Commuting With Kajon

KCRW host and reporter Kajon Cermak talks traffic—from timesaving tips to accurate apps.

Kajon, I’ve listened to you for years and always wondered: What are the roots of your cool name? 

That’s probably the #1 question I’m asked! My mother’s name is Kay, and my father’s name is John. I am a combination. My last name is originally Bohemian, which is now a part of Czechoslovakia.

What exactly does a traffic reporter do all day?

Ensconced in the KCRW studio, I’m accessing numerous sources of traffic information and comparing them to get the most accurate information. I use live reports received from CHP officers, along with GPS technology, Caltrans cameras, real-time map updates and other data sources. I then write and report the traffic four times per hour during NPR’s All Things Considered.     

What’s your own daily commute like each day?

From Thousand Oaks to Santa Monica early afternoon, Monday to Friday, my commute can run anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes, depending on conditions.

"Share the ride, carpool, and if at all possible, use public transportation. LA’s Metro continues to improve public transit.”

Favorite driving app once on the road?

Waze. It consistently has the most accurate drive times. I listen to live radio traffic reports and make the determination while I’m driving on the 101 when I reach Las Virgenes: either commit to the Valley and I-405 through the Sepulveda Pass or take Malibu Canyon and drive to PCH.

So does a gal like you ever get caught in traffic?

Since I don’t have any magic powers, yes, I too get caught in the unexpected sig alert.

What are your best tips for avoiding traffic in SoCal, aside from not driving in rush hour?

My #1 tip is to pack a snack and leave 15 minutes ahead of time.
#2: Share the ride, carpool, and if at all possible, use public transportation. LA’s Metro continues to improve public transit.
#3: Have an alternate route or plan B. Monitor traffic along the way to those key “forks in the road.”  I always check to see what my estimated time of arrival will be for my chosen routes. And, finally, get a FasTrak transponder. I project that most, if not all, HOV lanes will end up being toll lanes. By having one, you will at least have one more option.

What is the absolute worst traffic spot in the Valley?

On a consistent basis, I’d have to say the 405/101 exchange. The volumes of traffic that move through there are higher, and the likelihood of a sig alert, accident or stall is significantly higher, which would ultimately affect the other freeway as well. The 134/101 exchange is especially difficult for those drivers in the eastbound #1 and #2 lanes heading into Burbank in the morning, but those drivers heading into Hollywood can move along fairly well if they cut over to the 3, 4 or 5 lanes around Laurel Canyon and stay there until the 134/101 split.