Customers calling in for their pizza deliveries from the Domino's in Westwood typically live within a mile or two of the parlor.
But these days, Domino's drivers say they often endure wicked traffic from the moment they leave the store, turning what once was a quick delivery into a 30-minute, and sometimes a 45-minute, ordeal.
"They usually want to carry two to three more orders because it takes so long," said Domino's manager Arnulfo Fernandez, adding that the eatery won't let them for fear of robberies.
"So they suffer with the tip money they're losing," he said.
Westside traffic has always been bad, but Fernandez, 18, is convinced that "it has gotten worse."
Though communities around Southern California struggle with traffic problems, transportation experts and government officials agree that there is nowhere quite like the Westside, where rapid development and a boom in entertainment-related jobs have brought congestion on streets and freeways to new levels.
"Most people in Westwood cope by running errands in the morning," said Laura Lake, a longtime community activist and slow-growth advocate. "In the afternoon, it will take twice as long."
Population on the Westside has jumped 23% since 1990 (compared with a 6% increase for Los Angeles as a whole).
But experts say the biggest culprit in rush-hour traffic snags is a boom in Westside commercial development that has lured and created jobs.
Job growth has transformed the area into the region's premiere commercial hub, second only to downtown Los Angeles in the number of jobs. Each day, workers pour into office buildings lining busy corridors such as Wilshire Boulevard, the burgeoning towers of Century City and the rows of Santa Monica office parks that have become a mecca for media companies such as Yahoo! and MTV.
One problem: Primarily because housing is so expensive, only about 30% of these workers actually live on the Westside, according to a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority study. That leaves more than 300,000 people a day commuting to the area.
So many workers drive to Santa Monica from other parts of the region that the city's population nearly doubles during the day, to 150,000 from 87,000 at night. Beverly Hills' population more than triples, said David Mieger, director of Westside planning for the MTA.
After the early-1990s recession, communities sought out new industries and employers to boost their local economies.
"It's a case of be careful what you wish for," said Hasan Ikhrata, the transportation expert at the Southern California Assn. of Governments. "With jobs and population comes more traffic and more air-quality problems."
And further growth is coming. The MTA projects that the Westside's population will jump by an additional 15% and jobs by 23% in the next 15 years.
The Westside building boom is the biggest since the 1980s, with high-rise condos slated for Century City and Beverly Hills and clusters of development planned for Marina del Rey and Playa Vista.
The federal government has even talked of building a nearly 1-million-square-foot FBI headquarters at the Federal Building site on Wilshire and developing some of the open land on the nearby Westwood Veterans Affairs campus.
Already, the Westside's job growth has turned some long-standing commuting patterns on their heads.
Take the Santa Monica Freeway. For decades, the challenge during the morning rush period was getting to downtown Los Angeles from the Westside. Now, the far tougher commute goes in the opposite direction as workers struggle each morning to go west from points east, where housing is more plentiful and affordable.
According to the association of governments, an average of 227,026 vehicles drove past the Bundy exit of the Santa Monica Freeway each day in 2005, an increase of about 14,000 cars in just five years.
Samantha Culbert was one of those east-to-west commuters.
After she got married and moved to Mt. Washington from Santa Monica, the stress of commuting to her Westwood job quickly got to her.
Going from a 20-minute drive to a 90-minute schlep "took a real toll on me both mentally and physically," Culbert said. "The traffic was bumper to bumper on the 10. If I took side streets -- going through Beverly Hills or so forth -- it was just as bad as the freeway. Olympic was congested, Beverly Boulevard, 3rd Street, Santa Monica, Wilshire."
While spending three hours a day commuting, Culbert gained weight and became lethargic and "grouchy." To save time, she did her grocery shopping on her lunch hour, stashing perishables in a cooler that she kept in her car.
She finally quit her job and now is director of public affairs for Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center in Los Feliz, happily commuting 20 minutes each way once again.
The Santa Monica Freeway is far from the only problem.
Traffic on the San Diego Freeway has increased even more: to 268,126 vehicles per day at the Culver Boulevard exit in 2005, up from 246,273 per day in 2000.