Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Puddles, Handicapped Plates & Pittsburg Traffic

December 31, 2012 14:00 pm · 22 comments

Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Every Monday at 2pm on

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Greetings, all! This column is for everyone who negotiates the highways and public transit of the Bay Area. It runs every Monday at 2pm and answers your commuting and transportation questions.

Email your questions to

Today, on New Year’s Eve, the Jammer would like to thank each and every one of you beloved Claycordians who send in questions and comment on this column. I’m looking forward to working with you all in 2013!

And now, for our first question today:

COMMUTER: With all the rain and puddles we’re having lately, I’m worried about how injurious it might be to a recent model car to be driving through these puddles and getting the underside of the car wet. I heard there’s a danger of injury to the electrical system – is that right?

–Rain, Rain, Go Away

TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer turned for her answer to Brian Hagopian, an automotive faculty member at Las Positas College in Livermore. His answer was reassuring: “Late model cars are very resistant to normal puddles. All connectors to the electrical system are weather-pack sealed and components are also sealed. Personally, I would be more worried about hydroplaning your vehicle when going through a puddle.”

There is just one concern: “non-normal” puddles, Hagopian said. If a puddle is deep, say all the way up to the door sill, there is a chance of sucking water into the air intake of the engine. “If this happens the engine will hydro-lock and very bad and expensive things will happen,” Hagopian said.

COMMUTER: My question has to do with handicapped license plates and mirror hangers. Increasingly, I notice these on cars that a disabled person could not possibly get in or out of. There’s one monster truck at Safeway on Clayton Road every week and the person getting in and out is definitely not disabled. Today I saw a souped-up work truck with a disabled plate. Is there something that can be done in cases where the plate is obviously fraudulent?

–Discombobulated in Concord

TRAFFIC JAMMER: DIC, as you point out, disabled placard abuse is harmful for many reasons. However, it’s important to note that you can’t always tell by someone’s appearance or behavior whether or not they are disabled. A person with chronic fatigue syndrome, for example, can appear totally able-bodied. A person with asthma could jump down from their monster truck and stride merrily into the mall, walk past a person with a cigarette and be stricken with an asthma attack. When you’re struggling to breathe, it’s hard to walk just a few feet.

For this reason, the Jammer urges discretion. It’s always dicey approaching strangers and this is especially dicey. You can call the police and report what you are seeing; it is against the law to misuse a disabled placard. Claycordians, any other suggestions?

COMMUTER: I commute from the Pittsburg BART station often and I have been frustrated with the backup on Leland during the afternoon commute. There is little traffic turning left from Leland onto Bailey Road going to Concord. However, the traffic light is keeping east bound traffic on Leland from going through. West bound traffic on Leland often has a green light before the East bound traffic.

There is a lot of traffic coming from Bay Point that must blend with the traffic coming out of the BART parking lot. When the traffic is heavy in the afternoon, the light can cause of real traffic back up that would be relieved if the light were better programmed for that part of the day. Is this intentional, or is it something that could be fixed?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Frustrated, it turns out that the folks at the City of Pittsburg are big Claycord fans, and they pulled out all the stops to help us with this. The Jammer really appreciates the extra effort – thanks to Don Buchanan Manager, Maintenance Services Environmental Services, for spearheading the effort. Also, the Jammer knows you all love details, so I’ll include them, but first I’ll cut to the chase:  The folks in Pittsburg jumped into action and studied the operation of the intersection.

The staff has made some adjustments to the intersection already, and they are going to do a bigger fix as well. Unfortunately, they can’t do it until the cold and rain go away, which is to say, likely early spring. Now, here is the city’s awesomely thorough response:

The traffic signal at the intersection of Bailey Road & W. Leland Road uses detectors in the pavement to detect vehicles. Detectors are also used to extend the variable portion of the green interval. Detectors at the intersection have been damaged as a result of construction operations along the Bailey Road corridor. Detectors on the southbound approach were recently replaced. The detectors on northbound and westbound intersection approaches are currently not functioning and require replacement. These detector replacements require coordination with other construction activities.

With the detectors damaged, the northbound and westbound intersection approaches are operated as fixed time (pre-timed) vehicle movements. Where fixed timed operation is used, a vehicle movement is served for a predetermined amount of time regardless of traffic volume. The use of fixed time does result in certain inefficiencies in the operation.

