To the editor:
Are you back commuting to work, or just trying to get your errands done? Have you noticed that the gridlock is unbearable between 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 2:15-3 p.m.? Traffic has become a big issue in Marblehead for multiple reasons. Our children are scattered to five separate school locations, with start times and end times that are spaced within 10 minutes of each other. Within our 4.4 square miles, we provide bus transportation to about 250 students, which is the absolute minimum mandated by the state. This is fewer than 10% of our students — far fewer than neighboring communities.
The other 2,400 students must find some other way to get to school, which usually means private vehicles driven by parents. Some parents have to make a circuit of three schools for pickup and drop-off, trying to combat the congestion at lights and intersections to get each child to school on time. This causes massive gridlock throughout our small town.
If you are elderly and have to get to a medical appointment in this time frame, you are out of luck. If you are a commuter trying to get to work within a reasonable time frame, too bad. There are limited routes to get into and out of our beautiful peninsula. At peak traffic hours, I have counted over 100 vehicles on West Shore Drive, idling in the cold winter air in absolute gridlock. I can peer into the opposite lane, seeing frustrated faces of Marbleheaders who wish the line of traffic would move, even a little. I can see lines of cars trying to cut through residential side streets to then cut into the main line of traffic idling patiently.
Every winter it gets even worse as ice, snow and treacherous sidewalks drive down the walking population and narrow our roads, thus worsening the gridlock. Children of all ages are evacuating cars in the middle of the street to access their schools on foot once their parents’ cars inch close enough. The safety issues alone related to drop-off and pickup should be enough to make any parent or reasonable school official uncomfortable. Adding to these unsafe conditions are the excess exhaust fumes our citizens inhale as they access our public buildings among a line of idling cars.
Do we, as a community, actually want to reduce our carbon emissions in this town and be more sustainable? Do we really want to reduce our carbon footprint?
Let’s take our public school children out of those vehicles on West Shore Drive and put them onto electric buses. Let’s create a safe, sustainable busing system to transport our children to and from our public schools. Beverly has about 3,500 students in its district and 50 buses. Marblehead has about 2,600 students in its district and four buses!
In order to increase busing, we need to increase the money in our school budget to fund additional buses and drivers. This is not just a school issue, but a community issue. Increased busing is money well spent in our town budget if it helps our tax-paying citizens get to work on time. If you are a Marbleheader and sick of traffic, or support Marblehead’s sustainability issues, please reach out to our interim superintendent, Michelle Cresta (Cresta.email@example.com), and Sarah Fox, chair of the School Committee, (firstname.lastname@example.org) and copy us on the email at email@example.com. The next step is a school survey to determine the demand for busing.
Jessica Benedetto, MD