Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – The Caldecott, Combining BART Tix, Riding Motorcycles at the DMV + More

September 30, 2013 14:00 pm · 18 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

COMMUTER: So when is that ding-dong-dang fourth tunnel gonna open for business?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: As I’m sure you all know already, our pal RunnerDope is referring to the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel. Our pals at Caltrans are playing it close to the vest on this one, RunnerDope. The website dedicated to the tunnel,, says, “The tunnel is on schedule to open to traffic in late 2013.”

The Jammer consulted Ivy Morrison, Caldecott Tunnel Goddess and Knower of All Things Vis-à-vis the Fourth Bore, but Morrison could not say which month the tunnel would open. “We want to get through the systems installation and some of the battery of tests,” Morrison said.

You might ask, what system is that? Even as we speak, fire and life safety systems are being installed and tested in the new bore. Workers will be able to monitor the tunnel for things like the horrible fire that broke out in a tunnel in the 1980s using these systems.

“Basically, we are testing each element of the systems individually and then jointly, culminating with a series of fire drills with specially trained tunnel operators and first responders (fire, enforcement, CHP).  With the successful completion of these final drills, the tunnel will be commissioned by the State Fire Marshal,” Morrison said.

COMMUTER: Is it legal to practice riding a motorcycle at the Department of Motor Vehicles?

–Various Claycordians

TRAFFIC JAMMER: This question came up last week when Puzzled in Walnut Creek asked why several California Highway Patrol officers were riding their bikes in circles at the Department of Motor Vehicles in the area where several circles appear on the asphalt. The Jammer contacted the DMV and this is the answer she was given:

“It is not illegal for motorcycles. The skill test for motorcycles is only performed on the street surrounding the field office while the examiner observes. The motorcycle drive test is conducted on the field office parking lot in a designated area (known as the “lollipop”) for motorcycles only. We ask the public that they do not practice during working hours since the designated areas vary from office to office and we do not want our staff or motorcycle test to be delayed due to someone practicing.”

COMMUTER: To get (BART) tickets combined the total must be a multiple of $5 and can only give back paper tickets. The guy in the booth has no actual money to give for change. There is a way to mail in the tickets but there is a charge and I know several people who sent them in and got nothing. BART claimed they never received them. Yet another BART ripoff.

–Jojo Potato

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Here is a detail response from a BART customer service representative. Please feel free to post follow-up questions and the Jammer will send them along to BART:

First, as for exchanging a compilation of low fare tickets into one higher value, Customer Service Representative Michael Moran explains that $5 is a minimum denomination that offers “utility.”

“It doesn’t do much good to refund a $1 ticket when the minimum one-way fare is $1.75,” he said.

BART’s exchange/consolidation locations have no ability to encode values (manufacture) onto tickets. Therefore, tickets offered for consolidation must each be less than $5 remaining ride value, which is the amount considered slightly higher than average ride. They can be of higher value if damaged (inoperative) and stamped “invalid” by a station agent.

We ask customers to exchange tickets in $5 increments because BART’s exchange sites use a consigned inventory of previously encoded ticket stock in denominations of $5, $10, $15, and $20. Any total that falls within an increment of $5 will require a cash difference be paid to reach that next level.

As for those readers who said they mailed in tickets and going nothing in return, perhaps they were seeking refunds. The refund program can accept any and all BART tickets of any values. BART refunds with a check for all tickets bought with cash, check or debit card (or return funds to the account of the transaction’s credit card) for tickets received but they do not send new tickets.

If his friends are looking for a refund, our Customer Service staff states the best option would be to do that at any station in person and request the Station Agent to complete a refund claim form, instead of doing it by mail.

If it’s done at a station, a rider submits his/her tickets, waits for the Station Agent to complete the form, signs the form and receives a copy before leaving. “This is the most secure method as there has been no break in the chain of ticket custody between the customer and District, and the customer has that copy as their receipt that we’ve received item(s) of value for refunding,” said Moran.

Moran acknowledges that there are situations where one cannot get to a station (visitors out of the region having returned home, etc) and only by mailing their tickets can they hope for a refund though with no guarantee of receipt by BART. The only problem here is that chain of custody has been broken. Tickets mailed are now in the hands of the US Postal Service and unless they are received by BART, there is nothing for BART to refund.

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


1 theBARTNinja September 30, 2013 at 2:17 PM

You can also donate the unused funds on your BART tickets to local nonprofits if its not worth the hassle of getting a refund.

2 Jojo Potato September 30, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Spoken like a true bureaucrat. I especially like how he assumes a cooperative station agent will be available, or even exist. I stand by my last sentence. Yet another BART ripoff.

