How big is Los Angeles? Everyone knows that California is a large state, but it’s amusing how many people don’t realize exactly how big Los Angeles is as well. This has led to lots and lots of consternation and worried calls and emails from my east coast relatives whenever something newsworthy happens in Los Angeles (I’m looking at you, Mom). Just last week, for example, my parents read about a mudslide near the 5 freeway and immediately emailed me, worried that my house was affected. “Mom,” I wrote back, “that mudslide is, like, three Minneapolis’s away from my part of town.”
Check out this map of Los Angeles. See how tiny Manhattan is, in comparison? When I lived in NYC, my friends — okay, and I — would groan if they had to go from the Upper West Side to the Lower East Side, and that’s a blip on this map. Perspective is important.
Los Angeles is a bigger city and county than most people know. We get in our cars, contend with traffic, and drive the equivalent of (on this map) Pittsburgh to Cleveland just to break bread with our friends. Can you imagine how much better it would be if Los Angeles had a light rail system already in place? The Metro Rail system in Los Angeles has only four light rail lines and two rapid transit subway lines, and nearly everyone here in L.A. is excitedly anticipating the project completion of the Metro Expo Line expansion that will connect Culver City to Santa Monica (right now it’s mess of construction and detours, but the result will definitely be worth it). The Crenshaw/LAX Line will connect the Crenshaw/Expo Station to the Los Angeles Airport, which will also be great but won’t be completed until at least 2019. As of this date, we still unfortunately have to drive nearly everywhere. And yes, at times traffic really lives up (or down) to its reputation here.
For now, let’s remember that L.A. is big enough to accommodate so many terrific little neighborhoods and towns: it’s better to think of the city as a whole bunch of separate towns, with different fun things to do and subcultures. One of the best things about Los Angeles’ size is its according diversity; If you don’t like one part, you’ll likely love another.
Living in any major city that is also a popular tourist destination — like, say, Los Angeles — means getting constant requests to pick up friends and relatives at the airport. That’s no biggie; we like our friends and relatives, most of them anyway, and airport taxis can be pretty expensive. But Los Angeles is big; Los Angeles County is so huge, in fact, that plenty of out-of-towners have no idea what they’re asking if they plan a lunch date with a Silver Lake or Los Feliz denizen in Venice Beach. “Meet me at that taqueria on Venice Boulevard” may mean something to a Los Angeles west sider, but it sure isn’t specific enough for anyone northeast of downtown Los Angeles, and the drive can be an hour.
I love the above map because it gives a better idea to non-Angelenos about our huge, spread-out city. I can’t source it; it showed up on my Facebook feed and I promptly posted it to my own wall a few years ago. If anyone knows the source, I’d be very happy to give credit where credit is due. For those of you counting, Los Angeles city covers 503 square miles and Los Angeles County is 4,752 square miles big. See? HUGE. In the meantime, enjoy the upcoming holiday travel season here in Los Angeles! All those extra people on the beach, or at Universal Studios Hollywood, or bumping into us in downtown Los Angeles…they’re great for our economy, so we can’t even be mad about the traffic. Well, no more mad than usual, anyway. Happy traveling, Angelenos and visitors alike.