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 2pm and answers your commuting and transportation questions.
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
COMMUTER: Janis Mara, can you use your traffic connections to have the traffic light gurus look at High School and East streets in Concord? If one is turning left off High School onto East Street, 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 minutes I repeat this maneuver.
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Here’s the scoop: In a democracy, majority rules, and never was this truer than on the road. Main streets take priority over side streets, because more people travel them. Extra time is usually given to the main street, and East Street is the main street here. Hence, alas, your wait at the light coming from the side street is longer.
Ray Kuzbari, awesome transportation manager for the City of Concord, told the Jammer that the lights on East Street are coordinated on weekdays during commute hours and midday, and also at certain times on the weekend. This is so the many people traveling on East Street don’t have to stop at every light, but it probably adds to your frustration coming from the side street.
Finally, you are burning a whole lot o’ gas by backing up and pulling forward multiple times. Kuzbari confirmed that it’s not going to make the light change any faster. (It is, of course, preferable to throwing a well-aimed rock at the light.) You might just have to give up on the left turn and do what motorcyclists do when their vehicles fail to make the signal change: Turn right, then make a U-turn further down.
COMMUTER: Why is there a sign at the left-hand fork of the Orinda exit ramp on westbound Highway 24 saying “No through Traffic?”
–Call Me Curious
TRAFFIC JAMMER: The jammer initially responded to this by saying she had heard a rumor that the exit once accommodated buses. Ken Harrison, a former Pleasant Hill schoolteacher and resident, supplied the full story:
“At some point after the Sacramento Northern Railway passenger service was discontinued in 1940, passenger carriage along its route was carried out by Greyhound. I believe that service continued until BART was opened. So yes, the lane was reserved for busses, which I occasionally rode,” Harrison, who now lives in Alameda, told the Jammer.
COMMUTER: Why do the highway information signs displaying the times to San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley display the incorrect information in the mornings? This morning, like many others, I passed a highway information sign on Interstate 580 that said my commute to SF was only 35 minutes long.
In reality, it was 75 minutes, factoring in toll/bridge time. With all the technology and road sensors they should be able to provide accurate, up-to-date information. If they can’t, what’s the benefit of posting a message at all?
TRAFFIC JAMMER: JW, you are not the only person who has asked the Jammer this question. You are perhaps too kind to say, “in the mornings.” If there are any Claycordians who have found these signs to be accurate at any time, please do share your story.
With that in mind, and knowing that Claycordians like detail, the Jammer is sharing the response she got to this question from Caltrans spokesman Allyn Amsk in its entirety.
For those of you who aren’t as eager to read all the details, it appears that one of the big reasons for the difference is that the travel times for certain segments, including the westbound Bay Bridge, is based on FasTrak transponders. So, if you don’t have a FasTrak tag, it will take longer for you than the time on the sign.
Here’s the long answer:
From the description provided by your reader, this sign is located on westbound Interstate 580 at Chetwood (between Grand Avenue and Harrison Street in Oakland). The travel time represents the calculated travel time at the current time the message is posted. The Department of Transportation does not predict or project the future travel time. As the reader noted, for a travel distance of 35 minutes away, a lot of things can affect the actual traveling time of the motorist. For example, traffic accidents or other unforeseen incidents can quickly increase the travel time a motorist experiences.
Another source of difference in travel time is the potential delay at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge toll plaza. The travel time for this segment of roadway is done primarily with the FasTrak electronic toll tags. A large number of the FasTrak users are in High Occupancy Vehicle carpools which do not stop in the toll plaza and have a direct access to the bridge without stopping. The delay at the toll plaza may not be representative for motorists who do not use the HOV lane but use the cash line instead.
Our signs are connected to our Travel Time Server via cellular modems. If we lose communication, the sign will remain on with the same message until it receives the next good communication. A field visit is usually required to diagnose this problem.
TRAFFIC JAMMER: That’s it for this week – see you next Monday. Be sure to cruise by Claycord.com 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.