Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Slower Traffic Keep Right, The BART Squeal, Honking + MORE

December 19, 2016 14:00 pm · 30 comments


Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Every first and third Monday at 2 p.m. on

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

Email your questions to

COMMUTER:  Something I’ve always been curious about: If I’m traveling in the second lane from the left at a decent enough speed, say 70 mph, with an HOV lane to my left, but not during HOV hours, am I obligated to move to the right if someone comes up behind me?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: S., the Jammer referred this question to our ultimate authority, Officer Leo. Here’s what he said:

“No. The spirit of the “slower traffic keep right” is that a lane is available for some to safely pass. The reader clearly indicates that this is non-commute restricted hours, so the HOV is open for anyone to use.  Having said that, in the spirit of defensive (courteous) driving, keep in mind the person behind you might not know this. I would move over anyway.”

COMMUTER: Will the new BART cars have better soundproofing than the old cars? Going through tunnels on BART the sound and the squeal, from the rail, can be extremely loud. The very loud noise must be really hard on a person with sensitivity to noise.

— Covering My Ears

TRAFFIC JAMMER: CME, your question is timely, as BART may have come up with a solution. First, some background:

When people talk about noise on BART, they are usually talking about “rolling noise,” sound generated by the vibration of wheels rolling over the rails. When this vibration creates ruts in the rail called “corrugation,” it creates even more noise.

When a BART train navigates some of the sharp curves in the track, the friction can create a squealing sound. Put all these factors together on a train in a tunnel and the noise is increased.

BART has two rail grinders to smooth out the ripples and mute the noise, and is working on a new solution as well.

Engineers came up with a wheel with a slightly tapered profile that promised to not only reduce noise but wear and tear on the rails.

Testing has been going on for two years and in some cases, the new wheel profile could cut noise by as much as 50 percent, according to BART. Engineers are so jazzed about this new wheel profile they have decided to not only use it on the new cars but change the profile of the wheels on the existing cars as they come in for maintenance.

It will take 12 to 36 months to change the wheel profiles on all of BART’s train cars. CME and other beloved Claycordians, be sure to let the Queen know if you notice a quieter ride!

COMMUTER:  I was driving down San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito past Pastime Ace Hardware when a woman using a walker emerged from the store. She was parked on the street and walked up to her car, opened the door and began slowly to get in. I waited patiently for her to get in her car, but the person behind me laid on the horn! I hate being honked at, plus I was afraid the disabled woman would think it was I who was honking!


TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer is so sorry to hear that you were, in effect, punished for doing a good deed, Embarrassed. This is a reminder to everyone that anytime, but especially with Christmas less than a week away, we need to be patient and give other drivers the benefit of the doubt.

And, with that in mind, Merry Christmas, Beloved Claycordians! The Jammer is looking forward to another year of pondering the vicissitudes of Bay Area traffic – not to mention our fellow Bay Area drivers – and transportation with you all.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: That’s it for this week. Be sure to cruise by at 2pm on the first and third Mondays of the month for more traffic intelligence. Remember, whether you drive, walk, bike or hop Amtrak, BART, County Connection or AC Transit, Traffic Jammer Janis Mara is here to answer your questions.

Send your questions to

mary f - ph December 19, 2016 at 2:19 PM

Officer Leo is partially wrong. On roads like I-680 South in the Fremont area, the HOV lane (#1 lane) is restricted, even when the fee is $0.00, as you can enter only at certain points. There, a driver in the #2 lane must move to the right to let a faster car pass.

mary f - ph December 19, 2016 at 2:22 PM

That elderly woman using a walker and getting in her car in El Cerrito was wrong. There is a traffic law in California that you cannot open your door to get in or out of your car unless traffic is clear. I am a little surprised that Traffic Jammer took the driver waiting for the elderly person’s side before investigating and consulting law enforcement.

Reality says... December 19, 2016 at 2:31 PM

Parents – lots of kids on the road right now learning to drive, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE teach your kids to move to the right when they are impeding traffic. If they are afraid to drive in the rain or uncomfortable with the passing cars I understand, but it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to teach them to get over to the right. You can’t continue to let them drive in the fast lane!

I have seen about 1/2 dozen new drivers WITH PARENTS IN THE FRONT WITH THEM doing ~10 below the speed limit on YV and the freeway lately. If you don’t know this rule or how to apply common sense when driving, please have someone else teach them to drive. Your kid is going to cause an accident or worse someone with road rage is going to take it out on them.

Your fellow drivers thank you!


Simonpure December 19, 2016 at 2:41 PM

Perhaps mary f – ph should take Leo’s job…jeeez. Hate a know it all that doesn’t respect elders.

Mrdioji December 19, 2016 at 3:11 PM

Regarding BART noise:
The new cars will also have doors that seal better and keep the sound out more effectively.

