'Beach Bus' set to close for the season

As August draws to a close, so does another season of the Summer Beach Bus service that is offered in the Foothills each year by the city of La Cañada Flintridge and Los Angeles County.

The drive, traffic congestion and high price of gasoline can keep a day at Santa Monica Beach from being, well, a day at the beach. But with a round-trip ticket on the Summer Beach Bus costing $3 (just $1.50 for seniors age 60 and up, and disabled patrons), area residents have been taking advantage of the service since 1994.

The Beach Bus is operated by Transit Services and runs Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The bus kicked off its summer beach season June 21 and will continue to ferry beach-lovers to Santa Monica on its regular days through Sept. 3 and will make one specially-scheduled trip on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5.

Considering that parking at Santa Monica beach is $12 on the weekend and the average gallon of gasoline costs more than $3.50, the Beach Bus ticket is an exceptional value. The only drawback to using the bus is the loss of flexibility; riders can’t choose to venture out to some of the less crowded beaches such as Malibu, or leave Santa Monica before the scheduled return to the Foothills.

According to Carl Alameda, senior management analyst for the city, most of the shuttle’s cost is subsidized through Proposition A funds, from which La Cañada earmarks $15,000 toward the service. Although gasoline prices have fluctuated wildly over the last five years, the cost of a round-trip ticket has stayed at $3 because of the Prop A funding. Although Alameda will not know ridership numbers for this summer until the end of the year, he said that 2008 marked the first summer when it was necessary to schedule two buses for pick-ups because of the service’s popularity.

The affordability and convenience is one of the reasons Kee Chong and her friends Grace Anan and Vivian Lee boarded the bus at 9:15 a.m. on a recent Saturday for their get-together.

“The Beach Bus is a convenient service; you don’t have to drive to the beach, worry about parking or gas,” said Chong.

The bus Chong and her friends took was almost at capacity with 38 passengers, most of them older adults and a few groups of teenagers, who talked quietly and joked with one another. Some teens were already dressed in swim trunks; others packed books and umbrellas for the sunny day.

La Crescenta resident Lauren Gossett, 22, accompanied family friend Rachel Ward, 13, on the ride to Santa Monica. “The last time I was on the Beach Bus was 10 years ago,” Gossett said, “but Rachel wanted to go and visit the rides on the pier because Rachel hasn’t been on the pier for some time. We’ve got books and we’re going to sit on the beach and relax.”

A little more than an hour later, and the bus stopped at the Santa Monica pier, where beach-goers spent the next few hours enjoying Santa Monica Beach, the pier, downtown Santa Monica, and the local farmers’ market. Many passengers said they planned to check out the newly remodeled Santa Monica Place mall and stroll the boardwalk.

More details about the Summer Beach Bus can be found online at www.lacanadaflintridge.com.


Info Box:

Beach Bus Pick-up Times

Foothill Boulevard at La Cañada Boulevard: 9:15 a.m.

Two Strike Park in La Crescenta: 9:30 a.m.

La Crescenta Library: 9:40 a.m.

Montrose Avenue at Ocean View Boulevard: 9:50 a.m.

Arrive at Santa Monica Beach: 10:50 a.m.

Return Schedule:

Santa Monica Beach: 3:30 p.m.

Foothill Boulevard at La Cañada Boulevard: 4:30 p.m.

Two Strike Park: 4:40 p.m.

La Crescenta Library: 4:50 p.m.

Montrose Avenue at Ocean View Boulevard: 4:55 p.m.

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