Opinion: SamTrans sneaks bus route onto Montara neighborhood streets

Opinion

Posted by on Thu, July 5, 2007

Looking out our living room window this morning, I was greeted by a curious site. A bus stop sign in an orange bucket full of cement on the corner of the street.

Uh-oh, Montara N.I.M.B.Y. Alert (well actually, not in my front yard.)

SamTrans apparently placed signs overnight in Montara announcing it’s intent to extend it’s Bus Route 17 through the back streets of Montara beginning July 1.

Okay, so SamTrans has decided to turn Montara neighborhood streets into a full-time bus route without any neighborhood notification, or input.

I immediately called SamTrans looking for more information, they didn’t have any details. So I dug around on their website, and found information in the form of a hard to find route schedule and map PDF, buried deep in the site.

The intended route extension begins in Moss Beach at Etheldore St, travels along the back of Sunshine Valley Rd to Harte Street in Montara, then continues down the length 6th Street to Main Street, circling onto 7th Streets and Farallone Avenue, before returning back up Sixth Street towards Moss Beach.

The route is scheduled to operate hourly 7 days a week, 7am-8pm weekdays and 9am-8pm weekends. Highlights include 4 buses up and down 6th street 7am-8am every weekday.

So SamTrans has made up bus stop signs, printed up route maps, but they’re only just now getting around to letting residents know (via bucket), five days before daily, hourly service begins on their streets.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering why SamTrans would decide to run a bus route up the one-laned 6th Street through the back of Montara to Moss Beach, rather than along Highway 1 (as the rest of Route 17 runs.) And the other SamTrans bus routes use Highway 1 to Main Street in Montara. It would be less disruptive to quiet neighborhood streets, but who knows.

I don’t know yet. SamTrans hasn’t returned my phone call yet.

Concerned neighbors can contact Sam Trans at 800 660 4287, or contact Paul Lee directly at SamTrans at 650 508 6200.

Details of the Route 17 extension were hard to find on the SamsTrans website, but here is a link: http://www.samtrans.com/schedules.html#Coastside

Or here is a PDF of the Route 17 map and schedule.


Hi Mark,
We received a mailer (Boxholder in Montara) last week about this new service. It had two free tickets and read:
- - - - - - - -
Coastside residents:
The Coastside Transportation Committee want to welcome you aboard the new expanded SanTrans Route 17 service. We’re inviting you to try the service - for FREE! Route 17 now serves Montara, has Sunday service and has expanded hours of operation until 9pm. We’re so convinced that you’ll enjoy the service that we’re offering you two FREE tickets to try it.
Give yourself a break and let SamTrans drive you to work or shopping. For schedule information or trip-planning assistance, visit http://www.samtrans.com or call 1-800-660-4287 (Se Habla Espanol).
- - - - - - - - -
The postcard is from CUSD, City/County assoc of governements of san mateo county, city of hmb, coastside hope, county of san mateo, peninsula traffic congestion relief alliance, and samtrans.

My initial reaction was kind of positive: it’s good to have some new transportation options in Montara, especially now that school’s out for the summer. And lots of discussion can just open a can of discussion-worms….? it’s good to see some action taken about transportation here on the coast.

Why is having a bus route through Montara such a bad thing?  The route is taking the place of the school busing that disappeared about 5 years ago. (If you’ve lived here then you will remember that the school bus went up Sunshine Valley road and through the backwoods of Montara starting or ending at Farallone View.) If you have a child who goes to Cunha or the High School this new busing is a good thing.

Based on the amount of traffic going to the High School every morning during the school year, I hope that this added busing will help.  Of course teenagers want to drive, not take the bus, so it may not.  But sometimes it takes 20 minutes to get up that hill to the HS from the turn at Highway 1 and Main Street.

I have buses going by my house hourly on the weekends and every 1/2 plus because of the smaller shuttle.  I deal with it.  You need to accept it too.  It allows those without cars a way to access the world.  For example those who work at the Retirement home in Montara will now have an easier time of getting to work.

