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Fixing congestion: Getting gridlock out of Santa Cruz
Dear Street Smarts, Q: Let's turn our attention to the ungodly problem of traffic congestion and who can help in this area. There is the major problem of people turning left off Ocean onto Broadway, especially during the commute hour. This problem has affected the traffic heading down to the Boardwalk, backing it up past Water Street, all because one person has to turn left. Couldn't the city take a serious look at this problem and not come back saying each year that they will look at this problem? Very easy, make that intersection three-way light or put restrictions on left turns between the hours of 4-6 p.m. I must drive due to my job and it is really frustrating when it takes 55 minutes to get home only four miles away. Santa Cruz's traffic gridlock equals cities three times its size. Greg Adams vie email A: If only the answer to congestion were that simple. The city's public works department has a list of studies planned regarding making traffic flow better around town, said Chris Schneiter, assistant director of that department. “I hope this year that staff resources are available to give the study time and energy to fully evaluate the intersection,” he said of the project, which will include observing existing travel patterns at nearby intersections, Schneiter explained. The study will determine “where and how much traffic will be diverted if the turn is restricted during certain times and days of the year, what are those times and days, does it impact other intersections – especially Ocean at Soquel and Soquel at Branciforte – or residential streets?” he continued. “What happens with future growth projects in the General Plan and what will it take ultimately to provide a left-turn lane and bike lanes at that intersection?” Any proposed changes to this intersection will include public input, Schneiter noted. Regarding your proposed solution, that in itself presents traffic flow issues, thus the city tries to avoid doing it but it will be included in the study, he said. “The type of traffic signal control Greg refers to is split-phasing,” he said. “That takes more time for the traffic signal to cycle through green time for all the approaches, while better serving the left-turn, it takes away more time from the other movements and can create additional congestion. Branciforte at Soquel and Seabright at Murray are examples of split-phasing.” On a side note, Street Smarts gets emails from readers seeking fixes to congestion throughout the city, including along Mission Street. As you see here, there are no quick fixes, considering this community has a limited amount of roads and a population that fluctuates depending on the day, time and season. Since the things civil engineers do to one intersection will impact nearby streets and intersections, what can we do as individuals right this moment to ease congestion at no extra cost and no lengthy study period? Plan your trip to avoid contributing to gridlock, saving you gas and time in the process. Can you run that errand at another time of day or on another day altogether? Can you take a different route? Do you have to drive alone? Can you ride with a friend or coworker? Do you have to drive at all? Can you walk, take the bus or bike? Is working from home an option? What can each one of us do to reduce congestion? In Greg's words, “the issues of growth is a good question that hopefully this letter to you may open some eyes and eventually there possibly could be an answer to the question, 'How do we fix it?' I know and have faith that Santa Cruz will figure this out.” Check out commutesolutions.org for help getting around town besides driving solo.