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Commuting from Orange County to San Diego
August 9, 2010 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Commuting to San Diego from Orange Country: Any insights?

I'm thinking of working in San Diego (near Solana Beach) and living in Orange County (Irvine or further south). I'm unfamiliar with what rush hour traffic between the two would be like, and how long it would take. Does it make much of a difference if I live further south in Orange County (e.g., Laguna Niguel versus Irvine)? Or if I go at non-standard hours (either earlier or later)?

I was also thinking of possibly taking Amtrak between Orange County and Solana Beach. Anyone with experience with that route?

Finally, if this is going to be a nightmare, how livable is the area around Solana Beach (although I'd really prefer to live in Orange County)?

Any advice welcome. Thanks.
posted by EatenByAGrue to Travel & Transportation around California (15 answers total)
 
It is going to be a nightmare, yes.

The farther south in OC you live, the better the commute will be, and it will make a big difference. Laguna Niguel as opposed to Irvine would shave at least 10-15 minutes off the commute.

The area around Solana Beach is very livable. If you're dead set on living in OC, I would recommend getting as far south in OC as possible - San Clemente, Dana Point, or San Juan Capistrano would be my picks.

But I like Carlsbad and other coastal San Diego County areas a lot more than South OC.

For whatever it's worth, I commuted from San Diego to Irvine for a while and it was soul-suckingly bad. And I lived in the Laguna Niguel area for a while and was way underwhelmed.
posted by The World Famous at 2:51 PM on August 9, 2010


Thanks, The World Famous. Can you tell me your average travel time?
posted by EatenByAGrue at 2:53 PM on August 9, 2010


Also, my main criteria by livable (besides it being nice generally) is affordable housing, at least by California standards.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 2:54 PM on August 9, 2010


As a general rule of thumb, San Diego County is going to be cheaper than Orange County. My average travel time from San Diego to Irvine was an hour and a half each way. But I was coming from almost downtown San Diego. So take 20 minutes off that if you're going from Irvine to Solana Beach and back. Of course, it depends on what part of Irvine, too, since one side of Irvine can add easily an extra 15 minutes as opposed to the other side of Irvine.

Encinitas, which is right by Solana Beach, is as nice as anything in Orange County and more affordable.
posted by The World Famous at 3:01 PM on August 9, 2010


Listen to The World Famous. You're describing a horrific commute scenario ... just getting into and out of O.C. every day. San Diego is a beast all of its own, too.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:09 PM on August 9, 2010


Yup, you should be looking at Escondido. It'll be cheaper than coastal North County and much, much shorter. You could commute on surface streets!
posted by mdonley at 3:26 PM on August 9, 2010


Having travelled between Orange County (Fullerton) and San Diego just for kicks a few times, it seemed to take forever. The most enjoyable way to do it is on the Surfliner, since you don't have to worry about traffic.

I wouldn't want to have to commute that kind of distance though.
posted by djgh at 3:31 PM on August 9, 2010


Just to clarify, I'm well aware that the travel time between South Orange County and North San Diego is over an hour with no traffic. I guess I should have been more clear with my question--I wanted to know if there is significant traffic between the two points to make the commute even slower and more frustrating. I don't mind driving at regular highway speeds for a hour or so; what I mind is if I have to sit in traffic for that period of time or longer.

But thanks for the advice so far.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 3:37 PM on August 9, 2010


63+ miles in traffic? Gives me road rage just thinking about it. I would rather sleep in my car outside of work. Much as I love my Orange County, San Diego County living would be the way to go here as it's equally nice areas. Encinitas, Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos - all would be better choices than Irvine.
posted by cecic at 3:41 PM on August 9, 2010


Yes, this is a horrifying idea. However, I'll speak to the specifics of your question. During rush hour traffic, you're going to be in hell, regardless of where in Orange County you start from, but it should be better if you start as far south as you possibly can; a lot of the worst of the traffic will be between Irvine and central Orange County (Anaheim, Santa Ana, Fullerton). If you work nonstandard hours, that could help, but they'd have to be pretty nonstandard; I'd say to avoid the worst of it, you'd want to leave at 10:00 in the morning (or 4:00 in the morning) and return either before 3:00 pm or after 7:00 pm.