Also, check your mail.  Everyone was sent a postcard with the new bus route and two free ‘tickets.’  I put ours on the fridge for my son to use.

This is so awesome. Yes I saw a bus stop just outside my house and am so pleased. I feel very fortunate that they put one here. I had my car in the shop last week and it was such a pain to try an coordinate everything with our one bus. I ended up taking a cab to College of San Mateo and back. You can’t imagine how much that cost. Thanks Sam Trans, anything you can do to add more service on the coast is greatly appreciated.

John O’Hara
Montara

I guess I’m more of a “Please In My Backyard” person when it comes to this topic.

I’m thrilled to have a local bus route to supplement 294. When a stop went up just down the street from us, I couldn’t believe my luck. Then I come to find out that some of my neighbors complained, so I won’t be having a convenient stop nearby. I’m not pleased. I’m thinking of offering up my front yard to Sam Trans if they want to make it a stop.

To be fair, I didn’t get a postcard either. But I put the blame on the fact that I often don’t receive important pieces of mail, or get other people’s mail. There was no ill will on SamTrans’ part. The headline implies that they have some evil motive which made them skulk into Montara in the dead of night to place the bus stop signs in secret. They’re responding to a community need. In a day and age when most public transportation agencies are cutting services, residents in Montara should consider themselves lucky.

And frankly, the bigger problem on Sixth Street is the speeding cars and huge trucks (and jake brakes). A mini-bus going along on its route hardly makes a blip. I regularly walk my dog along Sunshine Valley Road, and I would hardly classify it as a quiet neighborhood street - more like the corkscrew at Laguna Seca.

With gas prices going up and up, I applaude SamTrans responding to an underserved community like Montara. I also think it’s more community minded to be aware of how a route like this represents a real asset to people who don’t have access to a car.

I personally wouldn’t mind but I don’t have a bus stop in my front yard.  Just a FYI that they also did an article in the paper as well as an insert (sheet of paper).  I think that was about two weeks ago.

Let’s just say I was aware of it and I am usually the last to know.  :-)

Stephanie

Comment 6
Fri, July 6, 2007 10:27am
Darren
All my comments

My wife and I were a little surprised by the sign-buckets as well.  I did get the mailer on the day that the service actually started but it was rather short on information (like frequency). 

It seems to me that this is a needed service that SamTrans decided to get in place with a minimum of public discussion/conflict.  I can completely understand some people might not like having the bus stop in front of their house, but I think this is a step in the right direction.

I know there are other places, like Berkeley, where they have bus routes on much steeper and more narrow streets.

Please realize that this is the 17 bus, not the 294. The difference is in the fact that the 17 is a modified passenger van versus the fullsize city bus that the 294 is. I have already come up against the 17 on Sunshine Valley road and on 6th street. I did not have to move over any more for the bus than I already do for the Hummers, Escalades, and Expeditions that patrol our neighborhoods. In fact, the driver of the 17 actually pulled over to allow me to pass on 6th street, unlike any of the drivers of the aforementioned behemoths, who barely slow down or move over at all.

Having the bus run through the community will be a boon to many of us with middle school and high school kids who clog up Highway 1 getting them to school at the same time. More notice would of been nice, but is it really that much of a problem? Has the additional traffic ruined your life? Has it lowered your property value? I think that in this day and age of public service cutbacks any increase in service should be applauded.

Hi Mark,

Thanks for posting about this.

Full Disclosure: I live on 6th Street. The idea of easy transit access appeals to me. It’s also a partial solution for the disgraceful lack of school bus service on the Coastside.

Even Fuller Disclosure: I am an advocate of public transit, and a BIG advocate of improving and integrating the Bay area’s transit system. (Public transit seems to be a mysterious concept to most Californians I’ve met.)

