Jon Mays

I ask because we at the Daily Journal want to know for a series of stories on various ways people on the Peninsula get to and from work or school. Why, you may ask? Because the commute affects us all and will continue to do so for years to come.

During the dot-com boom, traffic crawled along Highway 101 and made the “Oracle Mile,” named for the traffic from the internet giant in Redwood Shores at quitting time, look quaint by comparison.

I recall an elected official musing, “all of a sudden, we’re Los Angeles.” After the dot-com crash, traffic eased and the sentiment behind doing something about it waned a bit with transit officials working in the background on a variety of projects, but without the urgency as before. Yet still, there was a sense that the traffic we felt from 1998 to 2001 would return.

And did it.

Now, traffic crawls on Highway 101 at all hours of the day. State Route 92 is jammed eastbound after 3 p.m. and even Interstate 280 is crowded. Caltrain is packed, though electrification promises to do something about it. El Camino Real is no prize and there seems to be no relief in sight. There are pronounced rumblings by transit officials to do something about it yet details are scant and the solutions being proposed are seemingly pie in the sky, and could be perceived as more social engineering rather than relief. There is also a financial component to these plans and we can look forward to seeing more outreach about the need. There will be a public planning process to this, and this is where people can outline their ideas and concerns. Some of the early ideas include managed lanes with a toll component, increased bridge tolls and increased sales taxes. What the money raised by this will do has yet to be defined but there has been some talk about bus express lanes on either Highway 101 and El Camino Real, or both. It’s still early in the process, but the wheels are turning.

In the meantime, nearly every one of us contends with our daily commute. For some, it’s long, involved and sometimes costly. For others, it’s easy. It can be someone commuting to San Mateo County from the East Bay during commute hours, or it can be someone who has the ability to work from home a few days a week and take the train into the office the other days. Some admirable people make bicycle commuting work. Others can’t imagine how that would work. Some share a car with a spouse and have intricate schedules mapped out so they can both make it to work on time and still pick up the kids. Some have no choice but to drive everywhere and just grin and bear it. Others can take the train or bus and use their bicycles and perhaps receive incentives from their employer to do so.

While decisions on the future of mass transit are sometimes made in a public planning process bubble, in meetings few attend, there are many who will be affected and have their own experiences that can help inform decision-makers. We want to hear from you for our series of stories we are planning on the commute and those who make it every single day. Even if you think your commute is not interesting, reach out. If you have the creativity of a high-level executive assistant and the patience of a saint to make your commute work, reach out.

Housing and traffic are two of the biggest issues we on the Peninsula are facing as job growth exceeds the amount of bedrooms here to accommodate new workers. We want to tell the stories of those affected by traffic congestion and hear ideas on what you think would be the best solutions. Perhaps others can get ideas on how to better their own commute or at least officials in charge of future changes will get a better handle on the current situation and how we are affected. So reach out. The best way to reach us is Use the subject line The Commute. We hope to hear from you.

Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmays.

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(6) comments


Have been requested via email to repost in a bit more detail of what I mean with those three root causes to our traffic congestion…some remembered presentations to neighborhood associations and at SMUHA….

Similar to presentations to clients trying to explain those root causes that they are directly responsible for…jobs here on the Peninsula and no bedrooms (affordable and volumes) here on the Peninsula too satiate those new hires from out of the area

Best to start with images from the International Space Station of The San Francisco BayArea. Best on showing the Peninsula from SF to South SJ, East Bay and of particular importance…the three bridges that are the conduits for commuters form their bedrooms on the East side of the Bay to their jobs on the Peninsula. The scale is exact to the actual, as it is a picture of the actual. Notice where the ‘dump’ all of those commuters onto the Peninsula. Those cities are in the Bull’s Eye of all commuter traffic. San Mateo is the biggest Bull’s Eye…and feeds 101/El Camino/92/280. Bay Bridge has +255,000 vehicles per day, and SM/Hayward Bridge has +500,000…. Monday-Friday (CalTrans info from 2015 meeting at Mullen’s office). They did not have Dunbaron (sp?) Bridge info Night overlay and shows where both the jobs and bedrooms are. Highlighted by the night street lights and arteries (roads & car lights) This one is huge and when blown up, indicative of the topography of our area

Just taking the SM/Hayward (92) bridge traffic of +500,000 vehicles per day times five days has +2,500,000 vehicles per week that dump onto San Mateo and it’s road ways.

Just take a look at 101/92 in the morning…congestion going WEST with little to no traffic congestion going EAST. During the evening, it flips to congestion going EAST and little to no congestion going WEST.

They are leaving their bedrooms on the EAST side of the Bay for their jobs on the WEST side of the Bay in the morning commute and flipping during the evening commute leaving their jobs on the WEST side going back to their bedrooms on the EAST side.

