SamTrans forum highlights the necessity of Route 17


By on Mon, August 10, 2009

Disclosure: I have a strong bias towards public transportation, and have been advocating for more services for years.  For two years when I was executive director of Coastside Hope, I managed the team that provided both Route 17, and medical transportation for the coast.  During that time I worked with SamTrans to successfully win a lifeline transportation grant to expand busing into Montara, extend hours of operation, and add weekend service on the coast. When I heard that Route 17 was on the chopping block, my first thought was, "This has to be a mistake." 

Last Thursday night over 180 coastside residents, and a few from "over the hill", converged on the Cunha mulitpurpose room to share their concerns over proposed cutbacks in what little public transportation we have on the Coastside. This was the last of four community input meetings in the county, and by SamTran’s admission, by far the most well-attended. 
Don Esse, the operations financial analyst from SamTrans, with assistance from Chester Patton director of bus transportation, lead the meeting reviewing SamTrans’s overall financial analysis [pdf of Samtrans presentation].  Options range from a reduction in service to the full elimination of critical routes, including Route 17.
Sentiment among the crowd at Thursday’s two hour meeting was unanimously in support of maintaining the existing services, even if that necessitated a rate increase.  One resident of San Mateo, who came to the meeting to argue on behalf of keeping his local route, told officials that after hearing the stories from local residents, he would give up his route to save Route 17.   Mayor John Mueller promised that the Half Moon Bay city counsel is willing to do "whatever it takes" to save the route.

Unlike the routes in question in other areas, Route 17 is not an ancillary route, an expansion of another line, or a "nice to have" line with extended hours.  Route 17 is the only line serving both the Moonridge low-income community, and stops in the upper section of Montara.  According to Dwight Wilson, who sat with me on the Coastside Transportation Committee, Route 17’s ridership has steadily increased year over year:

FY2006 FY2007 FY2008 FY2009
Annual Ridership 55,842 53,258 87,903 97,340
Average Weekday Ridership 195 186 294 334

The route is crowded with people going to work at Nurseryman’s exchange, students going to school, and seniors seeking medical care at Seaton.  Route 17 is a lifeline for a large population of the coast, and to even consider taking this route is unconscionable.  An action that would strand a large number of residents, keep many from necessary medical care and add to an already congested traffic route.  
I’ve posted a set of pictures from the event on the Coastsider gallery.  I tried to capture a majority of the speakers as well as their comments.  I hope you’ll take the time to add your voice to theirs and tell SamTrans that Route 17 is critical to the coast.  You can email your feedback to:

I’m glad you wrote this, Cheri.
I, too, was at that meeting. It was very impressive, and quite a coastside statement, that there were people there from Pacifica to Pescadero. The comments were strong and impassioned.
The comments started with Dwight Wilson, followed by you, Cheri. Both of you got the meeting off to an incredibly good start. Your presentations were clear and eloquent, and set the tone for everyone else; and it was not only the right tone, but comprehensive and respectful in content.
You did an outstanding job.
In addition, I feel the need to articulate an observation; coastsiders can and do work together. The entire crowd was there to support the existing public transportation, and in fact, some wanted and asked for additions to the existing lines, rather than elimination.
Thank you, Cheri. I learned a lot and hope my small verbal contribution helped.

Thanks George.  I was glad to see you, and a number of community leaders at this event.  I think its an important illustration, that we can all come together around important issues, and that we take the time to give voice to those who can’t.

Today I was in Half Moon Bay at our weekly food distribution to the seniors at Bloom Lane.  The mood was decidedly more somber as the residents spoke with each other and to me about how losing Route 17 would change their lives for the worse.  For a group of people who are already making some tough choices, (food vs. medicine for instance) the removal of local transportation will take a bad situation and make it grave.

Regardless of what happens with Route 17, we will continue to look at ways of helping our residents get to where they need to go.  A volunteer ride share, a prescription delivery service, food delivery for the disabled - whatever the gap in service is we need to find creative ways as a community to help where ever we can.

Comment 3
Mon, August 10, 2009 8:41pm
Tammy Lee
All my comments

I would also like to add that there many who attended the meeting and spoke in support of keeping the DX route, which is critical to many who work in SF. 

One very enlightening comment was that SamTrans charges the same amount for all the Express routes, and since our coastside DX is by far the shortest, we’ve been paying more than other Express riders.