And yet, I was dismayed to see the bus signs go up on 6th Street. Why? The original post touched on my concern - the lack of any community voice or input before implementing this plan. If the Powers That Be had asked, or even bothered to visit, they would have learned that 6th Street is a narrow, poorly maintained residential road with no streetlights, sidewalks or safe places for passengers to wait/disembark, with parked cars on both sides of the road making it even narrower, often with only room for one vehicle at a time, and a big problem with speeders who rarely slow for pedestrians or obey stop signs, not to mention an overload of construction equipment and commercial vehicles.

So now, without any improvements to these road conditions, SamTrans is going to run buses here? There’s no way I would allow a child (or anyone else) to stand in a ditch between parked cars and wait for a bus while cement mixers go barreling past. Not only that, but it appears the bus is meant to stop at pretty much every cross-street, instead of consolidating the route to help traffic flow. Why must public transit in Montara mean sacrificing safety and common sense?

The experience of moving to Montara has been a real eye-opener. I have never lived in a community that was so short on planning. I was raised in what is now fashionably referred to as an “ex-urban” area near a large city - we were a horsey set, much like Montarans in that we were not given over to sidewalks or strip malls, and quite vocally opposed to suburbanization. But for pete’s sake the county was required to put in proper bus stops, with space to safely wait or disembark, BEFORE they connected us to the commuter hub. The road was assessed and the community was in on the plan from the get-go, not told to “you need to accept it” after the fact. And oh yeah, traffic was controlled, not left as a free-for-all…

So yes, expanding service to Montara COULD be a good thing, if the bus route was planned on a street that was adequately designed and/or improved to serve this purpose. If improvements aren’t possible, then neither is bus service, imo. As it is, the current state of 6th Street is an accident waiting to happen. Come to think of it, small wonder Californians would rather drive. :)

Some of this route is on unpaved streets.  Anyone know whether they’ve made any plans to address the street conditions?

I asked a SAMTRANS driver, of all the places he drove for SAMTRANS, which community had the worst streets.  He paused, grinned, and said, “Here.”  A few moments later he added, “and East Palo Alto.”

The problem is not the extension to Montara—Route 17 is a coastside farce without including the communities of Montara and the northern 2/3rds of Moss Beach.

The problem is the route. It does not go through the commercial area of Moss Beach. It only touches the edge of the commercial area of Montara for one block. These commercial areas need bolstering to be of greater service to the communities, not bypassing. It is several blocks away from Farralone View school at its closest point, meaning unnecessary street crossings for younger kids. It makes no connection to Pacifica, which is the orientation of so many of us in Montara and Moss Beach rather than Half Moon Bay. Thus, the lack of connections in the critical evening hours and insufficient connections in the morning hours continues to make commuting to work to the north by public transit unrealistic. All it would need to do to be a great improvement for commuters and shoppers/gym exercisers is to have one bus an hour go up to the major SamTrans stop at Linda Mar.

I’m more than disappointed. How the heck was this route established, anyway? Was anyone with an awareness of the public transit needs of our communities involved?

Carl May

Carl May wrote: “How the heck was this route established, anyway? Was anyone with an awareness of the public transit needs of our communities involved?”

As much as it pains me to reference the HMB Review, this article sheds some light on the matter:
http://hmbreview.com/articles/2007/06/27/news/business/story2.txt

Once again: no planning involved. Why plan, when you can just toss some grant money around and watch the mess grow?

Also, can anyone direct me to a concise, factual summary explaining why it is this school district does not provide bus service for its own students????

Maureen,

At the risk of opening a can of worms about the busing issue (It has been debated vehemently on this website. There is tons of information out there on the failure of school bonds, relating to the Wavecrest issue, and all that, and how it relates to busing.),
lack of money.

The school district feels that it is better, or more important, to spend money on items such as books, classroom supplies, and teachers, than on buses.  I, as a parent of a high school student, and as a former sub in the district, agree.

Wow!

Bus service in Montara that makes sense. I’ll probably use it. I only wish it stopped in front of my house so it would be even easier to use.

JB