Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Shaking When Idling, Toll Collection in HOV Lanes, Talking on CB’s While Driving, Is It Illegal? + MUCH MORE

April 7, 2014 14:00 pm · 17 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

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Behold, beloved Claycordians – at the end of this column, the results of last week’s quiz! As ever, you readers are so dang smart, choosing the winners was really tough. Basically, every answer was essentially correct, so, each and every one of you:  Pat yourself on the back. Our resident Claycord officer, Leo, picked out the crème de la crème. But more on that later.

COMMUTER: Since I purchased a 2010 Toyota Corolla I have noticed it now kinda shakes when idling, which it didn’t do when I bought it two years ago. What does this mean?

–Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer turned to Brian Hagopian, a member of the Las Positas College automotive faculty, for the answer. Here’s his response:

Yikes! Well, I always tell my students “That could be 1,000 different things!” and that really means it could be 2,000 different things! I would start off with the basics. Check motor mounts, vacuum leaks, tuneup, fuel quality, plugged fuel injectors, fuel pressure, air filter, and engine sensors.

If the basics fare well, then it is on to other things. I would do a compression check, then a leakdown test. Compression check determines whether all the cylinders of the engine are doing their job to the best of their ability and within a percentage of each other.

If three of the four cylinders have good compression and one is low it could cause a vibration. The leakdown will tell you where the loss of compression is going. Always do the basics first.

COMMUTER: How is the toll collection done on the new pay HOV lanes, for example, on Interstate 680 southbound between Pleasanton and San Jose?

It is my understanding if you have your FasTrak displayed you will be charged for using the HOV even if you have the required number of passengers in your car. Thus you need to store your FasTrak in the Mylar bag to avoid charges.

FasTrak will take a picture of all cars driving in the carpool lane and will check the pictures of the one without signal from a FasTrak device for the number of passengers, and will only charge your account (if you have our license plate linked to your account) if you don’t have the minimum number of passengers.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: You’re right about storing the FasTrak in its Mylar bag, JWB, but no, FasTrak does not take pictures of vehicles to determine whether the number of passengers conforms to carpool requirements. (Reader Archie noted this too.) Like the toll plaza at the Benicia Bridge and other bridges, the toll lanes are monitored for compliance by the California Highway Patrol.

COMMUTER: (Responding to a lament from Tinfoiler about the Golden Gate Bridge having a separate board of directors from other Bay Area bridges) But, Tinfoiler, there needs to be a separate board of directors to scoop up all that bridge toll money on their salaries! We can’t have such an iconic bridge lumped with all the other bridges, no, that would be terrible.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer agrees with Tinfoiler and jtkatec, at least if I understand them correctly, that it is redundant to have a separate board of directors for the Golden Gate Bridge.

Just as a datapoint: The reason for having a separate district was valid at first, when the idea was under consideration in the late 1920s. The idea was so every county affected by the bridge would have a voice about its financing, design and construction — San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Del Norte, and parts of Napa and Mendocino. Now, however, in the year 2014, the Jammer agrees that things are different.

COMMUTER: TJ, that comment from “Mother of a good driver,” whose son was unfairly issued a ticket for texting when he hadn’t touched his phone, reminded me of something. I’ve always wanted to know if California’s laws prohibiting talking on hand-held cell phones apply to CBs?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Glad you brought that up, Curious, as it’s an oft-neglected element of Vehicle Code section 23123, the section that forbids operating a hand-held cell phone while driving. The prohibition does not apply to anyone driving a motor truck or truck tractor or truck tractor and using a digital two-way radio with a wireless telephone that doesn’t have to be held to the user’s ear.

COMMUTER: (Responding to a post by CHP Officer Daniel Hill) The state’s portion of (traffic) fines collected does not go directly into the CHP budget, but it does go to the state’s general fund, which in turn funds the CHP. Check your facts, Jack!

