Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Picking Up Items on the Highway, Parking in SF, the Old Bay Bridge + Much More

May 12, 2014 14:00 pm · 5 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: Claycord has a story about someone who was hit on Interstate 680 trying to retrieve a tarp. [Jammer: On May 9, a man who attempted to clear a tarp from the northbound lanes of I-680 near the Ygnacio Valley Road exit in Walnut Creek was struck by a Ford F-250 truck and taken to the hospital with major injuries. The story is HERE.

Have you got an expert to advise us on how this should have been handled?  Picking it up was hazardous to the pedestrian, but leaving it presents a hazard to a lot of people.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer is very glad you asked, Cowellian. The gentleman obviously had good intentions, but this is a very bad idea. Even California Highway Patrol professionals who have been trained in how to do this, including slowing traffic down by flashing lights and crisscrossing the highway, sometimes are injured.

The Jammer consulted with our resident Claycordian law enforcement officer, Leo, to get his further thoughts on the matter. Here’s what he said:

“Yes. Call 9-1-1.  Let the experts handle it. This one of the time when you CAN use your phone while driving.

There’s an art and inherent hazard to working in traffic – whether on the freeway or city streets. Our training starts with how to position the police car and ends somewhere around the ocean axiom of “don’t turn your back on it (traffic)”.

Calling in the hazard is as far as your duty as a citizen goes. Using this unfortunate incident as an example: this well-intended citizen turned a hazard into a larger, arguably more traumatic event.

Side note: if you see an upcoming hazard or abruptly stopped traffic, use your four-way flashers. These aren’t just for being stuck on the side of the road.  These are communication devices. Big rig drivers use them all the time to warn their fellow drivers of upcoming hazards.”

COMMUTER: I was visiting a friend the other day in San Francisco and drove around looking for a parking spot for easily 30 minutes. There was a tempting-looking spot but the curb was painted white. Would I have been OK parking there?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: One never knows, Tempted, because you might have gotten lucky; but the Jammer always recommends being safe rather than sorry. White designates a zone reserved for loading or unloading passengers at times set by local ordinances.

So, if there was a sign setting forth the hours when parking would have been OK (never seems to be one of these when you need them, eh?) you would have known whether or not to park. If you visit your friend often, the Jammer suggests calling the city to find out when you can safely park.

A few more curb-color facts: Red means no stopping, standing or parking, except for buses in bus loading zones, green means time limit parking dictated by local ordinances, and yellow indicates stopping only for the purpose of loading or unloading passengers or freight, for the time specified by local ordinances.

COMMUTER: Before the temporary eastern span of the Bay Bridge went away, there was an illuminated sign on the side of the road displaying how fast the vehicles that passed it were traveling. What if there are vehicles in each of the lanes opposite the device? Which vehicle’s speed does it record in that case?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: The device will pick up the speed of the largest, closest vehicle. Generally, if you are in the lane closest to the device, it will display your speed, Wondering. However, if you’re in a Smart car and there’s an SUV right behind you, it might pick up the RV’s speed.

The point of the devices is to get people to notice the speed at which they are driving, which is a good thing, yes? So even if the directional unit mistakenly records a different vehicle, it’s done its job.

COMMUTER: On Willow Pass traveling east, after the bridge crosses over Naval Weapons, have you noticed the big drop-off/ditch on the right shoulder? It is just east of the bridge on the right shoulder.

If a car goes off the pavement and into the ditch, a serious accident is possible.

Can we get the City of Concord to fill in the ditch?

–Safety First

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Safety First, the Jammer shared your concern with Concord’s Traffic Manager, Ray Kuzbari, and he is looking into it. For sure, as soon as any news comes in, the Jammer will share it. Thank you for alerting the city to this problem!

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 Atticus Thraxx May 12, 2014 at 5:37 PM

That entire stretch of Willow Pass up to Hwy 4 has been ignored for years and is an embarrassment not to mention a pain in the arse to drive.

2 Anon777 May 13, 2014 at 11:04 AM

When are the signal changes you mentioned a few weeks ago going into effect along Treat Blvd? Nothing yet and at 5:30am when you get stopped at red light when NOBODY is around is really, really annoying.

Specifically, Cowell Road/Treat Blvd. The light will turn red for treat travelers even when NOBODY is there on Cowell; why doesn’t Treat stay green until someone comes up on Cowell to trigger it? Also, Bancroft will stay green forever while Treat is backing up.

3 Janis Mara May 13, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Oh, no, @Anon777 #2, I am so sorry to hear the changes haven’t happened. I’ll email Kuzbari immediately.

4 Z-Man May 16, 2014 at 6:11 AM

Hello Janis…. Would like to see if you can find more info on the TMS system Walnut Creek has installed on the YVR corridor. Maybe they provide you a tour of the facility?
How is it (not) operated? When travelling EB YVR during 2pm and later commute hours out of Downtown, the TMS or lack of it, allows the light at Bancroft to pick up a majority of the traffic flow that flows pretty well past Homestead. The 2 lights near John Muir hospital seem to pick up a lot of traffic, leading a lot of vehicle to accumulate, and since Bancroft has also picked up a large accumulation of vehicles, it is a frustrating 3/4 mile drive, when the Shadelands signals can collect the larger group of traffic (although it should honestly keep it going in larger volumes onto the Unincorporated area past Oak Grove Road, and allow Concord to deal with it. I am surprised the TMS does not recognize this with the cameras and traffic sensor information it has collected in its 1.5 years of being installed.

Also when the TMS is turned off, such as around 4 am on WB YVR approaching Bancroft, the Bancroft signal will turn red, although nothing is present to trip the sensor (no headlights from Walnut or Bancroft, nor a pedestrian hitting the crosswalk, nor a vehicle on the sensors). This behavior is also present on WB YVR approaching Civic, as well as Broadway, and Main St. The aforementioned signals seem to be triggered more often when it is raining as well.

I would think it is someone (or maybe some-2) peoples job to look at traffic flow, regardless of the time of day. Wonder why traffic engineers are considered a “desk job” (I don’t honestly know that, but if someone was a Traffic engineer, you think they would be driving these roads, or would offer a website for feedback, or surveys, or engage themselves with local personalities, with their ear to the ground, like yourself Janis.)

I as a citizen, don’t want it to be my job to report this stuff, especially since YVR is equipped with a TMS and camera system for someone to see these activities. I understand the job is tireless, and there are priorities across the city limits and beyond, but there are tools pecific yo YVR in Walnut Creek, and I am unaware of vehicles, pedestrians, and deer, realizing anything improving of lately)

5 RunDogRun May 16, 2014 at 7:42 PM

The section of Clayton Road
from Ygnacio Valley Road to
approximately Ayers Road which
was resurfaced in the last few
years is now a freaking washboard.
Whatever cheap, make-do process
the City of Concord used, it
certainly didn’t hold up long and
will have to be redone. Why not
do it right the first time?

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