Getting Ahead of Traffic

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Getting Ahead of Traffic in Southern Marin: A Multi-faceted Approach to a Complex and Persistent Problem – by Supervisor Kate Sears and Marin County Public Works Director Raul Rojas

In a recent opinion piece in a national newspaper, syndicated columnist Maureen Dowd opined that most complex issues these days don’t get solved by searching for that elusive “magic bullet.” Rather, they get solved by persistently working the problem for solutions. Instead of looking for a quick fix, this approach embraces complexity. This is how the County of Marin has been approaching our persistent traffic congestion issues in Southern Marin. We’ve recognized the complexity and are working all the angles for a more lasting resolution.

Southern Marin is a traffic “ecotone.” Our communities share traffic burdens and must find solutions together. We hopscotch across cities, towns and unincorporated communities taking our children to school; our work commute is increasingly more in-county than out; in-home employment is on the rise; the home remodel and construction industry has come roaring back; recreation seekers and park visitors come without end. Driving where we need to go, getting the home-based services and deliveries we require, and enjoying our open spaces clogs our roads with vehicles.

We’ve been chipping away at the problem, working with the City of Mill Valley and Caltrans to resolve congestion at the 101/East Blithedale interchange and along Shoreline Highway. The County of Marin hired a traffic signal consultant to examine congestion at traffic signals throughout Tam Junction, evaluate the public’s many suggestions, and advise Caltrans on signal timing adjustments. We also asked Caltrans, which owns and maintains these signals on its roadway, to consider resident suggestions as they retime traffic signals and monitor results.

Our latest proposal is to restrict left turns from Tennessee Valley Road onto busy Shoreline Highway. Caltrans is supportive of this request. We are planning to make this change immediately for a six month pilot phase while we study its effects on overall traffic. We’re hopeful that restricting this left turn will significantly improve traffic flow on Shoreline Highway. As always, we’ll welcome your feedback, please use our project website at:

But there’s more we all can do. School-bound traffic snarls the morning commute. The Safe Routes to School program has initiatives in every Marin school to help families carpool, walk, bike and scoot to school. If high schoolers do it too, they can help ease the Tam High morning bottleneck. Younger students are joining walking school buses and bike trains.

The School Pool program helps map and match convenient carpool arrangements right in your neighborhood. Consider signing up and being a neighborhood traffic reduction hero. Our kids will get to know their neighbors too.

The Town of Tiburon offered to underwrite the local school bus program to reduce trips along heavily congested Tiburon Boulevard. While unable to initiate the program this school year as hoped, it is pursuing future school bus options. Through Marin Transit and the Transportation Agency of Marin (TAM), communities throughout Marin are studying successful school bus programs in the East Bay. We hope to learn from their success.

The Bay Area 511 program operates van pooling, ridesharing and transit programs to re-think your commute. Casual carpools and ridesharing are popular elsewhere in the Bay Area and could catch on here too. Many of our residents who have flexible schedules are leaving for work at different times to help ease the peak hour exit from our communities.

Each of us, taking a small step to reduce our car trips, can make a difference. Cut one car trip from your routine, carpool, and check out the bus schedule. We may not have a “magic bullet” but, working together, we can bring traffic congestion to more manageable levels, easing our aggravation and improving our communities.