–Brother Law Enforcement Officer

TRAFFIC JAMMER: As readers Dear Poster 41 and Archie pointed out, this statement is incorrect.

The CHP’s main source of funding is the State Transportation Fund’s Motor Vehicle Account, which is funded primarily by driver’s license and vehicle registration fees. Here is the page on the CHP website detailing the sources of funding:

TRAFFIC JAMMER: And now, time for the results of the quiz! As the Jammer mentioned earlier, basically everyone who responded was right; just reading the responses was wonderfully educational. Congratulations to you all, and especially to the four winners! Here’s Officer Leo’s verdict:

THE WINNERS: Mir24, D, Rose Garden, Horse n Around

These are the comments that, in my opinion, are the most correct.

Although technically correct, the several answers covering gridlock reflect the on-going frustration with congestion and traffic.

Vehicle Code section 22526 covers gridlock. It’s a parking ticket. The spirit of the law is to relieve traffic congestion. The spirit of the question is when could you get a moving violation and/ or is it illegal for proceeding on a green light.

Vehicle Code section 21806 covers yielding to an emergency vehicle. Again, although technically correct, also problematic. Several of the answers talk about hearing sirens and/ or seeing the emergency vehicle. If the emergency vehicle is approaching from the front or the cross street, please stay stopped. However, if the vehicle is approaching from the rear, please safely pass through the intersection and yield to the right. I wish more drivers did this.

We were looking for:

Vehicle Code section 21451.  (a) A driver facing a circular green signal shall proceed straight through or turn right or left or make a U-turn unless a sign prohibits a U-turn. Any driver, including one turning, shall yield the right-of-way to other traffic and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk.

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 Horse n around April 7, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Yay! I won, I won, I won!!!!

2 JWB April 7, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Thanks for answering my HOV question. Sorry if I appear dense, but I’s still not clear to me. Since I can use that HOV lane even if I don’t have the required number of passengers in my car, how does the CHP know that I actually have paid for use of that HOV? Do I risk as a single occupant any time I use that particular HOV to be pulled over by the CHP? Do I have to show the CHP my transponder? What if I have forgotten my transponder in a different car, can I not use that HOV the same way I could still cross bridges without transponder? Otherwise why would anybody ever pay for use of the HOV as a single occupant car?

3 JWB April 7, 2014 at 3:28 PM

.. or more importantly. If I’m using that HOV as a single occupancy vehicle but either forgot my transponder or by accident forgot to take out of my mylar bag and I get pulled over by the CHP, do I risk a car pool violation ticket for it?

4 tyler April 7, 2014 at 3:34 PM

So in reading the “supposed” correct answer to the quiz, you can drive “straight through” when your light is green even though you may block the intersection when the light turns red? Need clarification here, please.

5 jtkatec April 7, 2014 at 3:45 PM

I believe the transponder is linked to your vehicles which you registered. I have been told even if I don’t have the transponder, and I cross the bridge, they just look up my license and charge the fee.

6 a April 7, 2014 at 4:50 PM

I have two cars on a FasTrak account. I have been crossing bay area bridges regularly for years and I have never even OWNED a transponder. They just read my plates.

Not sure how this works with the HOV toll lanes though. I’ve never used them.

7 Atticus Thraxx April 7, 2014 at 5:30 PM

I learn a lot reading this column Traffic Jammer, it’s cool that you do it. Thanks.

8 @Commuter April 7, 2014 at 6:54 PM

How many miles? How low is the gas tank? Low fuel=running garbage at bottom of tank, less fuel pressure. I have a high mileage Toyota, I love its durability. I was also told by a mechanic that engine runs lean at idle to conserve fuel, fwiw. Besides the previous advise(motor mounts,etc.), there is a relatively inexpensive diagnostic tool to read trouble codes from the ECU that is available at most auto parts stores. Over the life of the car it may be worthwhile, I had used one on a Ford Escort with great success to troubleshoot. This is assuming you are mechanically minded or have the desire to be.

