Ready… Set… Stop

There’s hardly ever a ‘Go’ with Santa Clarita traffic.

A glimpse of the 14 freeway through Santa Clarita.

Waking up for work in the morning is never easy. Waking up a couple hours earlier is even worse. For, Michelle Moser, who sets her alarm at four in the morning every weekday just to beat the traffic proves to be exhausting.

“I drive from Saugus to Sun Valley daily,” said Moser. “Takes about an hour most days to get 22 miles. Some days it’s anywhere from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours.”

The average commute from Santa Clarita to the valley is around upwards 40 minutes. That is taking into consideration that there have not been any accidents. With a population of 181,960 and growing with new housing projects underway, there seems to be limited options in tackling the traffic. With only one major freeway and side street to get in and out of the city, this leaves all commuters vulnerable to rush hour traffic. This poses the question, does the city have any plans to build infrastructures to accommodate its growing population?

A main issue that many residents believe contributes to the city’s heavy traffic is the mass building of newer homes. Just recently the Newhall Ranch project got approved. This project will oversee the building of 21,000 new homes in the Newhall area. Residents fear that decisions like these are made without enough consideration of the city’s already congested roads and lack of public transportation.

“In the dozen years I have lived in SCV the population has grown so much and our infrastructure has not made any plans to grow with it…and yet they have approved the Newhall Ranch project!” said Shawn Benhart. “They need to create better infrastructure in order to meet the demands of a growing community.”

Julie Cobb’s reliable car that has served her for over 20 years of commuting to and from work. Photo by Julie Cobb.

Julie Cobb and her family have lived in the Santa Clarita Valley her whole life. Up until she retired, Cobb was one of the many SCV residents who commuted to work daily for over 20 years. What should generally have taken about half an hour for a 32-mile drive to Culver City ended up taking roughly an hour on a good day. In the month of October about four vehicle related accidents have cause the freeway to completely shut down, making commuters hours late to work. While other alternatives are available, they are not very convenient. With limited running buses and trains, it would take even longer to get to the desired destination on time.

“I worked one year the day before thanksgiving. It took me 4 hours to get home. Never did that again!” said Cobb about a particularly brutal commute back home.

The few that do take public transportation usually tend to sacrifice a lot of their time as well in order to not be late. With only four pick up and drop off locations for the city’s commuter express service, residents then have to take various other public transfers. Bus stops are also sprawled across the city especially in the heavily populated areas, leaving residents in smaller neighborhoods having to incorporate walking into their everyday commute. For Christopher Munchhof, a 37-year-old financial advisor, commuting via public transportation was a nightmare.

Santa Clarita buses tend to run late according to some residents. Photo from Santaclaritatransit.com

“I used the bus system for about a year and connected to Metrolink,” said Munchhof about his experiences with public transport. “It was extremely inconvenient. The buses were consistently late. In order to connect with trains, I would need to choose a bus that was scheduled to arrive at least 45 minutes before the train. Using public transport out of Santa Clarita added about 2 hours a day to a 25-mile round trip commute.”

Many Santa Clarita residents have claimed to find the transit systems confusing.

About only 3% of SCV’s population take public transportation to work. 78% drive alone, and 11% carpool. Pastor Jose Luis Paz, who recently opened his own church in the Santa Clarita Valley, commented on how a majority of his congregation who take the bus to church seem to do it more out of necessity than want. He also noted that most people who utilize the city buses are elderly people or people whose destination is close by. Paz has also struggled with the grueling traffic on the freeways to get to his job at a Dentist’s office. Before opening up his own church in SCV, he traveled to the San Fernando valley where he previously preached at.

“I would spend most of my time in the valley overseeing the church and making sure everything was ready for the sermons. I would usually finish in the mid afternoon when traffic is heaviest to get back home,” said Paz. “Sometimes I would prefer to stay around the office or visit some family in the valley to allow the traffic to die down.”

So far, the city has no plans to work on better infrastructure to accommodate the growing population. Although new bus schedules have been made for the small percentage that travel via bus to work, it has done nothing to assuage the concerns of many U.S. commuters who spend, on average, about 42 hours of their lives stuck in traffic.