Tired of Traffic in Marblehead?
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 and 8:30 AM and 2:15 PM-3:00 PM? Traffic has become a big issue in Marblehead for multiple reasons.
Our children are scattered to 5 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 of Massachusetts. This is fewer than 10% of our students - far fewer than neighboring communities. The other 2400 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 3 schools for pickup/dropoff, trying to combat the congestion at lights/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. Kids 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 pick up 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 amongst 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. I started speaking to our School Committee members with Dr Buckey about busing in July of 2020. After nodding and smiling at my input, he did nothing to help this problem. He stated it was not a district priority for him. I provided numerous examples which show that our schools offer buses to fewer students than any other town on the North Shore. Beverly has about 3500 students in its district and 50 buses. Marblehead has about 2600 students in its district and 4 buses!
In order to increase busing, we need to increase the money in our school budget to fund additional buses and drivers. Our school administration keeps saying we don’t have the money. However, during the summer, Marblehead public schools received a letter urging them to apply for federal grants to convert our buses to electric ones and this was ignored. Our previous administration, under Buckey, turned away federal money to help us in this situation, after two failed overrides.
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 and Sarah Fox, Chair of the School Committee. The next step is a school survey to determine the demand for busing. Please cc our grassroots organization, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica Benedetto, MD