Parking in downtown Santa Monica the day of the Los Angeles Marathon, March 17, will be like parking at Disneyland, an arena concert or big sporting event, says transportation engineer Andrew Maximous.
"We really wanna get away from this free-for-all approach that we had before," he said.
It's the third year of the running of the 26.2-mile "stadium to the sea" course, which ends a few blocks north of the Santa Monica Pier, and in the past, the only street closures were those on the race course: Ocean Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard. Drivers parked in the first garages they spotted or in those they were most familiar.
That won't be option this year.
With between 30,000 and 40,000 runners and spectators expected to swarm the city, traffic and parking will be heavily coordinated. City officials and Santa Monica Police will treat downtown like one big event space. Drivers will be told exactly where to park.
Signs and traffic officers will direct the first to arrive to the most distant garages. Drivers exiting the 10 freeway will be led to Second Street, and if the garages there are full, directed to Fourth Street. Then, they will be directed back to the freeway via Lincoln and Cloverfield boulevards.
"Once you get into the event space, you're either going to park or leave the event area," said traffic engineer Sam Morrissey.
Parking officers will also direct pedestrians walking in front of the structures.
"Believe it or not," Morrissey said, on the typical Saturday afternoon, about 1,000 people walk by the Fourth Street garages every hours.
The parking maze will be in effect starting 6 a.m. March 17.
Morrissey advised locals who want to come downtown to ride their bikes. There will be free bike valets at Second and Colorado and Washington and Ocean Avenue.
If you do drive, "just know that you're going to be directed to a garage, and parking rates will be different," he said.
Transportation Engineer Maximous said with the exception of the race course, no one section of downtown will be completely blocked off
"You will be able to get where you need to go, it will just take a couple more turns," he said.