Nothing elicits a collective gnashing of teeth on the Coastside like our frustration with traffic on daily commutes, during pumpkin season or on those special days when it seems like everybody from the Central Valley needs to escape the heat. This is not a new problem and lots of smart people have tried and failed to make a lasting impact.

So how do you fix it? 

Many ideas, big and small, could have an impact. I've heard otherwise reasonable people talk about flying cars, gondolas and expanding Highway 92 to four lanes. They are a mixture of fanciful, far-off, or self-defeating. The sticker price on these starts around $50 million and gets to more than a billion dollars pretty quickly. Also, when we talk about big projects, we expect results in decades, not months. We should look at big ideas, but for immediate results we should focus on more modest ideas.

In reality, many improvements have been made to traffic over the years. Roads are safer. Highways 92 and 1 have seen major improvements. Lights at Poplar Street and Fairway Drive have been reprogrammed. Hard to believe, but if these and other modest improvements hadn't been made, traffic on the Coastside would likely be even worse.

As the new year approaches, I'm focused on three areas for improvement.

First, we should look at the intersection of Ox Mountain Road and Highway 92 by Lemos Farm. This intersection blocks westbound traffic during daily commutes home and becomes a major bottleneck into town on the weekends. As citizens, we pay a tax in our time stuck here. I don't know how to fix it. We need the professionals we pay at San Mateo County and Caltrans to come together to do a formal traffic study and give our community recommendations that work for drivers and the businesses in this area. 

Second, we need to take a big picture view of Highway 1 from North Main Street to Frenchmans Creek. This chokepoint perpetually slows down traffic when we need to get up and down the coast. It turns my delightful five-minute drive to Sam's Chowder House into 30 minutes of clenched steering wheel. The city of Half Moon Bay and SamTrans have budgeted $10.8 million to make improvements up to Grandview Boulevard. While this is promising, I'm not sure more asphalt or another light on Highway 1 is the best solution. We also create the prospect of pushing the congestion farther north. Before we break ground, Caltrans should give us a big-picture view of how this will improve traffic. 

Third, we need to get cars off the road. Asking Californians to stop using their cars feels like asking Texans to give up their guns. But we are the Golden State, with a better climate and we are in way better shape. We just need more attractive options. The county is starting a private-public shuttle service on the Coastside in January. We should all give that a try and give feedback on how it can be better.

Another thing we can do is accelerate the East Side Trail along Highway 1 from El Granada to Moonridge. This bike and pedestrian path will make the option of biking up and down the coast safer and more convenient for high school kids, folks who work in town and even for the odd duck like me who is willing to bike for groceries. It is already planned for completion this decade. Instead of waiting, we should push to have the trail completed in 2023.  

You may have different priorities. As for me, this is where I'm going to focus my energy in 2023 and I would love your help. Your City Council and new county Supervisor Ray Mueller would love to hear your feedback. So would Assemblyman Marc Berman and state Sen. Josh Becker.

Rich Hernandez is a resident of Half Moon Bay and a member of the Planning Commission.

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(9) comments

Scott McVicker

Government has zero interest in making personal automobile travel faster/easier OR improving the road system. Quite the opposite.

Remember that the State of California proposes to ban the sale of new, gas powered vehicles as of 2035. Couple this with the discouragement of fossil fuel exploration/production...which is rolled into the economically illiterate, panicked push for so called “green” energy...which is not, in any near term, capable of supporting the current population level. A string of bad ideas.

We, The People, are currently being “nudged” towards the car-less future. Look at fuel prices. Look at car prices. Do you think everyone has the ability to afford one of those shiny electric cars? No...and government knows this. So what are we supposed to do? At what point do workers lose the ability to live where they want because the costs (vehicle, fuels, taxes AND wasted time) become prohibitive?

You can see the future if you travel over the hill. Hundreds on hundreds of stack and pack mega-blocks of “housing” placed on or near main lines of transit. The bicycle or pedestrian future! Live close to where you work...assuming your work is anywhere nearby. The automobile which allowed individual skilled workers to travel to high-paying employment is no longer an option. No high-paying job? Take what you can get TO. Or “work from home” (as some of you were recently trained to do)...but beware...once your work product can be pushed through an internet cable, you have joined the pool of digital piece-workers on an inevitable slippery slope to who will work the cheapest. Standard of living collapse anyone?

This is not just an over the hill phenomenon. We see it locally in the City's desire to encourage development in the existing downtown region. A “walkable” downtown. Remember that grant funding which was intended to paint bicycle lanes on Purissima Street? Same song, different verse.

And ALL of this woe begins when an otherwise robust economy decides to throttle its life's blood – Energy – towards unachievable targets...without due consideration for its population. Drastic change is necessary...under emergency conditions! There is no other way!

