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Old 05-03-2010, 06:33 PM
 
Location: San Jose
781 posts, read 1,178,327 times
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Default Santa Cruz - highway 17 commute

My landlord just informed me that he lost his job and wants to move back into the house I'm renting, so my lease won't be up for renewal in July.

I am using this opportunity to "shop around" for a possible new area to live in, and one place under (somewhat remote) consideration is Santa Cruz. (I work in Santa Clara.)

Can someone with firsthand experience commuting on highway 17 comment on what the traffic on 17 is like at the following weekday hours: leaving Santa Cruz at 9:30 to 10am, leaving Silicon Valley at 6:30 to 7pm. Are these hours "staggered" enough that the commute would normally be relatively smooth, or would I expect to encounter bad congestion?

I'm mainly interested in the typical/average time for the portion on 17 itself (say, from Highway 1 to Highway 85 and vice versa) as I'm pretty familiar with traffic patterns within Silicon Valley itself.

Obviously I recognize that an accident can completely derail the commute, so for purposes of this exercise let's assume there's no accident, just "normal" traffic. (Also, if it's raining, should I multiply the drive time by 1.5? 2?)

Based on my weekend experiences, the main choke point seems to be Hwy 17 through Los Gatos, but co-workers who live in the mountains tell me that section isn't usually too bad on weekdays. Is that true?
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Old 05-03-2010, 06:38 PM
 
Location: The High Seas
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Check on sigalert, or have someone else check on that website at those times to give you an idea. The hours would be later than the typical rush hour times, but you know the road: it really sucks.
I'd hate to have that as my regular commute five days a week. I just heard from a colleague about someone driven nuts by going from SC to Cupertino for a year. They're leaving the job and hoping to find something closer to home.
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Old 05-03-2010, 06:44 PM
 
Location: San Jose
781 posts, read 1,178,327 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Snort View Post
Check on sigalert, or have someone else check on that website at those times to give you an idea. The hours would be later than the typical rush hour times, but you know the road: it really sucks.
I'd hate to have that as my regular commute five days a week. I just heard from a colleague about someone driven nuts by going from SC to Cupertino for a year. They're leaving the job and hoping to find something closer to home.
I wouldn't want to do it five days a week either. A big reason for this analysis is to estimate how many days per week I would have to convince my boss to let me work from home before it would be worthwhile. I might be able to talk him into one telecommute day per week, possibly (unlikely) two. My gut instinct is that I wouldn't want to make the drive more than three days per week.

P.S. I forgot to ask which weekdays have the worst traffic. I'm assuming Friday evenings would be especially bad.
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Old 05-03-2010, 06:47 PM
 
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
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If you can wait until 10:00 am to leave Santa Cruz, the traffic won't be nearly as bad than if you leaved an hour or more earlier.
In fact, by that time it's usually fairly light .... back to "normal" and then, if you're a good driver it's a breeze and can be fun but keep both hands on the wheel on much of 17 ... it's a roller coaster of a road.
When i leave the county and travel to points where i have to drive 17, 10:00 is the earliest i'll leave Santa Cruz.
9:30 is o.k. too .... but waiting that extra half hour is a plus.
And coming back ... again, if you can wait that extra half hour and leave at 7:00, that would be a plus as well.
Driving on HWY17 can be a real drag and during heavy times it can be slow going all the way and then when you hit HWY1 in Santa Cruz it's often very, very heavy .... stop and go for miles on HWY1 going south.
Same for the morning commute going toward San Jose ... traffic can be backed up on HWY1 well south of Aptos.
When it's raining it's even slower and if there's an accident ... ugh.
But you've got that advantage of being able to leave later in the a.m. and p.m..
If living in S.C. county is really worth it for you (as it is for many), you can do it.
It just depends on how much time you want to spend in the car and how much stress you're willing to deal with.
I heard once that HWY17 is the most accident prone road in the state and that there's an average of 1 accident per day.
I don't know if that's true but i can imagine that it is.

Last edited by coyoteskye; 05-03-2010 at 07:00 PM..
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Old 05-03-2010, 07:02 PM
 
Location: Monterey County, CA
3,600 posts, read 6,433,531 times
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Less than 5 would definately be better. That drive can be trecherous especially during the rainy/foggy season. Many accidents occur. There have been a number of threads on this topic:

Is commuting from the Santa Cruz Mountains to Santa Clara reasonable...or am I just insane?

what's so bad about highway 17?

Derek
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Old 05-03-2010, 07:05 PM
 
Location: San Jose
781 posts, read 1,178,327 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coyoteskye View Post
If living in S.C. county is really worth it for you (as it is for many), you can do it.
It just depends on how much time you want to spend in the car and how much stress you're willing to deal with.
I heard once that HWY17 is the most accident prone road in the state and that there's an average of 1 accident per day.
I don't know if that's true but i can imagine that it is.
I've never lived there so I don't know if it will be worth it for me. I did a San Francisco-Santa Clara commute (work was in Santa Clara) for a few months and it was pretty tiring even though traffic wasn't too bad. Santa Cruz is closer but the traffic is worse, so the overall fatigue level might be pretty similar.

