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Trolley 1_credit City of Laguna Beach
Laguna’s iconic blue-and-gold trolleys offer many routes around town. | Photo by City of Laguna Beach

While parking can be troublesome in Laguna, especially downtown, transportation options abound to avoid the hassle.

By Molly O’Brien

 

There’s no shortage of safe, clean and easy-to-use public transportation services in Laguna Beach. From buses operated by the Orange County Transportation Authority to escorted senior transportation by a local nonprofit and even free city-run trolleys and an on-demand rideshare program make it easy to explore the town.

According to Michael Litschi, director of the city’s Transit and Community Services, Laguna’s transit service had a combined total of nearly 675,000 boardings on its trolley and on-demand services last year.

“The city prides itself on providing clean, convenient and environmentally friendly transportation options to both residents and visitors,” Litschi says.

Travelers and locals have direct access to all of the city’s beaches, the summer art festivals, attractions like Laguna Playhouse and myriad restaurants, hotels and shops—for free—without searching for a parking spot in the often-crowded downtown area.

“The city’s trolley and on-demand services make it much easier for residents and visitors to get around town in a convenient, stress-free manner while also helping to reduce traffic congestion and eliminating the need to hunt for limited parking spaces,” Litschi says.

 

Traveling by Trolley

Laguna Beach’s iconic blue-and-gold trolleys operate for free, year-round, with varying seasonal routes. They’re powered by alternative fuel (propane) and operate with windows down when the weather allows—so riders can feel the breeze while riding down the coast.

Litschi says the Coastal Route, which travels along Coast Highway from north Laguna down to The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, is a favorite amongst visitors and locals due to its scenic ocean views. This Long Coastal Route operates year-round with increased service on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays while the Short Coastal Route, which only goes as far south as Providence Mission Hospital Laguna Beach, operates only during summer and nonsummer weekends.

Trolley 2_credit City of Laguna Beach
The Laguna Beach trolley | Photo by City of Laguna Beach

The Canyon Route takes riders from the Lot 16/Act V parking lot in the canyon to downtown—and stops near the art festivals when they’re running. This route operates on weekends during most of the year and daily during the summer. Special trolley service is also added for the annual Sawdust Winter Fantasy, which will be Fridays through Sundays from Nov. 17 to Dec. 17 this year.

Hours of service change depending on whether it’s summer or the rest of the year, with more frequent trolley service on weekends year-round, operating later at night every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Based on the route, trolleys arrive at each stop approximately every 20 to 30 minutes. Simply scan the QR codes on signs at each trolley stop or download the free Laguna Beach Trolley app to access information on schedules or track the trolley routes.

The trolley also helps with student transportation, offering after-school service from Thurston Middle School to the downtown bus depot including a few stops along the way. And the weekday Coastal Route deviates from its course to stop at Laguna Beach High School during arrival and dismissal times.

 

Sharing the Ride

Beyond the trolley service routes, there’s also the Laguna Beach Local rideshare program, which doesn’t cost passengers a single penny either. The program launched in 2021 as an efficient and more environmentally friendly way to get around without parking worries.

Laguna Local On Demand_credit City of Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach Local is a free rideshare service launched in 2021. | Photo by City of Laguna Beach

Although they don’t offer door-to-door service like Uber or Lyft, the city’s hybrid-electric vans and minivans carry up to five passengers and cover more than 100 locations across the city. Download the TransLoc app, choose the “OnDemand” tab on the bottom and scroll to the “Laguna Beach Transit Public Ridesharing Service.” Click on that option to schedule a ride in advance or on the spot. Or skip the app and call transit dispatch at 949-497-0766 to request a ride over the phone. It’s usually just 15 to 30 minutes from request to pickup at one of the service’s designated points.

 

Senior Services

Older residents also need assistance reaching their destinations. The most recent census data reported 27% of Laguna Beach’s population is aged 65 and over. To serve this large number of elderly residents, local nonprofit Sally’s Fund—founded back in 1982—has been providing seniors with assisted and escorted transportation within a 30-mile radius of Laguna Beach. The organization offers a chance for seniors to remain independent in their homes, with nearly 500 residents now using the service.

“Transportation barriers restrict the overall life of anyone who doesn’t drive,” says Sally’s Fund Executive Director Rachael Berger. “We remove that barrier for them, and we feel that we’re improving that quality of life.”

Riders don’t have to be savvy with technology to use this service—simply call 949-499-4100 and book a ride in advance. The service doesn’t charge for rides, but accepts donations.

As an “escorted,” door-to-door service, the Sally’s Fund drivers remain with their passengers for the length of their trip. Drivers accompany seniors to destinations like the grocery store, medical appointments and the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Senior Center, plus occasional outings to cultural venues.

Driver Rick with client Helga at Trader Joe's_credit Barbara McMurray
Sally’s Fund gives seniors free rides to medical appointments, grocery stores and more. | Photo by Barbara McMurray

“We try to take the initiative to improve the overall quality of life for seniors,” Berger says. “We [feel] … that it’s important to maintain their emotional well-being through social connections. … I think that’s what makes them feel happier and healthier—when they’re physically active or part of a group.”

The drivers, who each have a background of personal experience caring for or working with seniors, oftentimes develop close relationships with their passengers. “Our clients have become Sally’s Fund family,” Berger says. “I think, really, their favorite place to go is anywhere they need to go with one of our drivers.”

No matter your age or whether you’re a visitor or local, there are plenty of transportation options to get around Laguna—and beyond, as the bus depot on Broadway Street allows riders to connect with OCTA buses that continue on to other cities and popular OC attractions.

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