As far as how livable Solana Beach is, it's one of my favorite places in California. All of San Diego is really nice, but Solana Beach and Encinitas are extra nice; Del Mar is, too, but it's a bit more upscale and not as laid back. I really don't know why you'd want to live in Orange County if you have the opportunity to live and work in the Solana Beach area, and I'm speaking as someone who has a job and recently purchased a home in Orange County.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:54 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wanted to know if there is significant traffic between the two points to make the commute even slower and more frustrating.

Yes. Going south on the 5 in the morning, it is often a parking lot from Carlsbad to La Jolla, and can easily add an extra hour to your commute.

Going back north in the evening, there is sometimes a back-up at San Clemente.
posted by The World Famous at 4:01 PM on August 9, 2010


It took me 2 hours in pretty much constant traffic to do that drive this past Saturday afternoon.

Saturday.

Afternoon.

I don't even want to think about what that would be like on Monday morning.
posted by platinum at 4:18 PM on August 9, 2010


It's actually worse on the weekends than it is during the week. Which is to say that on Saturday it's burning hell, while on Monday it's just hell.
posted by The World Famous at 4:42 PM on August 9, 2010


Oh OC to SD commute, I know thee well!

I've been doing the back and forth drive frequently for 10 years. I can't really speak for a true "commute" drive though, as I probably rarely made the trip during the times when most people are going to and from work. And I was doing more every-other-weekend sorts of drives, not daily ones.

I'd recommend looking for living situations in the Northern SD area (I liked Carlsbad a lot...lived there for a while, definitely not more costly than OC. Didn't care too much for San Marcos or Vista. Encinitas seemed nice. La Costa area is also nice)

But if you're going to do the commute thing, here's some of my personal observations...

It might be a given, I dunno, but if you can afford it and are living in a more northern part of Irvine, go for the Fasttrak and take the 73 freeway for the first part of the journey. It will cut back on some of the nasty 5 south OC traffic (not all of it, but some...). Toll, of course, can get pricey day-in day-out....but you won't ever be in traffic for that part of the journey, unless they close the 73 or something.

Once the 73 meets up with the 5, I'd plan on heavy traffic until you get to the Camp Pendelton area. I rarely saw traffic through that area and it was usually a nice break in the continuous slow speed of traffic through south OC.

Because once you get to Oceanside, you're screwed. In recent years it's seemed to be worse for me, but I swear every time I get to Oceanside going south there's traffic. Doesn't matter what time of the day. Sometimes it lightens up after the 78, sometimes after Palomar Airport Road, and sometimes it's just a straight slog all the way to downtown.

Going north back to OC always got easier after 7. If you were to get off work at 5, I'd recommend you plan on dinner/library/something in SD and wait until after 7, just for the sanity of missing as much northbound traffic as possible.

A little "going north on the 5 from SD" trick I've learned.....if you run into border traffic at the checkpoint in Camp Pendelton, get over into the right most lane....yes, behind all the big trucks. They'll eventually filter out into their own truck lane and you usually get to zip ahead a bit of all the other cars in the left hand lanes after that happens.
posted by Squee at 6:13 PM on August 9, 2010


>I was also thinking of possibly taking Amtrak between Orange County and Solana Beach. Anyone with experience with that route?

I've taken Amtrak from Santa Ana to San Diego and back a few times. It is nice sailing past the slow traffic on the 5. For peace of mind, I'd think that would be the most ideal. The trains are nice, quiet and although they don't have Wifi, they do have an AC adapter at your seat to keep you notebook charged.

However, it has its own traffic. One time we had to wait on a siding somewhere (maybe Oceanside or somewhere, I wasn't paying that much attention) because they were working on the tracks and had one set closed so the Coaster, Metrolink, the southbound Amtrak, freight trains before we could go north again (this was on a Saturday, I'd imagine, if possible they try and limit the amount of times that can happen). It was only about 15 minutes though.

Another option might be taking Metrolink to Oceanside and then hopping on a Coaster down to Solana Beach. You'd have to change trains, but it might give you more options than just looking at the Amtrak schedule.
posted by birdherder at 6:14 PM on August 9, 2010


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