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Overcrowded Crosstown Shuttle and Safety Concerns

Original post made by Student ('07), Gunn High School, on Jan 10, 2007

A newspaper article in the Daily stated that the Charleston-Arastradero project aims to reduce congestion and promote the use of alternatives forms of transit. I'm all for public transit but my question is HOW? VTA buses run infrequently and the crosstown shuttle is overpacked to the extent that it endangers students.

Everyday, students at Gunn take their chances to guess which of two stops the shuttle will reach first. Those walking to the Miranda stop jaywalk through an intersection then walk against traffic in a bike lane (no sidewalks) with cars and UPS vans speeding by at 35. Rainy days cause puddles, forcing many to walk onto roadways. If the shuttle reaches Miranda first, those waiting at the second stop in front of Gunn will jaywalk (in one entire group) across all four lanes of Arastradero whether or not the light is red or green. Motorists honk and wave hand gestures at the twenty or so students running across the roadway.

When the doors open, the mass of students shove on trying to get any remaining seats or just to keep themselves from getting left behind. If they are lucky, the driver will allow them to get on despite being over the legal capacity. Full of up to 40 students, each with backpacks, textbooks, and instruments, the shuttle continues down Arastradero. It passes Terman Middle School, where the driver will sometimes stop to let a few middle schoolers on. Usually, however, a group of 5-10 will be left behind waiting for the next shuttle (40 minutes).

The Crosstown shuttle is so packed that students in the front have to get off in order to let others in the back disembark at stops. It is also so crowded that the driver cannot see to his/her left because the view is blocked by students in front of the doorway. At stopsigns and intersections, the driver asks these students to tell him/her when there isn't a car coming.

If the city or council really wanted to encourage commuters to use alternative forms of transit, another shuttle is desperately needed. Biking may be an option for some but a 5-mile roundtrip discourages me and carrying a brass instrument on a bicycle isn't exactly easy. The current situation aboard the shuttle also endangers the safety of students.

This is my last and final year at Gunn, and after four years here nothing has changed with the crosstown shuttle. I live right next to a shuttle stop, but the benefits of driving a car outweigh the benefits of running across four lanes of traffic or being packed into an overcrowded shuttle. Adding another shuttle during peak times would promote the use of alternative transportation and solve safety issues.

For years the city council has done nothing about the Crosstown shuttle. Is it going to take a fatal traffic collision and a sacrifice of student lives to get the city or council to do something pragmatic???

Comments (8)

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 10, 2007 at 8:15 pm

Well said Gunn student. The Embarcadero shuttle for Paly students is a similar situation, although I have never used it myself. My daughter has used it and has exactly the same comments. I like to give my children the opportunity of independence getting themselves to and from school, but realistically, it is not an easy thing to do. The fact that these shuttles are used in this way shows that we need them for school transport. This is apart from the use made by seniors who don't drive, and various other members of the community. I havae no idea how these free shuttles are funded, but the realiy is that we desperately need more. If funding is the problem, then we need to relook at the fact that they are free. If we could double the number of shuttles, charging a nominal fee, we would still have the same ridership. If we introduced another route, the question would be where? Someone does need to look into this and do something about it. The schools are getting bigger, there is more housing being built, and transport must be affected. Traffic concerns are always mentioned whenever anything is discussed at the school level. Transport must be a priority by the City for the City and soon.


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Posted by Lorraine
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2007 at 12:51 pm

As I said on another strand earlier, it's time for the school board and the city council to take a look at the traffic problems generated by our school board decisions (neighborhood schools, choice programs) and take steps together to make resolving them a top priority.


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Posted by another Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 11, 2007 at 9:23 pm

Gunn student, I agree with you! You are making some excellent points. We live on the opposite side of town, and the Embarcadero shuttle is close to unusable for our students - too crowded with pushing and shoving as students try to get on after school at Paly. I understand that sometimes way too many students are permitted on (standing), which I doubt is safe in the kind of traffic we get around here!


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Posted by A longtime resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2007 at 10:27 am

The free bus system was originall set up to bring people to downtown to shop and also to provide a way for workers in downtown to park in neighborhoods around town and get to downtown free. If the city would work like LosGatos has the VTA would be providing busses that run around in Palo Alto like the city busses do. The VTA has a lot of busses that run almost empty most of the time, even at commute time. I agree that the city busses should not be free, a nominal charge for students and seniors would work. Petitions to the city by a large no of bus users and their parents may get thru to the city council.???


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Posted by alex
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2007 at 10:53 pm

The shuttle routes are so complicated it's hard to figure out where it goes and when... It would be great to have a shuttle that just ran up and down middlefield from University to Cubberly and back again... How many moms do this route about a million times a day?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 17, 2007 at 9:54 am

Gunn student, Thanks for bringing this issue to the foreground. I've seen how crowded the shuttles are on Arastradeo. The students are packed in like sardines, even standing in the aisles. Your description of the problem is excellent. I hope you have forwarded your posting to the city council and any transportation group at City Hall.


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Posted by gunn freshman
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 27, 2007 at 3:55 pm

It's nice to have an HONEST and INSIDER look at the crosstown shuttles. Even though the VTA route 88 bus basically takes the same path from Gunn down to the JLS area, many parents (including mine) encourage or force their students to use the crosstown shuttle rather than the bus, because it's free.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2007 at 4:03 pm

As a parent, I am wondering how many parents have themselves ever taken either the VTA or shuttle to Gunn on a school morning to assess the situation. My feeling is that if a couple of parents have done this and can see exactly how bad the situation is and then report it to the city, the VTA and the PAPD, action may be taken. The parents could do this just as an exercise in observation, not in using this as a means of getting anywhere. I would not advocate too many parents doing this at the same time though as we do not want to make the situation any more difficult by overcrowding the buses.


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