Letter to the Editor: What Can We Do About This Morning Traffic on the Coast?

Half Moon Bay High School junior wants a solution to morning traffic on Highway 1.

[The following was submitted by El Granada resident Katarina Stein, a Half Moon Bay High School junior who wrote this piece for an English class assignment.]

Dear Editor,

School doesn’t begin at Half Moon Bay High until 7:55 a.m., but I have to leave my home in El Granada at precisely 7, and not a minute later. It may seem strange to leave an hour early, considering that Half Moon Bay and El Granada are only about a 10-minute drive from each other. However, the amount of traffic between the two towns is grueling.

Even after getting past the traffic of the commuters, getting up the hill to the high school is a whole different ordeal. Public transportation on the coast is incredibly lacking, and something needs to be done unless our community enjoys wasting mornings sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The roads are gridlocked in El Granada all the way around the intersection of the four feeder streets. Many people take Obispo Road, hoping to squeeze in ahead, even though there’s a stop sign. The people who have been waiting in line for ages to get on the highway are forced to let them in, and it’s extremely rude and irritating.

Road rage is guaranteed before you even turn onto Highway 1!

If you do happen to leave at the right time and bypass all the traffic, high schoolers run into more problems. What now? You’re at school 30 minutes early with nothing to do except wait outside in the freezing cold winds and wait for the library to open. (And now the school library does not allow food or drink, so if you were forced into leaving the house without breakfast due to traffic, you’re out of luck.) Obviously, this traffic sets everyone off for a bad start to the day, and impacts the quality of our lives.

What about public transportation? Why don’t more students take the bus? In my experience, riding the bus in the morning is stressful and unpleasant. The buses are always completely full by the time they arrive in El Granada, with no sitting room. Obnoxious middle-schoolers are yelling, throwing things and blocking the aisles.

After finally arriving at the bottom of the hill, the walk to the top begins. The wind blows extra strong along the muddy dirt path, and, by the time you’re at school, you’re cold, tired, frustrated — and the day hasn’t even begun.

Half Moon Bay and San Mateo County have both worked for years to obtain funding for the “parallel trail” (a bicycle trail parallel to Highway 1) so that commuters will use bicycles instead of cars. The idea seems great for students… at first. The high school doesn’t provide sufficient locker space or textbooks for students to keep books and/or materials at school and at home. That being said, we need to carry them back and forth each day. Riding a bike with a heavy bag or backpack to school every morning would be strenuous and unpleasant even without taking weather or extra sports gear into account. These factors do not inspire one to save the planet.

SamTrans is financially strapped and doesn’t have the resources to adequately provide for school transportation needs. Bicycling might take a few cars off the road, but for most students the option is not ideal. Why is the high school investing in solar panels in the parking lot when that money could have gone into investing in school buses that would reduce traffic, stress and allow students to get more sleep in the morning? Organizing carpool groups is another option, and not a bad one, considering it would be free for the school.

Another solution would be to engage the superintendent and school board to seek other cost-effective solutions. Staggering the start and end times of the elementary, middle and high schools would change the times parents leave the house and cut down on traffic. The school’s management of start and end times for the school day has the greatest impact on the traffic on Highway 1 and determines quality of life for all Coastsiders.

The problem is clear. Traffic affects all Coastsiders who have places to be in the morning. We live in a community that is especially aware of the negative effects of cars on our marine ecosystem. Shouldn’t it be an easy sell to get the entire community interested in creating alternative modes of transportation? I am sick and tired of wasting my mornings in traffic, and I’m sure everyone else on the coast is too. Let’s do something!

Laura December 27, 2013 at 03:21 PM
In regards to the section "If you do happen to leave at the right time and bypass all the traffic, high schoolers run into more problems. What now? You’re at school 30 minutes early with nothing to do except wait outside in the freezing cold winds and wait for the library to open." Sounds like you're driving to school (or a friend perhaps). When I was at the HS the traffic was still a problem, but getting there 30 mins early just meant sitting in your (or a friends) car and socializing/catching up until the bell rang. I never had time to eat breakfast before I left the house, but guess what? I ate it in my car before class started! I know this was an assignment for class (I had to do the same one back in the day) but this morning traffic is an issue no matter where you live, not just the coastside, so you might as well get used to it and use it to your advantage.
Dan Blick December 29, 2013 at 12:46 AM
Well said, Katarina. The Coastside is a near-perfect setup for public transportation, with about 80% of our population living within 1/4 mile (or so) of Highway 1. I've always thought that a private company, running shuttle buses up & down the coast, would do well -- but no one's done it yet. Whether the bus solution is private or public (CUSD or SamTrans), the key to making it happen is to raise money from ALL of the people on the Coastside who have an interest in reducing traffic. I don't remember the amount of funding it would take for CUSD to resume its school bus service, but I bet that half of the amount could be raised in a crowd-funding campaign (www.kickstarter.com or www.crowdfundingcentral.org), and another quarter could be raised in user fees (from families who use the service). The amount that CUSD would have to contribute should be small enough that they won't have to lay off another teacher. I'd be surprised if most of our over-the-hill commuters (geographically speaking) wouldn't be willing to part with $10-$20 per month, during the school year, to make every weekday commute like a non-school day, and save hours of commute time per month. If CUSD brings the buses back, with GPS tracking units, we'll gladly add school bus tracking to the iCoastside mobile app. BTW, for anyone who takes SamTrans, there's an excellent tool in iCoastside that tells you which stop is closest, how to get to it, and when the next buses are going to depart from that stop. Just click on "Transit Departures" to check it out.


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