3 Dorothy September 30, 2013 at 3:09 PM

When my granddaughter was practicing her driving before she was licensed we would go to the DMV after hours and practice backing up and such. There were other people doing the same but we avoided each others space.

We didn’t know until the day of her test that the “lollipop” lines were for motorcycles. We had used them for the backing up and u-turn practice.

4 Somebody told me.... September 30, 2013 at 3:25 PM

that the Tunnel Boring Machines dug holes in the sides of the tunnel and buried themselves because it would be impossible to back them out.

5 ANON September 30, 2013 at 3:46 PM

Gee whiz can’t Bart just have a ticket machine that you insert those low tickets in and when you get them all in push a button and get a higher value ticket. How hard can that be. Kind of like put in your money and press you get a ticket.

No wonder Bart is a mess. Not just the Union workers, they are a mess, but the management is just as bad.
Hey if Reagan could replace all the Air Traffice Controllers then I am sure there are people who can run the trains.

6 RunnerDope September 30, 2013 at 3:47 PM

>> The tunnel is on schedule to open to traffic in late 2013.

So they have a schedule. When does the schedule say it will open?

7 Ancient Mariner September 30, 2013 at 4:03 PM

@ No. 4:
You’re thinking of the tunnel under the English Channel.
It was cheaper and faster to dig from both ends and then bury the machines in the middle, than to dig from one end and have the borer come out at the other end.

8 dinkydau September 30, 2013 at 5:18 PM

I knew those “lollipop” circles were for motorcycle testing back in the mid 80′s. I bought a used Honda 350 and had to take the practical riding test, driving around the circles and then do”figure eights”. I needed to get the M1 motorcycle endorsement on my license. Those circles are the only practical place the DMV examiners can witnesses one is able to ride and handle a motorcycle safetly.
One note: they do not sit on the back with you and ride with you down the road.

9 Long Time BART user September 30, 2013 at 5:32 PM

Anon#5 is right. Why can’t you just add the little tickets into the machine and have it add up the values towards another ticket? Even for an addfare, you can only do it with one ticket.

Why? Because think of all the money BART makes on people who never claim those tiny ticket refunds. He may say it’s only a dollar, but you multiply that by all the people who are holding tiny tickets and that likely comes up to a big amount!

10 Jojo Potato September 30, 2013 at 5:46 PM

@ANON, the ticket machine limitations are just one of the many BART problems caused by politicians trying to run a railroad. Similar to the problems with the new Bay Bridge construction. If you are really interested in the gory details about how BART got to be what it is, check out “Great Planning Disasters” by Peter Hall.

11 Pure Vegan October 1, 2013 at 10:19 AM

In New York state, the DMV examiner rides behind you as you ride the motorcycle. If they honk once, I think it means turn right, and if they honk twice, it means turn left.

12 Pure Vegan October 1, 2013 at 10:20 AM

I meant the DMV examiner rides behind you in a car as you ride a motorcycle.

13 abcdef October 1, 2013 at 11:01 AM

@Pure Vegan
That’s good information–I didn’t know that.

14 ConcordMike October 1, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Fourth bore to open late 2013…
Only 3 months left…
Are you telling me there isn’t any planned ceremony to make sure politicians don’t schedule anything else so they can participate?
This is sounding obscure to me.
Something sounds fishy.
Oh, and I will be gone last part of October and Christmas, so I will not be available.

15 Duke October 1, 2013 at 11:52 AM

@Somebody Told Me and Ancient Mariner,

There wasn’t even a tunnel boring machine used in the 4th bore excavation. They used a mix of excavation methods (the “New Austrian Tunneling Method”), depending on the conditions found as they progressed, along with a top header, which was the machine with the large drill on the end that was parked on the Orinda side for awhile. And it isn’t entombed in the mountain.

16 Cowellian October 1, 2013 at 2:33 PM

A while back, we were talking about the high cost of tickets. Perhaps this will help explain the rise in costs:

SFGate: Soaring fines give ticketed drivers sticker shock

17 ummm October 1, 2013 at 7:51 PM

@ ANON I don’t know what BART tickets and air traffic controllers have to do with each other. And FYI all of the air traffic controllers were not fired!

18 Average Motorist October 2, 2013 at 6:53 PM

I want to bring up the Pedestrian issue Again, I chose to Stop and wait for the pedestrian to be in the clear before proceeding (plus police was right there) the two vehicles in front of me, well they went.
What was correct procedure?
PS – Song was on radio, I can’t help that :)
Dash cam is V1000gs

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: