Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Every Monday at 2pm on Claycord.com
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Greetings, all! This Claycord.com column is for everyone who negotiates the highways and public transit of the Bay Area. It runs every Monday at 2 p.m. and answers your commuting and transportation questions. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
COMMUTER: I have a question about hybrid vehicles being allowed to use the HOV lanes. I’ve heard that studies show that since July 1st, when hybrids could no longer use the HOV lanes with fewer than three occupants, traffic flow has actually gotten worse in both the regular lanes AND the HOV lanes, because people are illegally moving in and out of them. Has there been any talk of renewing the HOV stickers for hybrids?
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Why, yes, Ellen S., indeed there has; but first, let’s quickly cover the basics of your question. As many Claycordians already know, those yellow clean air stickers for hybrids no longer qualify you to drive in the carpool lane with just one occupant. As Ellen S. said, the program ended onJuly 1, 2011, and owners of hybrid vehicles with yellow Clean Air Vehicle decals can’t use theHOV lane solo anymore during rush hour.
Understandably, many of the 85,000 drivers who got Clean Air Vehicle stickers weren’t too thrilled that their perk had been taken away, but lawmakers felt it was time to encourage even cleaner vehicles. Also, advocates for the decision not to extend the program saidHOVlanes had become too crowded.
Then, a study by UC Berkeley researchers suggested that kicking hybrids out of the carpool lane had actually contributed to congestion inCalifornia.
So, yes, Ellen S., this study sparked discussion, at least amongst hybrid owners, of restoring hybrids’HOVlane privileges. At this point, though, legislators and regulatory agencies such as the California Air Resources Board are focusing on the new crop of gas-saving vehicles.
Speaking of which, here’s some news: This week, the Department of Motor Vehicles plans to start handing out the new green stickers that will go to owners of a new Chevy Volt or Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, or other qualifying cars.
These motorists will be allowed to obtain a sticker and drive with no passengers in the car pool lane. The green stickers are available to the first 40,000 applicants who buy or lease cars that meet the state’s AT PZEV requirements (that’s advanced technology partial zero emission vehicle to you).
Also, white clean air stickers are available to an unlimited number of ILEVs. Examples of these vehicles are 100 percent battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell and natural gas vehicles.
For an exhausting, er, exhaustive list of the vehicles that qualify for single-occupant carpool status, and more information on these programs, visit the air resources board’s site or call the ARB Helpline at (800) 242-4450.
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Last week, Claycordians let off steam about drivers on westbound Highway 24 who use the Wilder Road exit to circumvent the backup. These motorists exit the freeway, and then loop back on, having passed other cars that are inching forward in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Here are excerpts from a couple of responses and an answer from the CHP:
COMMUTER: Westbound Highway 4 at Willow Pass is also a problem spot with people clogging up the side streets, doing the get off/on routine – even though the signage stipulates either right or left at stop sign. Finally, the CHP realized they had a gold mine with people jumping off Highway 4 eastbound at Railroad in Pittsburg and jumping back on. Or westbound Highway 4 at Bailey Road, where the clowns use the right lane (supposed to be for people from Bailey Road merging onto freeway) to pass people.
Bottom line: The police/CHP aren’t going to do anything until someone gets killed or enough people complain.
-Anon II, Claycord
COMMUTER: More problematic are the cheats who take the Orinda exit but instead of exiting to north or south Orinda, they continue straight back onto the freeway (and most likely become the “Wilder Road cheats” at that point). This is clearly prohibited as there are two posted “No Through Traffic” signs on this exit. That is why you see the CHP writing tickets there every so often. … These selfish drivers congest the exit, making it incredibly difficult to take the Orinda South exit as they block the off-ramp trying to sneak back onto the freeway.
-24 Cheats Need to Stay on the Freeway
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Anon II and 24 Cheats made some excellent points with regard to the signs at these exits. There’s not too much the CHP can do unless such signs are posted, Officer Scott Mills explained.
“If there is a black and white regulatory sign that states specifically what it is used for – ‘Right lane must exit,’ for example – we can enforce it if we witness someone using the lane to pass five or six cars and then diving back into traffic,” Officer Mills said. As 24 Cheats pointed out, this is why you sometimes see drivers getting nailed at theOrindaexit, because there’s a sign prohibiting such behavior. Dorothy also mentioned that “cheaters who jump to Highway-4 get caught sometimes by the Concord Police.”
Alas, there is no such sign at the Wilder Road exit. Incidentally, the Traffic Jammer heard a rumor that the Orinda exit once accommodated buses, and that’s why the sign says, “No Through Traffic.” Supposedly, the lane that exits the freeway and then swoops back on again was reserved for buses at one time. Can any Claycordians supply additional information about this?
This wraps it up for today’s column. Be sure to cruise by Claycord.com next Monday at 2pm for more traffic intelligence. Remember, whether you drive, walk, bike or hop Amtrak, BART or AC Transit, Traffic Jammer Janis Mara is here to answer your questions.
Send your questions to email@example.com.