By the way, Google Maps estimated 46 minutes each way for my proposed commute, which is why I even considered it in the first place, but my common sense tells me it has to be more like an hour even on a good day.

OK, I think I've talked myself out of this idea. Maybe I'll try Santa Cruz sometime in the future if I can achieve a more congenial work arrangement (one not involving a commute to SV). Thanks for the feedback!
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Old 05-03-2010, 07:12 PM
 
Location: San Jose
781 posts, read 1,178,327 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MtnSurfer View Post
Less than 5 would definately be better. That drive can be trecherous especially during the rainy/foggy season. Many accidents occur. There have been a number of threads on this topic:

Is commuting from the Santa Cruz Mountains to Santa Clara reasonable...or am I just insane?

what's so bad about highway 17?

Derek
Thanks for the links. I think this post alone, from the second thread, should be required reading for anyone who considers this commute:

Quote:
Originally Posted by gmkarr View Post
In addition to the previous comments about 17, when it is foggy out, especially in the evening, visibility is incredibly difficult. And unfortunately, that doesn't usually slow down drivers as much as it should. When I think about my ten years of commuting over 17 (occasionally), it is night fog that fills me with dread.
I've never actually driven 17 at night, so this hadn't occurred to me. Fog I can deal with. Mountain roads I can deal with. But foggy mountain roads (plus insane Hwy 17 drivers), that sounds downright suicidal!

P.S. Someone at work just told me that in the "old days," Highway 17 didn't have a concrete barrier separating the two directions of traffic flow. I find that hard to imagine, considering how many scrapes and scuffs you see on that barrier. Each scrape/scuff would have instead been someone crossing into oncoming traffic!
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Old 05-03-2010, 07:36 PM
 
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbunniii View Post
I've never lived there so I don't know if it will be worth it for me. I did a San Francisco-Santa Clara commute (work was in Santa Clara) for a few months and it was pretty tiring even though traffic wasn't too bad. Santa Cruz is closer but the traffic is worse, so the overall fatigue level might be pretty similar.

By the way, Google Maps estimated 46 minutes each way for my proposed commute, which is why I even considered it in the first place, but my common sense tells me it has to be more like an hour even on a good day.

OK, I think I've talked myself out of this idea. Maybe I'll try Santa Cruz sometime in the future if I can achieve a more congenial work arrangement (one not involving a commute to SV). Thanks for the feedback!
When there is no traffic i can leave Soquel (for example as it's a bit down HWY1) and get to the airport in San Jose in less than an hour ... i think i did in in 40 minutes the last time i had to go to the airport.
And it's an easy trip.

The other thing you may want to consider is living around or off of Summit Rd. on either side of HWY17.
That way, you'd be in a nice in between location .... close enough to the coast and relatively close to your job.
Once you get onto 17 at Summit Rd. the worst of it is over and you've avoided HWY1 in S.C. county.
There are some nice places to live up there.
And there's the option of living on or off of Old San Jose Rd. in Soquel.
That would give you the option of connecting onto Summit Rd. (which will then connect you to HWY17) from Old San Jose Rd.
It's a slower road and people do use it to avoid HWY1 and most of 17 but it's a more relaxed way to do the commute.
That's just an idea if living in S.C. county and being closer to the coast is important to you.
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Old 05-03-2010, 08:09 PM
 
Location: Monterey County, CA
3,600 posts, read 6,433,531 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbunniii View Post
Thanks for the links. I think this post alone, from the second thread, should be required reading for anyone who considers this commute:

I've never actually driven 17 at night, so this hadn't occurred to me. Fog I can deal with. Mountain roads I can deal with. But foggy mountain roads (plus insane Hwy 17 drivers), that sounds downright suicidal!
Yeah, but I like this description the best from the same thread:

Quote:
Born and raised in Los Gatos and the mountains next to 17 and I can personally vouch for the inherent danger. A study was done about some 15 years ago and found that 17 is banked totally incorrectly in something like 15 places (take notice next time you drive it and you'll feel it). Friends that I know have either died or been in terrible wrecks on 17 without the element of bad weather. The house that I was born in (Redwood Estates)used to overlook 17 and my parents still talk about decapitations and fatalities that they witnessed right below our home. The problem is that people take it WAY too fast and there isn't much time to slow down due to the turns in the road. Add a little booze or someone falling asleep at the wheel and it's disastrous. While some of the problems have been fixed there are still tricky merges/exits with little or no space to get on or off much less with visibility. All this aside, it's something that you will learn to live with to get around when you live in Santa Cruz. Just give yourself plenty of time to get back and forth! Good luck.
Its sobering to think about at the very least.


Derek
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Old 05-03-2010, 09:57 PM
 
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
2,893 posts, read 7,569,778 times
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Yeah, yikes.
That's very interesting about the banking.
It is the craziest road i've driven and it's very easy to get "thrown off" (i don't mean literally although that can happen too) if you don't pay close attention and keep both hands firmly on the wheel.
And i always stay in the slow lane (not the one in the center) and i don't let anyone push me to hurry.
People do drive it way too fast and with not nearly enough care.
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