Vehicles crowd Hollister and Fairview at rush hour, even when schools are out for the summer.

George Relles

Vehicles crowd Hollister and Fairview at rush hour, even when schools are out for the summer.

Traffic in Goleta

A Tale of Three Stooges

Monday, July 21, 2014
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It’s five o’clock on a Wednesday evening in western Goleta. I reluctantly head to Storke and Hollister. With traffic to and from UCSB and the three nearby shopping centers, it takes a while to get through that intersection. I wonder what this trip will be like when the 270-unit Westar project plus the new hotel at this intersection are completed in about a year.

When traffic slows again at Los Carneros near the new Cabrillo Business Park, I again wonder what traffic will be like when the nearby 465-unit Villages at Los Carneros and the likely new Target are completed. And I wonder how much Hollister Avenue and Los Carneros Road can be widened to absorb traffic from the anticipated additional 6,000 new UCSB students, professors, and staff (plus their families) living in campus housing being built over the next 10 years.

After waiting for the light to change at the crowded Fairview intersection near the airport, I head through Old Town Goleta. Slowing for traffic signals, bicyclists (there is no bike lane in Old Town) and pedestrians in crosswalks, I pass the bustling Goleta Community Center and wonder how much more traffic will be generated if Goleta’s new City Hall is built there.

Rush-hour traffic at Hollister and Kellogg
Click to enlarge photo

George Relles

Rush-hour traffic at Hollister and Kellogg

Passing the intersection with Ward Memorial Drive, soon to have two roundabouts, I arrive at Turnpike, where I encounter San Marcos High School’s after-school-activity traffic. Skipping my once eagerly anticipated Java Station coffee, I finally arrive tired and late at Five Points. My less-than-seven-mile crawl has taken 35 frustrating minutes.

This trip, which usually takes about 15 minutes, yielded two insights. First, Goleta doesn’t have a traffic problem. It has a rush hour traffic problem. If you’re not driving during the peak times, Hollister is usually clear and flowing. But Hollister rush-hour commuters are increasingly caught in slow and sometimes dangerous traffic.

Goleta is unique in having only one, (I’ll say it again, one) continuous surface street through its main commercial corridor, Hollister Avenue. And Goleta’s General Plan clusters even more development along this single artery. With no alternative surface street to absorb growing traffic, rush hour threatens to go from California cruisin’ to Goleta gridlock.

My second insight was that traffic congestion doesn’t develop slowly and evenly. As was repeatedly demonstrated by the Three Stooges, two people can go through a doorway smoothly. But when three people try to go through that door simultaneously, the outcome is either comical or bruising. In the case of Hollister Avenue, ongoing development will make traffic slow dramatically as the circulation challenges increase geometrically, and drivers will suffer.

Continually widening and maintaining Hollister can’t be the only answer. Santa Barbara County’s experience mirrors Los Angeles and other California cities: Tax revenues and fees fall far short of the funding needed to build and maintain sufficient roads. It costs $2 million-$8 million per mile for new road or lane construction, and even more for ongoing maintenance costs. And with only Hollister to carry the load through Goleta’s business core, Goleta has severe right-of-way limitations on roadway expansion.

Fortunately, the aptly named Traffic Solutions, headed by Kent Epperson, exists as a part of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments. SBCAG, a regional planning agency, distributes local, state, and federal transportation funds to address regional and multi-jurisdictional issues.

Traffic Solutions has successfully implemented innovative methods proven to reduce rush-hour traffic: promoting better and expanded bikeways, subsidies for van- and carpooling, ride sharing, telecommuting, bus ridership, and flexible work days and hours. It has shared information with employers on increasing worker productivity by reducing commuting hassles. These have helped significantly shift car commuting away from rush hour as well as creating car commuting alternatives.

Only a few of Traffic Solutions’ successes in 2013 are the elimination of more than 893,000 vehicle trips and 9 million miles of travel. This was accomplished with a less-than-$700,000 budget. Compared with the $2 million-$8 million price tag of adding one mile of roadway, Traffic Solutions has demonstrated that savings and circulation effectiveness absolutely can be achieved with innovative alternative strategies.

Goleta’s city government itself has already provided some incentives for its employees to use bikes, buses, and car and van pools to get to work. It also allows flex time and days, with only limited staff working on Fridays. Not only is traffic reduced, but employees also view such flexibility as a significant benefit, helping to increase employee retention and thus reducing the city’s recruiting and training costs. The city is working with the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition on a comprehensive area bike route plan.

While it may be necessary to increase some road capacity to address Goleta’s ongoing growth impact, local governments and SBCAG should increase efforts to better utilize existing capacity. Local governments should more actively encourage developers and employers to provide bike racks, showers, subsidies for non-auto commuting as well as for flexible work times to reduce rush-hour traffic.

Hollister truly is Goleta’s main artery. As is true for people, keeping Goleta’s main artery freely flowing is vital — to both Goleta’s quality of life and economic well-being.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Goleta is the new Oxnard, driven by their city council approving huge tracts of light commercial and mixed-use development in order to raise revenue from which they will expand city government, government programs and increased social engineering projects.

