With less than 24 hours to go until I turn 21, there are very few things that could dampen my current good mood. Sure, most of my friends and loved ones – including my parents – have decided that the mid-July urge to leave town is too strong to merit sticking around for my birthday. And sure, I may be just a little bit bitter about that. But fortunately, I have some friends who have promised to stick around for the weekend, and spending my birthday with them still promises to be an amazingly good time. So, like I said, there’s not much that could upset me right now.
Well, there is one major mood killer that I cannot seem to shake. It’s an insidious problem, and one that affects everyone equally; regardless of gender, race, class, creed, or even age. It has the power to turn otherwise rational people – such as myself – into raving, screaming maniacs. And it has inspired more hand gestures than the creators of sign language. It is, of course, traffic.
Yesterday, I was driving to a birthday lunch with my grandfather in Ventura and the traffic was literally crawling along at less than 10 miles an hour from La Cumbre to Carpinteria. What was the problem? Well, a car had stalled in the middle lane right before the freeway narrows around Montecito and people were stuck going around it as they slowed down to accommodate the already ridiculously narrow freeway. It was not the first time the absurdity of the two-lane Montecito-area portion of the 101 had created a massive traffic jam out of an otherwise minor incident. It seems like no matter what time of the day it is, that stretch of freeway is always backed up, and when another incident exacerbates it, the traffic it creates can be downright hellish.
As J’Amy Brown reported in her column last week, construction has begun on a project she has called a “precursor” to the widening of the 101. Not exactly promising news given the snail’s-pace nature of Santa Barbara government, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. But, given the fact that Caltrans first discussed widening the freeway back in 1993, it seems ridiculous that the first step of this ‘precursor’ project just happened last week.
Back in ’93, thousands of residents signed a petition to stop the construction, claiming that it would require the removal of too many trees for a project that would not necessarily ease traffic congestion all that much. According to an old [read: pre-meltdown] article in the News-Press, the major objection most people expressed about the construction project was the fact that construction was not a good enough long-term solution to merit the removal of the landscaping in the area. Many of the people interviewed for the article claimed they were looking for more solutions involving alternative transportation, as opposed to simply widening the road.
Meanwhile, in the decade since the great debate, traffic has only gotten worse in the area. While everyone was busy complaining about the most obvious solutions and talking up means of alternative transportation that were never really implemented, traffic continued to be a problem for anyone trying to get into, or out of S.B. Even if you ignore the fact that Santa Barbara’s buses are generally not the most pleasant mode of travel, there’s still the problem of getting to and from anywhere north of Goleta to anywhere south of Carpinteria.
So, what can we do? And by “we,” I mean those of us I.V. residents who need to get in or out of town, but can’t stand sitting in traffic. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of options, but we do have a few. If you are traveling between I.V. and downtown, and you don’t mind a little messiness, go ahead and take the bus. It may not be the most pleasant option, but it does get you from one place to another, and it tends to run on a pretty reliable schedule. More information about the schedule, routes and rates is available at www.sbmtd.gov.
If you need to go somewhere the busses don’t, carpooling is a pretty convenient option. Besides the economic benefits of splitting the cost of gas, carpooling also provides a pretty simple way to reduce the number of cars on the road. And don’t worry if you don’t know anyone going your way. There are plenty of places where you can hook up with other Isla Vistans looking to share a ride. The Facebook marketplace has a section called ‘Everything Else,’ where people often post requests for rides. The ‘Community’ section of Craigslist also has a place for people looking to rideshare. Also check out www.carpoolworld.com, where you can join for free, or simply browse the ‘Rideshare’ section to find listings of people traveling your way. Similarly, www.zimride.com – started by UCSB alum Logan Green – offers a Facebook application that allows you to hook up with friends – and friends of friends – who are looking to carpool as well.
As for me, I just posted my first Zimride offer. Since I’m commuting to and from LA every Monday and Wednesday, I figure it can’t hurt to pick up a passenger or two to make my ride a little more productive and a little less destructive. I just hope they don’t mind when I turn down the radio so I can yell a little louder at all the people who think that it’s okay to go 65 in the fast lane.