The grass is always greener on the other side.  That is what they say anyways and I am starting to see why.  Especially when it comes to commuting to and from work in Los Angeles when compared to commuting in New York City.

After having spent about 6 years commuting to work in New York City and the past 16 months commuting to work in Los Angeles I think I have a pretty good idea of the good and bad of each cities rush hours.

When I was in NYC I dreaded and loved commuting to work. Over the years I got to experience many different commutes because of job transitions or apartment moves.

My first commute was a 30 to 45 minute commute from Hells Kitchen to the Financial District. My second big commute was from Hell’s Kitchen to East Harlem.  My third big commute was to and from Astoria from Hell’s Kitchen. The fourth commute I had to learn while living in NYC was a 15 minute walking commute from my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen to the hospital I worked at in Hell’s Kitchen.

Each commute was about the same.  Crowded trains, pushy people, fighting to find the perfect place to read my books undisturbed and juggling coffee.

Here in Los Angeles I have had a few different commutes as well.  While public transportation hasn’t played a part in my commuting here yet, it’s really about the route to work as oppose to the mode of transportation.  I’ve taken a mostly back road commute through neighborhoods since moving here. I’ve gone through periods of having to take Santa Monica Blvd. or Wilshire from West Hollywood to Santa Monica.  I’ve also had to take the 10 Freeway to and from work for a period.  Each with their pluses and minus.

This got me thinking.  Which city is nicer to commute to work in and why?

Traffic & Options: images (2)

Both Los Angeles and New York City have major issues when it comes to traffic.  In NYC you can find yourself standing in a group of people on a subway platform 6 or 7 rows deep just trying to get on an already packed train.  I’ve watched multiple trains pass by me in the mornings, particularly when I was commuting to and from East Harlem or Queens, because they were too crowded for me to get on.

Subway cars in NYC are also often held up by train traffic.  That’s right, the MTA has internal traffic jams that they typically blame on signal related issues or passengers holding the doors. Train times are unreliable and not consistent.

Traffic is an everyday reality in LA
Traffic is an everyday reality in LA

In Los Angeles we battle actual vehicular traffic on a daily basis. It can take 30 to 60 minutes for me to get home from work during rush hour and I only live 7 miles away from my office.  The good news is that thanks to apps like Waze and the knowledge of multiple routes between my office and apartment I always have a way to cheat traffic.  When you are in NYC you have very few options unless you are midtown.  You either get on your train or you don’t.

Believe it or not I am giving this one to Los Angeles as being better with traffic and having more route options during rush hour because of the diverse options in routes and more reliability in transportation.

Door to Door:

In New York you often have to walk a bit to get to the subway and then when you get off you will have to walk a bit more to get to your destination.  This is a good way to power walk off any stress you may have.  It also allows for quick stops along the way for things like coffee.

In Los Angeles you typically are in your car from point A to point B.  I find it a bit too overwhelming in the mornings to find parking, park my car, walk into a Starbucks, stand in the same long lines I stood in while in NYC and order coffee on my way to work.  The added time it takes to locate parking is more than enough to make any stops along the way not possible without building in extra time.

Point to commuting in NYC! 

Alone Time:

Both cities offer you a little bit of alone time while commuting in their own ways.  In NYC if you have the ability you can often ignore everyone around you, zone out into your own world and do what you need to do.  It’s a good time to read a book, digest your thoughts and listen to music.  Very often, we find ourselves too busy for these simple activities in modern-day society.  Living in NYC you have time built-in to do just these things.

In Los Angeles you are truly alone when you are commuting (unless you carpool).  Sitting in your car doesn’t allow you to read a book unless you have a book on tape, but it does allow you something commuting by subway in NYC doesn’t allow you to do.  It allows you to be truly alone.  You have time to make calls to your family, a place to cry if you just need a good cry and a place where no one can really bother you.  You are alone with your thoughts, your music and your world.

For me I find that LA wins in this category.  I prefer being truly alone.  It takes more effort to feel like you are having alone time in NYC on a subway even though it is completely possible.


Commuting anywhere in the world can create a long list of aggravations, but between Los Angeles and New York City I think one commute takes the cake in this arena.

Packed subway platform in NYC during rush hour.

In New York City, while commuting by subway, you have to deal with people. People can be the worst!  Whether the people around you are being pushy, loud, rude or smelly you are bound to run into someone who fits one of those descriptions on a regular basis.  Falling in line with this is the fact that you have unauthorized performers begging for money on the subways.  Young

Annoying subway dancer.  The lady on the right says it all with that facial expression!
Annoying subway dancer. The lady on the right says it all with that facial expression!

dancers jump, twist, kick and turn all over subway cars coming inches from commuters faces.  If you refuse to make room for their illegal performances they get aggressive or rude even if the train is too full for you to move.

Subway trains are often delayed or held up mid-trip for unknown reasons.  You can be cruising along when out of the blue the train comes to a complete stop for 15 minutes with no explanation.  At least in Los Angeles you know why you are stopped because you are personally in control of your vehicle.

Los Angeles has a number of aggravations associated with commuting during rush hour in the city as well.  For starters, the traffic is one of the biggest aggravators, mostly because people can’t drive.  I guess I should just say that people are in issue everywhere.  People cut you off, don’t use turn signals to switch lanes and things like that. All of which can drive a man crazy.

When it rains in LA, even if just a few drops, it’s as if every driver on the road forgets how to drive.  It’s just rain LA, step on the gas. At least go the speed limit for the love of God!

Overall, I think the aggravations in NYC were worse for me personally.  I hated being tossed around, fighting for seats, trying to not to breathe because a homeless person is standing nearby who has obviously urinated on themselves a few times. The win goes to Los Angeles. 

Use of time:

This is a bit more difficult. Right out of the gate, I’d have to say I used my commute time more wisely in New York City simply because I could.  I could read on the train, I could write on the train, I could prepare for meetings.  I could study on the train, review notes, or simply play iPhone games to clear my head.

When in LA and commuting in your car you are pretty restricted about what activities you can do.  You have to drive, so you can’t be overly distracted after all.  You can make calls if you have a hands-free device, but otherwise you can’t be extremely productive.

Point goes to New York City!


New York City has a flat monthly rate for your unlimited monthly metrocard.  While the price has slowly increased over the years you still know your exact expenses for the month when it comes to commuting.

In Los Angeles you can’t always gauge how fast your car will burn through gas. You also can’t depend on gas prices since they go up and down on a regular basis.  Then you have to factor in car maintenance fees and insurance.

Overall I think New York City wins in the cost category.


I can always rely on my car, but I can’t always rely on a subway to be there when I need it.  Simply put, LA is a bit more reliable and offers more alternatives than NYC. Point for LA!


Do you really want to be stuck next to this on the subway? ~ Photo by Helayne Seidman
Do you really want to be stuck next to this on the subway? ~ Photo by Helayne Seidman

New York subways and subway stations are old.  I’m sure it’s no surprise that you can come into contact with countless germs, virus’ and bacteria while traveling on public transportation.

My car is as dirty or as clean as I make it and it’s my filth.  Point to LA again!

Los Angeles: 5 Points

New York City: 3 Points

For me, Los Angeles is just a better place to commute to work.  I know a lot of people are going to disagree with me, but it comes down to what you value.  I value less personal aggravation, more alone time, more reliability and the ability to be self-reliant and not reliant on the MTA.