Also a factor in the signal operation, lanes are currently closed on the northbound and southbound approaches. The lane closure reduces the capacity of these intersection approaches. Additional time has been given to these approaches to address observed queuing problems.

Earlier this month, the operation of the intersection was reviewed. The operation was reviewed during several periods of the day. Based on the review, certain adjustments have been made in the timing of the intersection. A time of day plan has been added in an effort to better address the differences in volumes and direction of travel by time of day. Staff will continue to monitor the operation of the intersection.

Until the detectors are replaced and all lanes reopened, there will continue to be inefficiencies in the intersection operation and motorists will notice delay.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: That’s it for this week – see you next Monday. Be sure to cruise by 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

Traffic Jammin’ is brought to you by Lehmer’s Concord Buick GMC. Step up to your next GMC. GMC Truck Month is Happening Now!

1 Handicapped December 31, 2012 at 2:10 PM

Im very glad that you addressed the issue with the handicapped placard properly. the person complaining probably has no idea that you can be extremely handicapped even though you may not look it. dont judge a book by its cover.

2 Cowellian December 31, 2012 at 2:35 PM

California has an overabundance of people who have disabled plates or placards who don’t really need them. There are also perfectly healthy people that use the disabled placards belonging to relatives, and that causes a lot of resentment towards anyone using the placards but looks OK.

3 Screwy Louie December 31, 2012 at 2:42 PM

Hey, good variety of topics this week!
About the placard thing, My son-in-law is 21 and legally blind. You cant tell by looking at him or talking to him. Add to that my 21 y.o. blonde Daughter driving him around in their clean 1970 Olds Cutlass and that tends to send up a red flag for some people when they park in the blue spots.
Janis is right, tread lightly here. Everyone is fighting some battle and you can’t tell a book by it’s cover (or by the car it drives).
By the way, they RARELY use their placard and are very considerate of others when they do.

4 Scooter December 31, 2012 at 3:13 PM

I have handicapped plates on my motorcycle and I get a variety of looks and comments when I use a handicapped spot. “If you are handicapped how can you ride a motorcycle?” is the most common. I just smile and go on my way. I have a neuro-muscular disease that makes it hard to walk more than a few hundred feet without severe pain, but I can ride all day and never hurt. Riding is one of the few things I can still enjoy. Several friends have handicapped plates on their motorcycles and they say the same thing, that riding is easy on the old diseased bones and is something they can still do, in spite of their disease or health issue.

5 Pleasant Jenny December 31, 2012 at 3:33 PM

Another excellent column. Thank you Miss Janis!

6 Anonymouse December 31, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Screwy Louie , are you saying your BLIND son in law drives ?

7 Parsnip December 31, 2012 at 5:19 PM

I have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, but I have no need for a placard — which is good. The fact is that it’s an impairment that is not visible.

I do understand the frustration, and the fact that it’s being abused — as are benefits that come along with it such as free parking.

I think that DMV should expand beyond a blue and white plastic placard. More like one that has the photo of the disabled person on it. If that photo is not of the driver or his passenger the parking fine should be significant.

8 Bob H. December 31, 2012 at 5:57 PM

@#6 – So sorry for your disability. They can teach to read at night school !!

9 Gladys Kravitz December 31, 2012 at 6:32 PM

Thanks for the placard comment. I am also handicapped and my husband has gotten a few strange looks this past shopping season. When I get to the mall walking starts out fine but I quickly get tired. When it rains he runs out to get my car for me as the rain makes it even harder for me to walk. I hope the people that see him running and jumping over puddles also see him loading me in the car. The placard can be for anyone in the car. As a legal placard holder I think the police should check more often. I’ve been handicapped over five years and only asked once to show proof it was my placard.

10 Steve December 31, 2012 at 6:47 PM

There is a young gentleman that we frequently see around the Clayton Station and Peet’s across the street that drives a large truck. He is missing a leg, I believe he is a military veteran since I have seen military stickers on his truck. This may be who the writer is referring to.

11 Paul (formerly) in South Concord December 31, 2012 at 11:29 PM

Speaking of driving woes… Safeway or someone really needs to address the “waiting in line for gas” issue, at the new station, on CoCo Blvd. Just this evening, I’m patiently waiting, along with a gazillion other folks and some dumb woman literally cut in line, in front of me. Jammed the nose of her vehicle, between mine and the one in front of me. No blinker, no hand signal of any kind, nothing to convey her intentions. Fortunately, I was paying attention, so a collision was avoided. Immediately following, another stupid woman, in another SUV, nearly sideswiped me then had the audacity to get mad at ME because she was “just trying to get through”. Really? You’re merging to the right, with your left blinker flashing? Oh, so it’s my fault I couldn’t read your mind and that also makes it okay to yell at me I guess. Oh well, both plates are being turned in as reckless drivers.