9 Janis Mara April 7, 2014 at 7:34 PM

Aw, thanks @Atticus Thraxx #7! That’s a great point, @a #6, though I’m amazed you have been doing this for years and the system has never messed up. But, more power to you!

@JWB #2 and #3, those are good questions! Will look into it.

10 Antler April 7, 2014 at 7:40 PM

tyler at #4 ……. I’m right there with you! Maybe we can find the study hall table which has streets painted on the top, lots of Tonka cars and trucks, and a wizened, kindly, patient law enforcement officer who will help us play “What about If this car does like this …and the other car does like this? THEN is it legal for me to go like THIS?”

Perhaps adorable Jammin’ Janis knows of such a table at……. Where? Benihana’s??? ;-)

11 Antler April 7, 2014 at 7:41 PM

And congratulations to quiz winners!

12 the corolla April 7, 2014 at 7:55 PM

Have you changed the battery recently, or has the battery died recently? If so that caused the problem.

New toyotas must relearn their air fuel ratio after the computer has been reset (I.e battery change or failure)

If this is the case 2 things you can do, either drive around till the ecu corrects itself, or clean your maf, and throttle body.

If a battery wasnt the case, do you have a check engine light on? If so bring it down to a shop to read the code and determine the fault.

If you dont have a CEL ON. Than further diagnosis is required. It could be as simple as a vacuum leak, or it could be as worse as low compression. ( doubt it as long as you have been keeping proper maintenance)

I work on my own vehicle, but since you may not I highly recomend Sears Auto Center. Why? Because Toyota will charge you up to 200 dollars to tell you whats wrong, where as Sears will only charge you 80 dollars for the same thing.

13 JWB April 7, 2014 at 8:50 PM

Thanks Janis, I relly think there is a lot of confusion. I actually tried to find the answers myself on the internet and here is what I found:

Q: What if I use the lanes without a current FasTrak® account?
A: A solo driver without a valid FasTrak® toll tag will be in violation of state law and subject to a fine.

Strangely while the question in the FAQ section talks about “account” the answer talks about “tag”. So I have no clue what happens if I have a valid account but no valid tag while using the HOV as a single occupancy vehicle?

14 Janis Mara April 7, 2014 at 11:04 PM

@JWB #13, you certainly are right about that. The confusion, I mean :-) It is my impression that this is a matter of imprecise phrasing. I believe – and luckily there are a lot of smart people reading this who can help clarify – that while there are cameras to take photos of you at the toll booths on the bridges, that’s not the case on the Interstate 680 HOV lanes. Or at least there are only cameras in a couple of locations.

What this means, I believe, is that if you scoot across the bridge sans tag but have an account, your photo will be taken and the system will match the license plate in the photo with your account and charge you — but this does not happen when you cruise along in the HOV lane on I-680 sans tag. Hence, you need both an account and a tag.

Will get back to you on this one after checking, but I believe this is it.

15 Glen April 8, 2014 at 6:57 AM

I have an older 1990 Toyota that has been great and a newer one that is not great. The 08 Camry has Jell-O for motor mounts. The braided stainless portion of the exhaust pipe has started unraveling because the engine moves so much. Unlike the old Chevys, there is a limit to the amount of movement the motor mount will allow on the Camry.

Vibration can be caused by soft motor mounts. If you don’t have a CEL, I would look at them.

16 @glen the corolla April 8, 2014 at 10:35 AM

I agree to an extent. The new camrys, solaras, avalons, and siennas are known to have an absolutely garbage upper motor mount. The corollas however I havent seen problems with yet. Definitely. Possible though.

The one good thing is that the upper motor mount can be replaced in a matter of minutes.

17 claycordian April 8, 2014 at 12:38 PM

I am an amateur radio (ham) operator. I believe that the law says that I can use my ham radio while driving, as opposed to using my cell phone..

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