Chances are if you think it is a perfect day to go to the beach, so does everyone else. This Valentines I went out with Meghan for some cycling along the coast from Santa Monica and Malibu and back. As is typical when the weather is perfect after a long spell of cold and gloomy, everyone dumps into the beaches, and the holidays made for extra kindling on the fire. Crossing the 10 freeway bridge at 11th I could see bumper to bumper traffic coming west as far as the eye could see. By early evening on our return, the same level of bumper to bumper traffic was still visible coming West, but then there was even more traffic moving East leaving the beach at the end of the day. All of Santa Monica West of Lincoln, and especially Lincoln Blvd. it self were choked with traffic. Save your self a headache and avoid the mess.
Here are a few ways to avoid wanting to punch your self repeatedly in the face and slam your dashboard. Yes the West Side is lacking train transportation, something on it's way to being fixed, but there a number of bus lines that make there way over here too. Yes taking the bus can be slow at times, mainly because our lack of bus lanes and over abundance of cars choking the streets, but while the bus may be slow, it costs next to nothing and frees you from having to deal with the rat race. You can chill out and read a book or just zone out and stare out the window and watch all the suckers honking at each other. Once you get to the beach, there is no spending 20 minutes prowling for a coveted parking space while fighting off other honking competitors, so maybe it's not as slow as you think.
If you're within a 5-10 mile radius of the beach, consider riding a bike. Opt for smaller local streets and you can avoid the chaos of most of the beach going drivers. When traffic gets backed up for blocks, and drivers faces look exasperated and hopeless, you can keep rolling, which is an incredibly liberating feeling. A bike is also a great way to enjoy a day at the beach once you get there, along our beautiful beach bike path. Just don't get in a hurry because joggers and folks with strollers means it's slow going.
If you're really far out of the way, and you just can't fathom the string of transit connections it would take to get here, feeling that a car is the only way, than perhaps consider driving part way and mixing transit. If you drive and park close to a direct transit stop or find someplace close enough to bike the rest of the way, you can save your self the worst of the headaches. Getting into the Santa Monica beaches on popular days, the traffic is sort of on an exponential curve, it gets multiple times worse the closer you get, with the absolute worst traffic just a few blocks away once you get past Lincoln Blvd. On peak days, getting a few blocks from Lincoln. Blvd to an open beach side parking spot will take you nearly as long as driving from Downtown LA to Santa Monica.
Also consider that even at times when traffic is not as bad coming in West during a nice beach day, it will almost assuredly be terrible on the trip home. While people trickle into the beaches all day long, nearly everyone leaves at the same time, when the sun is setting. So if you really want to go to the beach and have a relaxing day from beginning to end, driving is almost out of the question. That is unless you're at the beach when it is cold and foggy, which seems to have an amazingly calming effect on West Side traffic.
As a local, I find it simultaneously depressing and rather comical how people get in a furious rage to try and hurry up and go relax. If a gap opens in traffic, people will screech the tires to move up even if stopping suddenly again is a forgone conclusion. I live close enough to the 10 freeway, I can hear it's faint rumble from our balcony, and all afternoon I could hear a cacophony of horn honking, not that it will do anything when traffic is not moving. If you are going to drive, for your own safety and sanity, and the safety and sanity of others, chill out. It's a day at the beach, not your morning commute, no one is going to scold you if you don't pitch your towel on time.
Some Handy Links:
- Santa Monica Bike Map (Insider Tip: Ignore the fact that Lincoln Blvd. is listed as a bike route, it is the one of the worst streets to ride as a cyclist in Los Angeles County)
- Metro (Official Website of L.A. public transportation)
- Big Blue Bus (Official Website of Santa Monica public transit. They are a bit behind the times, and data not yet on Google Transit. However if you use the Metro Trip planner, both Metro and BBB buses are used to calculate routes)