Change is always scary. The disruption of one’s daily life or routine can be daunting, particularly for young people still trying to find their niche in the world.
But for 17-year-old Michelle Buzbee, change isn’t something to be feared—it’s something to be seized and embraced.
That’s why the College of San Mateo student didn’t blink after moving from Topeka, Kansas to Half Moon Bay during her junior year of high school, and why she’s aiming to do big things now that she’s part of the SamTrans’ Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). The CAC is responsible for offering feedback on the needs of transit users and informing San Mateo County residents of transit programs on the Peninsula.
“I’m trying to bring about positive change anyway I can,” said Buzbee, who was appointed to the 15-person CAC by the SamTrans’ Board of Directors on December 7. “I’m excited about coming up with solutions to address the public transportation issues in San Mateo County.”
Buzbee grew up using Topeka Metro, the public transportation system in her hometown. She would take two buses to get to her high school, and that experience helped foster a deep appreciation for the independence that comes with using public transit. After relocating to Half Moon Bay, Buzbee biked every day to the Pilarcitos Continuation School, the local high school where she graduated a year early. Because of her background in both cycling and public transportation, Buzbee will represent Multimodal Riders on the CAC.
Buzbee found out about the SamTrans CAC through her involvement with the Youth Leadership Institute (YLI), a non-profit organization that focuses on providing opportunities for youth civic engagement, advocacy, and philanthropy. On November 9, Buzbee was part of a YLI presentation on public transportation findings in San Mateo County. That event was held in SamTrans’ Central Headquarters and provided Buzbee an opportunity to learn more about the agency.
As a resident of the Coastside, Buzbee said she’ll advocate for increased bus service in the communities of western San Mateo County. She’d also like SamTrans to more aggressively pursue youth riders, as the YLI presentation found that there were plenty of opportunities for improvement in that area.
“I think the big goal is to make sure that young adults have a positive experience taking public transit,” said Buzbee. “It will leave an imprint on them for life if they enjoy taking the bus now.”
Buzbee said she’s looking forward to working with Zachary Fucini and Frank Liu, two other teenagers who sit on the CAC.
“I think it’s important that we have a strong youth voice on the CAC,” said Buzbee. “We can offer a unique insight and voice that might not be heard at times.”
Buzbee originally applied to be on the SamTrans Board of Directors, but when that option didn’t work out, she was happy to join the CAC. She hopes to one day join the Board, or possibly work at SamTrans in the future.
“I think that joining the CAC is a great start to something bigger,” said Buzbee. “And I can’t wait to start on this journey.”