Northbound: The Coaster Life

How do you get around North County?

For most of us, car ownership is required for daily work commutes, running errands, and enjoying life in our part of the region. Still, I would ask, is car ownership a way of life for you?

There’s a strange car culture here in San Diego. I joke on social media about how often I see San Diegans, sitting in parked cars. Eating food. Doing daily tasks.

Or just staring out their windshield at passersby. I know I’m not the only one who’s observed this. It’s a bizarre social phenomenon that I’ve only found here.

Back to car ownership. I’ve never been a big car guy. After buying the car of my dreams six years ago, I have been getting far less enjoyment out of it.

I just find it tedious to drive everywhere, deal with traffic, and pay more in routine maintenance as the car ages.

After I moved to Carlsbad, I got in the habit of driving to my office in Torrey Pines, but Interstate 5 is such a crap shoot at rush hour. Slowly, I began to take the Coaster to work, as an escape from the traffic.

At first it was once a week. Now, I take it every day.

It was an adjustment to take the train; I’m dependent on its schedule to get around.

But over time, I have found that dependence to be liberating.

I now read and listen to podcasts on my way to work. I take photos of the ocean from my seat on the Coaster, and post them on social media.

The Coaster trains are quiet, clean, courteous, and filled mostly with working professionals like myself. I’m more relaxed.

Gone are the days of driving downtown to see friends, and scrambling to find a parking spot (and dealing with the inevitable parking tickets) — I just take the Coaster down to the Santa Fe Train Depot.

As a craft beer enthusiast, I inevitably have a couple beers when I’m there.  If you enjoy beer too, taking the Coaster back to North County is the safe and responsible way to go.

Also, when I want to skip out early from a downtown event or social function, I can just blame the train schedule and leave without giving any other excuse.

The last northbound train from downtown leaves at 9 p.m., however the North County Transit District (NCTD) often schedules special late trains to allow for North County residents to attend music concerts or sporting events downtown, including Padres games. Last spring through fall, there were late night northbound Friday and Saturday trains scheduled weekly. I’m hoping it’s the same this year too.

Before your next big trip or night out, consider taking public transit to get to your destination. It’s fun, good for the environment, and your peace of mind. Google Maps has an option that estimates the cost, time and schedule of using public transit between points. For more information on the Coaster and NCTD, visit gonctd.com.

Vince Vasquez is a think tank analyst based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.

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