Southern California, often abbreviated as SoCal, is a megaregion or megapolitan area in the southern portion of the U.S. state of California. Large urban areas include the Greater Los Angeles, and Greater San Diego. The region stretches along the coast from about Santa Barbara to the United States and Mexico border, and from the Pacific Ocean inland to the Nevada and Arizona borders. The heavily built-up urban area stretches along the coast from Ventura, through the Greater Los Angeles Area, the Inland Empire and down to San Diego. Southern California is a major economic center for the state of California and the United States.
Southern California's population encompasses eight metropolitan areas, or MSAs: the Los Angeles metropolitan area, consisting of Los Angeles and Orange counties; the Inland Empire, consisting of Riverside and San Bernardino counties; the San Diego metropolitan area; the Bakersfield metropolitan area; the Oxnard–Thousand Oaks–Ventura metropolitan area; the Santa Barbara metro area; the San Luis Obispo metropolitan area; and the El Centro area. Out of these, three are heavy populated areas: the Los Angeles area with over 12 million inhabitants, the Riverside-San Bernardino area with over 4 million inhabitants, and the San Diego area with over 3 million inhabitants. For CSA metropolitan purposes, the five counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura are all combined to make up the Greater Los Angeles Area with over 17.5 million people. With over 22 million people, southern California contains roughly 60% of California's population.
Covering an area of 163,696 sq mi (423,970 km2), California is geographically diverse. The Sierra Nevada, the fertile farmlands of the Central Valley, and the arid Mojave Desert of the south are some of the major geographic features of this U.S. state. It is home to some of the world's most exceptional trees: the tallest (coast redwood), most massive (Giant Sequoia), and oldest (bristlecone pine). It is also home to both the highest (Mt. Whitney) and lowest (Death Valley) points in the 48 contiguous states.
The state is generally divided into Northern and Southern California, although the boundary between the two is not well defined. San Francisco is decidedly a Northern California city and Los Angeles likewise a Southern California one, but areas in between do not often share their confidence in geographic identity. The US Geological Survey defines the geographic center of the state at a point near North Fork, California.
California's transportation system is complex and dynamic. Although known for its car culture and extensive network of freeways and roads, the state also has a vast array of rail, sea, and air transport. Several subway, light rail, and commuter rail networks are found in many of the state's largest population centers. In addition, with the state's location on the West Coast of the United States, several important ports in California handle freight shipments from the Pacific Rim and beyond. A number of airports are also spread out across the state, ranging from small general aviation airports to large international hubs like Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.
However, in a state with over 37 million people, rapid population expansion, and diverse terrain and weather, that system is under pressure to stay ahead of population growth and transportation needs.
The Inland Empire (I.E.), is a metropolitan area and region of Southern California. It is situated directly east of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The term "Inland Empire" is most commonly used in reference to the U.S. Census Bureau federally defined Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area, which covers more than 27,000 square miles (70,000 km2). The metropolitan area consists of Riverside County and San Bernardino County.
Riverside County is one of 58 counties in the U.S. state of California. The name was taken from the city of Riverside, which is the county seat. Rectangle-shaped, Riverside County covers 7,208 square miles (18,670 km2) in Southern California. Riverside County lies inland of Los Angeles County and is bordered on the west by Orange County; on the east by La Paz County, Arizona; on the southwest by San Diego County; on the southeast by Imperial County; and on the north by San Bernardino County. Together, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties have been dubbed the Inland Empire.
The population of Riverside County was 2,189,641 in 2010. It is the fourth-most populous county in California and among the fastest-growing areas of the United States in the past fifty years (since 1960). There is a high concentration of sprawling house tract communities around Riverside and along the Interstate 10, 15, and 215 freeways.
San Bernardino County, officially the County of San Bernardino, is a county located in the southern portion of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population was 2,035,210, up from 1,709,434 in the 2000 census. With an area of 20,105 square miles, San Bernardino County is the largest county in the United States by area. It is larger than each of the nine smallest states, larger than the four smallest states combined, and larger than 71 different sovereign nations.
Located in southeast California, the thinly populated deserts and mountains of this vast county stretch from where the bulk of the county population resides in two Census County Divisions, some 1,422,745 people as of the 2010 Census, covering the 450 square miles (1,166 km2) south of the San Bernardino Mountains in San Bernardino Valley, to the Nevada border and the Colorado River.
Many of the existing freeways in Southern California's Inland Empire were completed in the late 1970s. Basically the only exception is the segment of the Foothill Freeway, State Route 210 (SR 210) between San Dimas and San Bernardino recently completed in July, 2007. In general, most of the higher paying jobs are located in Los Angeles and Orange County. Thus, workers must commute daily up to two hours (each direction) on the existing network. As the population increases, traffic congestion is most certainly going to increase as well. Forbes Magazine recently ranked the area first in its list of America's most unhealthy commutes, beating out every other major metropolitan area in the country, as Inland area drivers breathe the unhealthiest air and have the highest rate of fatal auto accidents per capita.
The Inland Empire is crossed by two interstates as well as several major state highways. Although the major building for them was finished years ago (with exception of recent completion of SR 210 from Fontana to San Bernardino), growth in the region has strained the freeways system. As a result, several major projects have recently been completed or are underway on freeways throughout the region. Examples include the 60/215/91 interchange and widening of I-10 through Redlands as well as the currently ongoing widening of I-215 through downtown San Bernardino into the city's University District.
The Inland Empire–Orange County (IEOC) Line is a commuter rail line run by Metrolink in Southern California. It runs from San Bernardino through Orange County to Oceanside in northern San Diego County.
The IEOC Line, Metrolink's sixth line to be introduced, opened in October 1995. As of July 2008, 8 trains in each direction serve the stations between Anaheim Canyon and Riverside on weekdays.
The San Bernardino Sun is a newspaper in San Bernardino County, along with a heavy penetration into neighboring Riverside County. The SB Sun serves most of the Inland Empire in Southern California. The geographic circulation area of the newspaper spans from the border of Los Angeles/Orange Counties to the west, east to the Arizona State line, north to the Imperial County line, and south to the Riverside City line. The SB Sun's local competitors are The Press-Enterprise in Riverside and the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario.
The San Bernardino Sun began press in 1894. Times Mirror, the owner of the Los Angeles Times, bought the paper in 1964, but was ordered to sell it due to antitrust concerns. Gannett purchased the paper in 1968. MediaNews Group took control of the paper from Gannett in 1999.
Northern California is the northern portion of the U.S. state of California. The San Francisco Bay Area (which includes the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose), and Sacramento (the state capital) as well as its metropolitan area are the main population centers. It also contains redwood forests, along with the Sierra Nevada including Yosemite Valley and part of Lake Tahoe, Mount Shasta (the second-highest peak in the Cascade Range after Mount Rainier in Washington), and the northern half of the Central Valley, one of the world's most productive agricultural regions.
The area also contains one of the 11 megaregions of the United States, spanning from the San Francisco Bay Area east to the Lake Tahoe-Reno area, and from Metropolitan Fresno north to Greater Sacramento.