So those who deny any new bedrooms on the WEST side (Peninsula side) of the bay have denied a solution to the traffic congestion they complain bitterly about. Not just the high end bedrooms developers prefer, as they make more money, but the whole range as we live in a complete system where there are those who can afford high end and then the rest of us who make up our ‘system’…or at least I live in a holistic system of life…

Adding more traffic lanes will only increase the queue that will be filled up quickly as they continue to build more and more affordable and volumes of bedrooms ‘over there’…force to commute via their cars because #3 root cause is that our public transit isn’t good enough for them to abandon their vehicles to take public transit…

For every new ‘affordable’ bedroom built over here on the Peninsula…is potentially removing one maybe two vehicles from the commute traffic


There are several ways to partially solve the traffic issues now and in the future:

1) Direct large tech and biotech companies to build housing on their own campus, as Facebook and Google are doing. The housing needs to be accompanied by a small grocery/drug store and other necessities.
2) New large companies that cannot provide housing on their own campus or buy a housing nearby, should not be allowed to move here – they need to start their businesses somewhere else.
3) If possible, vote for people that “Make current residents' lives matter” not future residents.
Don't vote for people like Jerry Hill and Kevin Mullin for they have really done an U-turn on protecting our local residents from over development and siding with real estate, union and developers' interests and have voted to erode our local control ordinances. Also vote for city council members who will protect our local interests.
4) Limit new construction to fewer units/acre.
5) There are many things that are extremely difficult to mitigate like traffic, water supply, sewer/storm drain capacity and garbage capacity so overbuilding will only overburden existing facilities.
6) Save a trip by purchasing online. Gas and time savings, in most cases more than pays for the difference and reduces frustration and traffic.
7) Attend local elected officials Town Meetings – speak your mind about overbuilding, traffic etc.
8) Remember, for those that are planning on moving out because of the traffic etc., and have lived here for a long time, if you sell your house you may have to pay a substantial capital gains tax.

Coralin Feierbach, former Belmont CA mayor


I have two cars but leave them parked often. Thursday I walked for groceries and a few other supplies near my home. l often take public transit when it makes sense. I have several options. When I have to go to the city for work I take a shuttle to CalTrain and I am in the City within 45 minutes. I respond to emails or do work on the train. Yes, I live in San Mateo and you can do it if you plan.

Just look at those poor folks stuck on 101 and 92 heading for Dublin or Tracy. if we housed them here we would all be better off. Less air pollution, less traffic and a safer community.


Also...too many are stuck in "The Nixon Era" of cars, cars, cars as the basis for everything, including planning

The solution is not just addressing 'cars' or an LOS metric, but moving into the 21st Century of VMT on PW's type of mentality...and the need to move Planning away from the 20th Century VMT or better yet Form Based Code Planning...that is the fastest growing planning metric in the country


Before retiring, commuted to anyone of my five offices. From Sunnyvale, to Cupertino, to Santa Clara, to San Francisco, to Milpitas and working from home. Typically a 32 mile one way…or more as had to go to several campus’s each day

Today, still commute occasionally to clients offices. From S San Jose, Redwood City, Milpitas, Menlo Park, San Bruno and San Francisco about once a week, but some weeks several times

Traffic patterns are amazingly about the same, albeit with much more volume.

Design/help clients, clients acquire a firm…to the invariable question to an all too common problem that was listed in my presentation’s “Risks and Issues” section…that they never read and/or did not understand….

They finally realize their the new employees are commuting 1-2-3 or more hours one way to the Peninsula. What to do???

Showed one how they could plead the case with a city to build bedrooms for their employees…they are now planning two more bedroom communities on the Peninsula

Anyone check out what is happening in San Carlos along the rail road station ? New high density bedrooms same being built…with more in the pipe

This all goes to my three root causes. Simplistic in a way, but that is the root cause among the other root causes.

#1….Over population and will never solve that in my life time
#2….Dissociation of location between jobs vs they have to commute between them
#3….Public Transit system isn’t good enough. This includes our roadways. If it was good enough, folks would NOT NEED to commute via auto’s. They could take public transit and could live even farther away…to take HSR from Tahoe to the Peninsula.

Interesting fact…MTC by accident found and coined/named a study of theirs. Even started a program, but have not heard anything about is since finding it. This to me, indicative of how just increasing the numbers of ‘new’ bedrooms (of the right kind) on the Peninsula can make a HUGE impact on commute traffic/congestion. As a small percentage of folks who get Columbus day off…has a drop in commute traffic of about 50%-70%

They call it “Make Every Day Columbus Day: Active Operational Management” and here are the links : Page 8 shows that congestion on I-80 & US-101 drops 50%-70% on that Columbus Day Holiday weekend and ZERO congestion during a Labor Day Holiday where more folks have it off than Columbus Day

Michael Stogner

It's Gridlock already, any elected official that thinks more housing will help is Nuts.

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