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A Rail Trip Like a Day at the Beach

The summer Beach Train resumes, from the Inland Empire to O.C. and Oceanside.

June 25, 2004|Matthew Lopas | Times Staff Writer

Martha Clausen's idea of a trip to the beach includes an umbrella, a cooler, a book -- and no driving.

The 79-year-old Riverside retiree is a frequent user of the Beach Train, a special summertime rail service that starts its season Saturday and has taken Inland Empire residents to San Clemente and Oceanside for the past eight years.

Although she wishes the trains were as punctual as those in Germany where she grew up, Clausen said the train gives her and her friends a chance to escape the heat and smog of Riverside and enjoy what she considers one of the best attractions in Southern California.

"That's really what California's all about," she said.

For most Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 2, the Riverside County Transportation Commission and Orange County Transportation Authority charter a Metrolink train that begins its round trip from Rialto to Oceanside at 7:35 a.m. and begins the return trip at 4:30 p.m.

For beach destinations, passengers can choose San Juan Capistrano, two stops in San Clemente or one in Oceanside. Each trip is built around an event on the beach or includes a drawing for prizes during the ride, including tickets to Anaheim Angels games.

The transit agencies break even on the service, said John Standiford, a spokesman for the RCTC. Fare for one round trip is $16 for adults and $11 for children, ages 2 to 15. Season passes are $150 for adults and $100 for children.

The rates are half price for passengers originating from four Orange County stations added to Beach Train service this year: Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Orange and Santa Ana.

In sequence from Rialto, the Beach Train stops are San Bernardino, Riverside, La Sierra, North Corona, West Corona, Orange, Santa Ana, Irvine, Laguna Niguel, San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente (two stops) and Oceanside.

Small ice chests, small boogie boards and folding chairs are allowed on board, but surfboards, bicycles and alcohol are prohibited. Shirts and shoes must be worn.

The service was started as a way to make people reconsider train commuting by letting them do it in a different setting, said Susan Cornelisson, who was the rail manager at RCTC when the program began.

"We thought, 'What better way to reintroduce people to the system?' " said Cornelisson, who is now retired.

She said studies by the RCTC showed an increase in regular commuter train ridership after Beach Train service started, and she is among those who take advantage of the summertime service. This year she will take her 1-year-old granddaughter on her first train ride.

Many riders say the Beach Train's appeal is the liberation from driving -- especially on the Riverside Freeway -- as well as saving the hassle of hunting and paying for parking.

Alan Curl, 49, of Riverside, a self-described beachgoer all his life, said driving to the beach isn't as convenient as it was in his college years, so he and his wife have been frequent Beach Train riders from the beginning:

"It's a lot more relaxing just to get on the Beach Train and let someone else do the driving."

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