Oh wait, where have we heard that recently?

John Charles Ullom

We the people were nudged towards a car centric society by the government. The government subsidized the creation of the suburbs. The government subsidized the electrification of rural America. The government subsidizes the security of oil producing but less than Democratic regimes.

Not everybody wants to live the suburban lifestyle you enjoy. The bicycle pedestrian future is preferable to the Economic Apartheid based future that has all service workers living on the other side of the Altamont Pass.

Besides, Biden is making nice nice with the Venezuelans and Chevron. Your government influenced choice to use gasoline is not endangered.

here ya' go

The light at Frenchman’s Creek just goes red for no apparent reason: no peds, no cars. It backs up Hwy1. Fix it.


Regarding the new stop light at Poplar and Hwy 1, can someone please adjust that light to not cut short the green light for north bound or southbound traffic soon as a vehicle pulls up in the opposing directions left turn lane? Once the signal is green, it should be allowed to complete the full timed cycle for both directions before turning red regardless of a vehicle pulling into the left turn lane after the forward green light is in play. And when there is cross traffic as well, then traffic flow also has to wait for the cross traffic signal to process. Hasn't anyone noticed that especially during the heavy commute hours, this has been creating significant back-ups of traffic to cross that intersection? Seems like that would be a simple and immediate solution to a newly created traffic irritation.

Steve Hyman

Hi Rick,

As someone who's shown people homes here now for over 30 years, many times on weekends, and lived here for 40 years, I too am familar with all the bottlenecks and traffic hotspots and more importantly how to avoid them.

Here's a simple suggestion that will reduce some of the traffic in one of the hotspots you mentioned in your piece. I kind think it will be rejected because our City seems to want to only do multi-million dollar projects (Main St Bridge I was involved in or $4 million traffic light at south end of town) that take years to approve as opposed to something that can be done cheaply and quickly, like in anywhere from 1-3 days.

My suggestion involves reducing some of the traffic on Hwy 1 going north of McDonalds. I have always wondered why there's a wooden barricade built in the 1990's to block access to Silver Ave in the Highland Park neighborhood on Hwy 1. This creates a traffic nightmare by forcing everyone living there to use Terrace Ave. This problem is worse now with the building of 70 large homes in the Pacific Ridge section.

My suggestion is to remove the wood barricade there allowing cars to enter from Hwy 1 and restrict exiting to just going north. If there's no or minimal damage to the paved road, this could be done in 1 day. If the road there has to be repaved it would take 2-3 days. Cost would range from a few hundred bucks for removing the barricade to a few thousand if paving is required. I assume the City owns a few Right Turn Only signs.

I know this won't make a big dent in the traffic but it also won't make a big dent in our pocket book either.

Book Goddess

Taking public transportation is an excellent idea until it isn't. The shuttle no longer comes into Canada Cove to pick up seniors. Taking that stop away was not only senseless but cruel. I'm sure the numbers support this, but maybe more outreach would have upped ridership. Maybe.

John Charles Ullom

I have noticed that on days I ride my bicycle, traffic is never a problem! Plus my back and knees feel better.

I have also noticed that the worst traffic is caused by our proximity to the Pacific Ocean. That and all that dang sand on top of the pretty scenery.

Also have noticed that even on days I drive, I don't see what all the wailing and gnashing of teeth is about. Traffic is far worse on the other side of the hill.

Also have noticed that Coastside Traffic is very predictable. As in, I am rarely surprised.

Also have noticed that Pickup Truck Drivers are by far the rudest drivers on the Coastside. Why is that? Why are there so many of them who are angry?

Finally, I have noticed that bicyclists should be very wary of any car exiting the parking lot that serves the patrons of the Family Style Pub at the South end of our corner of Paradise. Some of them are to put it.........Exuberant.


Other than the pickup driver comment (don’t own one, but I do disagree), best comment on this piece by far. Thanks for speaking up, John.

Government has been subsidizing drivers for WAY too long. Free parking, oversized roads, and nearly zero meaningful regulation of the types of vehicles placed on the roadway.

We can’t get to zero driving this century. But we can slowly de-incentivize it to convert more trips to walking, biking, etc. Invest in our local economy, our schools, public transit, and our health. Significant investment further subsidizing private vehicle transport is a complete waste. When government makes driving easier the result is more drivers driving more places. More drivers taking more trips means more traffic. One of the few (or maybe many?!) examples of how giving the people exactly what they ask for will only anger them and cost votes.


To augment one of your valid points: making roads larger or easier to travel just triggers what the UCLA School of Transportation calls "latent demand". The time and angst expended in traffic limits the number of drivers willing to put up with it. Making it easier will cause some of those who previously suppressed their travel, to now attempt it. It's an economic-type argument related to supply and demand.

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