DEL MAR— In an effort to decrease traffic, increase visitors to Del Mar and Solana Beach and improve the relationship with those adjacent cities, officials at the Del Mar Fairgrounds introduced the San Diego County Fair Shopper Shuttle during a May 31 press conference.
The fair has had record-breaking attendance the past few years, attracting more than 1.4 million people in 2011. But officials in Del Mar and Solana Beach have for years been at odds with the fairgrounds, claiming the annual event may bring more people to the region, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to them spending time and money in the nearby cities.
In fact, city officials say the increased traffic, noise and strain on local services result in more negative impacts than positive.
Gov. Jerry Brown replaced the majority of the nine-member 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors last year. Since then the new group, which governs the fairgrounds, has been working to address some of those complaints.
Director David Watson called the shuttle “an important step toward a new and improved relationship” with the two cities.
“This is the first of what I hope will be many, many steps forward to tackle the problems,” Watson said.
“We’re looking forward to it as a community,” Del Mar Councilman Terry Sinnott said. “This will provide a wonderful opportunity to come into our village and enjoy the atmosphere.
“We’re working together on common (issues) that will benefit the region,” he said.
Two 24-seat shuttles — one for each city — will depart from the fairgrounds daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour. Rides are free with fair admission. A hand stamp will be required.
The Del Mar bus will exit from the gate next to the fire station and go south on Jimmy Durante Boulevard. It will make the first of its three stops on Camino del Mar at 15th Street, then continue westbound on 15th Street, making its second stop in front of the old train station.
The shuttle will continue north on Coast Boulevard to Camino del Mar, making its final stop in front of the Brigantine Restaurant at the corner of Via de la Valle before returning to the fairgrounds.
The Solana Beach bus will exit onto Via de la Valle, heading west to northbound Cedros Avenue and making its first stop at Rosa Street. The shuttle will continue along Cedros to its second stop at the train station, where it will turn around and then head south on Coast Highway 101.
The third stop will be in front of Waters Restaurant, just south of Lomas Santa Fe Drive. The shuttle will also drop off and pick up passengers just down the highway in front of the Beach Walk Shopping Center before returning to the fairgrounds.
Midday on a Thursday before the fair began it took about two to three minutes to get from one stop to the next in both cities.
Knowing the bus will leave the fairgrounds every 30 minutes — and depending where they plan to get back on – riders will have to estimate when to get to the stops, which will have signage, to catch the return shuttle.
In some cases that could mean a 15- or 20-minute wait, but fairgrounds officials said the driver should be able to provide a fairly accurate pick-up time. They also said times can be adjusted as necessary.
“This is a great new fair attraction (that will allow fairgoers to visit) the cities of Del Mar and Solana Beach for shopping, dining and exploring,” fairgrounds General Manager Tim Fennell said. “They can take a break while they’re at the fair and enjoy the sights, tastes and sounds of these beautiful cities.”
A similar shuttle service will be available during the horse race meet that begins in July.
To encourage the use of public transportation to get to the fair, North County Transit District is offering a weekend combination ticket on the Coaster on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and July 4.
The cost is $15 for a round-trip Coaster ticket and adult fair admission. The ticket is also valid for Breeze buses and the Sprinter, making connections to the Coaster part of the deal.
Fair guests of any age can use the Weekend Fair Tripper but the savings will be greatest for those aged 13 to 61.
Fairgoers who use public transportation and present a same-day transit ticket or monthly pass at the West Gate ticket window will receive $3.50 off admission daily.
Coaster trains stop at the Solana Beach station. Breeze bus Route 101 stops across from the station. NCTD shuttles run between the station and the West Gate every 20 minutes. The shuttle is included with Coaster or Breeze tickets.
From Escondido, NCTD will operate a special route directly to the fair from the Escondido Transit Center from 8:45 a.m. to 11:15 p.m.
On July 4, Coaster trains will run a holiday/Sunday schedule. Fairgoers who arrive on the Coaster and want to stay for fireworks can get back to their cars by taking NCTD buses from the fairgrounds to any Coaster station. Buses leave the fairgrounds 30 minutes after the end of the fireworks.
This year’s fair, with the theme “Out of This World,” runs June 8 through July 4.