DEL MAR — Officials at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and North County Transit District do a lot to encourage people to take public transportation rather than their cars to the annual San Diego County Fair, offering admission discounts and promise of convenience.
But given that Californians generally prefer automobiles to trains, shuttles and buses, did those marketing efforts actually have an impact, especially this year when the state-owned venue lost 1,250 parking spaces with the south overflow lot being converted back to wetlands?
Early statistics from the 2014 fair show a nearly 12 percent increase over last year in the number of patrons and employees who were transported by shuttle to the event from offsite lots and the Solana Beach train station.
According to a preliminary report, around 269,600 fairgoers — or about 18.5 percent of the estimated 1,457,130 attendees — came by train or used one of the four offsite lots.
The greatest number of fairgoers — 183,527 – took the shuttle from Del Mar Horse Park. Another 51,379 parked at Torrey Pines High School, while about 23,150 shuttled over from MiraCosta College.
Canyon Crest Academy was used for overflow, but only about 925 people used that lot because turnover was high at Torrey Pines, which is just a few miles away.
More than 10,600 people took the train to Solana Beach — 43 percent more than in 2013.
Fair officials, using 3.5 passengers per car, estimate the fairgrounds reduced the impact of about 77,000 cars on surface streets this year.