12 Janis Mara January 1, 2013 at 12:35 AM

Beloved Claycordians, thanks for your perceptive comments, and for the kind words! I think if you put @Cowellian and @Parsnip’s comments together, you have a great working solution. Put the disabled person’s photo on the placard! Then there’s no doubt on the part of observers, and much less chance of placard abuse.

@Gladys Kravitz and @Scooter, I am grateful to you for sharing your experiences. More than anything else, hearing your real-life stories is what raises peoples’ awareness.

@Screwy Louie, thanks for the kind words, and for sharing your childrens’ experience. Thanks to you, too, Ms. @Pleasant Jenny!

HNY to you all!

13 DoReMi January 1, 2013 at 8:05 AM

I am grateful I can walk the extra 50 or 100 feet to the door. This won’t be my battle.

14 Traffic Jammer January 1, 2013 at 8:38 AM

Ugh, @Paul (formerly), that sounds ugly. Come Wednesday, I’ll give Safeway a call and see if I can get anywhere with them. Will let you know how it goes.

15 macawlady January 1, 2013 at 9:36 AM

My husband has a condition called MGUS. It is not common and most people haven’t heard of it. It causes him to have weakness in his legs and walking can be difficult for him at times. Yes, he has a handicapped placard. Yes, he drives a big truck. He has no problems getting *in* or *out* of the truck….just with walking. Not all physical problems are obvious.

That being said, I’m sure there are some people who do abuse the placard. But you can’t just look at a person and know for sure that is the case.

16 placard check January 1, 2013 at 11:09 AM

A cop once approached me and asked me for my placard and identification. This was the first time this had ever happened to me but I of course complied. Of course everything was okay, the cop was nice and said “we just like to make sure the spaces are being used for people that deserve them like yourself.” He was very polite and the whole thing took less than a minute. I wish the cops would do this more often because if the spaces are being abused like used by the disabled persons relative, that leaves less spaces for truly disabled people.

17 Chicken Little January 1, 2013 at 11:37 AM

I had a temporary placard a few years ago due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash. I had a broken foot and ankle, and a broken wrist, among other things. Yes, I drive a big, lifted, 4×4 truck and I used to get some really dirty looks from people when I pulled into a handicapped parking spot (which I only did when there were no “regular” spaces within a reasonable distance of where I needed to go). I think they felt a little stupid when I hobbled out and grabbed my crutches out of the truck.

BTW, fat does not mean disabled. Sometimes I think the people with the placards are the ones who would benefit most from the exercise of walking a few extra steps to and from their car.

18 Paul (formerly) in South Concord January 1, 2013 at 2:21 PM

@ Her Majesty…

Recent development. I wasn’t sure where the boundaries were, exactly, so I called the PHPD business line, to find out. Ended up having a very friendly chat with an officer, for about 10 minutes. Sadly, never got his name, but he’s a heckuva nice guy. He took my info, then told me a story about the very same thing happening to him, in his private car, while off duty.

He’s going to contact the Safeway manager and look into who else he may need to contact, regarding the driving lanes & parking lot. So, we’ll see what happens. Not holding my breath for a quick resolution, but at least the “buzz” has started.

19 Screwy Louie January 1, 2013 at 3:05 PM

Bob H. @8
Thanks for gettin my back on that. I was just gonna tell em to read it again…slower, but your response was much better.

20 Traffic Jammer January 1, 2013 at 3:58 PM

@Paul, good on you! Let us know how it goes!

@placard check, that’s very interesting. Another insight into the process. I like what the officer said.

21 jtkatec January 2, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Janis Mara, can you use your traffic connections to have the traffic light gurus look at High School and East St in Concord.

If one is turning left off of High School on to East St., it takes a million lifetimes for the light to change.

I will pull up, sit and wait. In about two minutes I then back up, and pull forward and sit. If the light doesn’t change in 3-4 minute I repeat this manuever.

22 Janis Mara January 2, 2013 at 10:22 PM

Hahah jtkatec, I love “a million lifetimes!” Okley dokley, I’ll look into it.

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