The spillover into SB proper is already out of control and unwelcome with 101 commuters and additional SB city traffic from Goleta transient workers and residents crowding downtown SB (partly as an escape from Goleta).

realitycheck88 (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2014 at 4:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with reality check, well put. I'm a former Goleta resident, moving to the Mesa as Goleta development, especially in the Elwood area, gets into high gear. Gone are the days of more vast open space and pristine trails on the Elwood Bluffs. Thankfully some coastal access and open space has been preserved...

princess04 (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2014 at 8:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It would've been quicker to take the freeway, especially if you saw yourself encountering slow traffic on the surface streets. There's also Calle Real and Cathedral Oaks as good alternatives.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2014 at 9:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

In fact, most people would take that distance on the freeway... sounds like the streets were busy with commerce and activity.. but be that as it may, the ag land needs to be preserved as such. We will have to build up not out, and I do think the mixed use housing/retail/office development is a positive move.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2014 at 10:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I would like to see some of these developers get a bill for improving the roadways and or providing alternate transportation. Often if not always, they reap the huge financial rewards, yet rarely contribute to infrastructure (that actually helps) to accommodate traffic which at it's worse is during rush hours. The problem with rush hour traffic is that often times kids are in the mix in the morning hours. On bikes, skateboards, whatever. Also when developers promise something, like a park or an ice rink, or improving roads they actually follow through.

Instead it turns that we who live here, the taxpayers have to fund these large scale projects to pay for road widening, creek flood control, so some JACKA$$ developer can make another few million on another stripmall or apartment complex. Also note, Condo/Apartment complex's are way more dense than regular trace housing so number of car trips in and out onto the main thoroughfares will be much more. The people who initiate and reap the financial rewards of these developments need to consider the infrastructure, or at least the stewards of those thoroughfares (local government) should call it on them.

Goleta has some soul searching to do before this mess turns into a hole they won't be able to dig themselves out of and the quality of life out there is compromised. Also it would be great to see UCSB (and the Chumash) fall under the slightest bit of regulation as far as building goes instead of living large under the status of autonomous nations.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2014 at 10:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It did'nt take long for the City of Goleta to create a mess. Letting developers run amuck and having their way has turned Goleta into an Orange County style traffic jam.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2014 at 11:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I love that this article conveniently leaves out the fact that both Hollister and Los Carneros are under construction - funneling traffic into two overpasses one for southbound traffic (Glen Annie) and northbound traffic (Fairview). Traffic has always been heavy around during the morning and evening rushes - but with the limited roadway options - it always is a bit slow. This is why I always take Cathedral Oaks/Foothill.

@bimboteskie take a look at the recent development of Deckers campus on Hollister. They added more bus stops, a new median, landscaping and a traffic light. This was all done through mitigation fees - allowing the city to take advantage of 'the huge financial rewards they reap' to make much needed road improvements. And more importantly, Hollister wasn't widened.

Every developer has to contribute something within mitigation fees to get a project through - maybe you should spend a little more time at design review and planning commission meetings to see what the city is able to pull from developers...

workingmanonAPS (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2014 at 11:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

or in turn raise hell, for not getting enough...

workingmanonAPS (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2014 at 11:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

George, your are probably not aware of that. There is also that thing called "Freeway" that runs parallel to Hollister.

locke (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2014 at 12:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Bimboteskie et all - look at the staff reports and the conditions of approval for these projects so you can understand that the developers pay very large sums of money in development impact fees to fund road improvements and more.

discoboy (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2014 at 12:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"I wonder what this trip will be like when the 270-unit Westar project plus the new hotel at this intersection are completed in about a year"

More stressful.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2014 at 8:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I wonder if the mitigation fees are sufficient to cover all the hassles and pains of traffic. Has anyone read the reports to learn how the amount of fees is determined? Are these reports publicly available?

Who on the current Goleta City council is slow-growth?

I've returned to Goleta after twenty years away and I'm surprised about the direction it is taking.

strongsilence (anonymous profile)
July 22, 2014 at 8:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I guess my point would be they are not contributing enough for the amount of crap they are subjecting the rest of us to. My quality of life continues to decline here in Go Go Goleta with regards to beach access, crappy traffic, more UCSB sprawl, and these developers (which represent progress right?) run back to Laguna Beach with a few more million? I guess that is capitalism. Perhaps when the lake runs dry, people will take heed.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
July 22, 2014 at 9:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Mr. George Relles, we call what your about to suffer from, "Sprawl and Crawl". This is where you have way too much vehicle traffic on too few road space and everything grinds to a DEAD halt!
7 Miles and 35 minutes, Wow! You all back home have it easy. It takes me 45 minutes to travel 4 miles and that is with traffic moving at about 25 miles per hour; some of my co-workers who live another mile or two will actually make it to work around an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. I have watched the news (CNN) at work where they show traffic moving at less than 2 1/2 miles an hour with estimated time to travel 5 miles at Two hours. Some people get on the road in the DC Metro area (I-95) at 5 am and arrive into work at 9 am, leaving and going to home may take even longer since everyone is so worn out , they bump, shoot, run off the road, each other, all the way home. I wore a Bullet resistant vest for work but never took it off to arrive and leave work until I closed the door to the Apartment, because the violence is far worse than POTUS makes it out to be.
As for the roads or lack of driving, the more you stuff in a small place the sooner it will cease to allow flow but then again, it's really all about the Money, isn't it?

dou4now (anonymous profile)
July 22, 2014 at 1:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Bimboteskie, I feel like these developers aren't paying enough for giving us these headaches but I haven't done the research to confirm my suspicion.

Frogs in water won't jump out as it heats up. Most Goleta residents are doing exactly the same.

strongsilence (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 4:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Those urging "Freeway!" for what should be local travel have probably not taken the freeway at rush hours. It is often stop and go from Turnpike and a little beyond. Not the entire way, but in patches, slowings, pauses to look at accidents.

StrongSilence - probably only Perotte could be considered moderate growth. Aceves, especially, and Bennett, too, are full speed ahead, build-build-build; Farr swings; Vallejo, newcomer replacement of slower growth Easton, coming from the Chamber of C., probably will also be "fill-that-danged-open-space-with-stucco!"

at_large (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 7:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Thanks for your views at large.

I've heard that UCSB growth causes significant impacts. Do you have a feeling about whether UCSB is a "good neighbor"?

strongsilence (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 8:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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