Park


ECHO PARK — For the last the last nine months, I’ve spent mornings with my friends Audie Cornish, David Green, and Renee Montagne. Each morning we chat about the day’s news and banter about insightful social commentary. Me, the sunrise, a warm cup of coffee … and NPR in my mint green Fiat. See, every morning, the even cadence of NPR accompanies me on my commute from Echo Park to my job as editor at a real estate startup, Agent Ace, in Santa Monica. The station is a reverse lullaby of sorts, the comfort and familiarity of Morning Edition’s anchors slowly beckons me awake in the dreary darkness, before sunrise.

It’s an hour to Santa Monica, like clockwork, so a couple of weeks into my commute I had had enough of the same three songs rotating on all of L.A.’s radio stations. I made a commitment, instead, to make my listening easy and fun. I left the car radio on one station. I had to just embrace that that all of my cocktail banter would now begin with, “I just heard on NPR…”

To beat the worst of traffic, my mornings begin at 5:30 a.m.

I hop on the 101-South at Glendale Boulevard. Then keep as far right as possible getting on the the 110-South because, no matter how long people have driven in Los Angeles, it still seems they’re not aware that the Wilshire Boulevard exit lane is also a through lane for the 110. Bad drivers dart in and out of lanes trying to get to the freeway’s main artery on the left – brake lights flare, tires screech. Do not get sucked in. Stay right.

Getting onto the westbound 10 is relatively a breeze. Then, you crawl. It’s generally monotony, although occasionally something will grab your attention, like when the smoke plumes of Geoffrey Palmer’s latest Mediterranean creation filled the downtown sky one morning last December. For the most part, though, the 13 miles on the 10 is just a game of chess. Which lane will move infinitesimally faster than the next?

Going home is worse. Some days it seems as though I might be better off walking to Echo Park. Going east averages 1.5 hours – and 2 hours was not unheard of. Thursdays are the worst, and for no particular reason.

The fact is, there’s no good way across the city. It is too broad and too packed. Wilshire, Pico, Olympic, Venice – I’ve done them all. Venice up La Brea, onto Highland and then east on Beverly will keep you moving. But, trust me, it won’t get you to Echo Park any faster than sitting on the eastbound 10.

The best tip I have is to simply to acknowledge that your commute will be what it will be. Pick your favorite album, podcast, or radio station, and soak it all in. There’s an ease and a mindlessness to just heading in a straight line and rocking out; then just hope that your employer, like mine, embraces telecommuting.

Marni Epstein-Mervis an architecture and real estate journalist, Editor at Agent Ace, and a resident of Echo Park. She is also pursuing a Masters in Historic Preservation.

How do you get around? The Eastsider is seeking first-person submissions from Eastsiders about their regular commute – whether it be by car, bus, bike , on-foot, skateboard, etc, – and tips for fellow L.A. travelers. Send your idea to hello@theEastsiderLA.com.


  1. Yes! I love this article. Just embrace the commute– and NPR is great!

    • LA traffic is like a river. Sometimes it flows fast, sometimes very slow. You just have to accept the flow…(or take the expo line when it’s done…)

    • NPR is NOT great.

      They receive a government subsidy yet they also beg for donations several times per year AND they run “sponsored by” programs (which is commercials, folks). And even though they receive tax money, they are notoriously LEFT biased. Blatantly liberal. You can call me “Ted Cruz” if you’d like but you know I’m right.

  2. Yeah, LA has become a traffic fuckfest. I definitely welcome self driving cars.

  3. Oh boy…move to the westside…we’re full here. give it some of the soul it so greatly needs.
    Also, wonder what the commute is going to look like once the subway to the sea is done…in 2025….maybe echo park will be beach front property at that point.

  4. Well when I first started my SL>SM commute, I tried really hard to stay zen once I hit the Cloverfield onramp at 6 pm, but after 30m of moving in tiny increments became homicidal. I tried every combination of boulevard and side street possible and gained nothing but failure and defeat. Finally smartened up and found the 704 express. You lose 20m on the ride to work, but gain 10m on the way home – 70m total. Plus endless entertainment from the characters riding along with you. Much bus love.

    • Just started taking the bus from Echo Park to Santa Monica last month and love it. Wish I started commuting on bus two years ago.

  5. You don’t say if your job requires a car but if not, try this:

    Ride METRO RAPID 704 [SANTA MONICA] heading west
    From: SUNSET BLVD/ALVARADO ST NE corner Lv: 06:35AM
    To: 2ND ST/SANTA MONICA BLVD NW corner Ar: 07:48AM
    Pay $1.75, Monthly Pass: $100.00, EZ Pass accepted

  6. I travel to Santa Monica everyday but use side streets in the morning:

    Try Temple to Virgil
    south on Virgil
    west on 3rd street
    south on Robertson.
    west on Olympic (pico also works) in to Santa Monica.

    No bumper to bumper traffic on this route between 6:30 and 7:30 AM

  7. The waze app helped me a great deal with the same commute, but all in all, I’m glad my gig on the west side is over with so I don’t have to do that commute, its brutal no matter how you try to deal with it.

  8. Broad yes, packed, eh… we just need to build more housing on the west side (where the jobs/housing balance is askew) and implement policies to try and concentrate more jobs downtown (where all our transit infrastructure converges.)

  9. You can make it 1.5 hours and do it on a bike. The ride can be pretty mellow if you can stick to streets that are either heavily congested and you’ll average 12 to 15 mph the whole way there. If you’re riding in the early a.m. yo usually get a nice tail wind into work with the cool morning breeze. Heading back you have the onshore wind to push you home. You can still listen to NPR and if you ride at a mellow pace you won’t get sweaty.

  10. KPCC all the way – eastside rules, westside drools.

  11. Best way – get out your map and draw a circle 1 mile in radius around your home. Get a job within that circle. It’s worked for me, and I’m now happily retired. NPR used to be great, but now with their sports and uber-liberal commentary, they might as well be KPFK. Try KUSC for their anti-road rage programming. Drive less, enjoy life more. Research has proven that the more hours on the road in traffic, the greater the incidences of cancer in the population.

  12. Travel by motorcycle. From Pasadena to Santa Monica on a Friday afternoon starting at 4:20p. can still make a meeting at 5p.m. without speeding or breaking any traffic laws. Easier parking, better mpg, lower insurance costs. Much less stress.

  13. Take the bus. Seriously. Take the bus.

    • “Take the bus” is not a solution. I know this because I did it twice a week for 4 months- It takes about 90 minutes if traffic is a-okay and you catch the transfers at the right moment. Add in transfer delays or waiting for a bus to start its route on Main in SM and you can easily take 2+ hours

  14. Oh I could I relate. So funny. There is just no easy way anymore. I only do Silverlake to Venice a couple times a week at most, but when I do, NPR has been my life saving road dog for grid locked sanity. I steer clear of that 10 as much as possible though and it rarely takes over an hour to get back. MLK Blvd. is a crosstown must on the adventure there. And sweet lil Palms Blvd. saves a solid 20 on the way back. Shhhhh. Thankfully my main gig is an easy 5 minute cruise to Los Feliz.

  15. My south Echo Park to Century City is about 35 – 40 min in the morning (getting in the car by 7:10 am to beat traffic). West on Beverly, South on Rampart, West on 6th Street until it hits San Vicente turning into Burton Way/Santa Monica South. On the way home (getting in the car around 5:40 pm) I head east on Olympic, north on Hauser, east on 1st, north on Orange, and east on Beverly. It’s about 50 min – 1 hour or more. I started out listening to NPR, but found listening to audiobooks far more helpful with dealing with traffic. Podcasts are great too, but sometimes they’re too short for the longer haul home.

  16. The wealth of cross-town route knowledge on this page is amazing. It ought to be consolidated into an Eastsider supplemental guide… and then only given out to the most deserving of initiates.

    I don’t have a good one to add for Santa Monica, but when I sometimes have to go from Echo Park to Culver City and freeways seem like a bad move, I’ll do Alvarado -> Hoover -> Washington. It’s not perfect but it doesn’t seem to get too badly congested.

  17. You forgot the best part of Morning Edition -Steve Inskeep!

  18. I commuted to Santa Monica College from Silverlake for a little over three years and when I finished I had to leave L.A. I was so fried from the three years of crawling west/crawling east on the 10! I moved to Sonoma for a year and once I recovered I came back.. after that I only took jobs east of the L.A. river if I could help it. Restored my sanity and now Los Feliz seems like I’ve wandered way too far West. That’s the way I like it.

  19. Best way to beat traffic? Easy, just work night shift. Go to work late and come home early in the morning. Sleep all day while the rest of the city toils in traffic. I’m told there is an interesting community of night owls out there who don’t miss daylight. Sure, all the stores are closed by then, but who cares when there’s Amazon.com.

  20. Commuted from Eagle Rock to Santa Monica for almost 5 years. HATED going home in the afternoon. There was no good route, as you said. But in the mornings, leaving at 6:45, I could make it in 45 minutes on average. Leaving at 5:30am you should be able to make it in less! There’s NO reason to take the freeways that early. Try Glendale Blvd. to Alvarado to Olympic. I swear you’ll save at least 20 minutes and avoid the horrid 10.

    Also, I started out listening to NPR, but then switched to podcasts.

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