Jojo Potato December 19, 2016 at 3:15 PM

Don’t forget why BART got the noisy wheels in the first place. It’s a long and complicated history that basically boils down to “we know better”. Wheel and rail noise has been studied for decades (centuries, see my many posts), BART went with flat (non tapered) wheels despite all evidence. I guess it’s just a bay area thing, ignore the facts and go with cool looking trains. The only reason they are now accepting the change is that the new train car manufacturers are pushing it. And of course BART rolls out the PR wagon to show how smart they are. It’s just a railroad people, but BART thinks it’s more like a Disney ride (with sleeping beauty done a little differently).

mary f - ph December 19, 2016 at 3:37 PM


It’s not about respecting elders; it’s about obeying the traffic law. If you suddenly divert from established rules, you are going to cause an accident eventually.

And I would rather be a knowitall than ignorant. And I do know quite a bit, thank you. My education has paid off.

J. December 19, 2016 at 4:03 PM

I measured 87 decibels in the transbay BART tunnel and other portions of the track in non-curved sections. I have also noticed many folks wearing foam earplugs or fully enclosed headphones.

87 decibels is a loud alarm clock. Sound pressure at that level for more than 5 minutes is ear damaging. Some of the noisiest spots exceed 5 minutes in duration.

Amtrak does not allow this noise to exist.

I'm The Urban Spaceman December 19, 2016 at 4:05 PM

I was recently hiking with the Swedish C2H6O Hiking & Haranguing Society on Mt Diablo in the Red Rd./Olofson Ridge area and we could hear BART up there, with a prevailing wind blowing towards BART.
Stating the obvious, BART is LOUD.

Lake December 19, 2016 at 4:16 PM

Drivers that are being passed on both sides create a hazard and perhaps their selfish action could lead to an accident or another Road Rage incident. Block at your own risk…

FoShizzle December 19, 2016 at 4:43 PM

Glad that BART is taking action and is trying to find a solution to the problem.

Cautiously Informed December 19, 2016 at 5:09 PM

Sure. And the drivers that use the far right slow lane to pass traffic while they are weaving in and out of lanes and speeding along at 80+ mph aren’t creating any hazard at all.

vp December 19, 2016 at 5:13 PM

I wish we had AMTRAK instead of BARF. Today, such a mess made by a transient in the lead car; just disgusting. BART just let’s it go. Yes, I wear fully enclosed, $200.00 headphones for the privilege of avoiding BART track noise. I’ve only been pick pocketed once for them. They got the headphones but not the cable so they can’t use them, hah, hah. Bring back buses, BART sucks.

fed up December 19, 2016 at 5:14 PM

I wish we had AMTRAK instead of BARF. Today, such a mess made by a transient in the lead car; just disgusting. BART just let’s it go. Yes, I wear fully enclosed, $200.00 headphones for the privilege of avoiding BART track noise. I’ve only been pick pocketed once for them. They got the headphones but not the cable so they can’t use them, hah, hah. Bring back buses, BART sucks.

RANDOM TASK December 19, 2016 at 5:25 PM

LOL BART IS LIKE A ….transient living under the freeway over pass …..they do what they want when they want and when you ask them to move they take their time and snear and mumble displeasure ….well in demturdifornia you get what you get when you vote for liars and cheats …IE bart city council jerry brown sacramento prop 47 56 13 27 44 ….

Gary December 19, 2016 at 5:40 PM

When i am traveling over the posted speed limit ,i am not obligated to move for some idiot who wants to drive 80mph.Go around me, you idiot.

skippy December 20, 2016 at 11:39 AM

Two instances yesterday of someone getting impatient for no reason. I was turning left and cross traffic waited for me to turn past them, but the truck behind the first car honked presumably because the car didn’t pull out fast enough for his liking. He obviously didn’t see me turning, so when I did, I let him know and he laughed sheepishly.

Last evening at the Clayton Safeway parking lot, I walked in front of a truck that was already stopped and made sure I caught the driver’s eye so he’d see me crossing. He was so annoyed at this 3 second delay that he frustratingly dropped an F bomb my way for having the audacity to cross a lane in a grocery parking lot and delay him on his very important way. What is wrong here? Why is everyone so impatient all the time for every little inconvenience delay? A pedestrian was killed in San Jose yesterday by someone who couldn’t wait in a line of cars at the crosswalk and sped by only to hit her as she crossed. Stop being asses, slow down and stop killing people.

Willie Killagain December 20, 2016 at 11:46 AM

Not idiot Gary,just someone who likes going fast&has the goods for doing so.When You hear Me coming,because My truck is black day,or night,chances are You’ll hear Me before You see Me because it sounds like rolling thunder&fast as lightening,At that point just stay frozen in Your lane which ever lane Your in until I’ve passed You because if You decide to do something stupid like change lanes We may have a major crash,& I promise You one thing You My friend You will get the worsted of it that I will make sure of After all Your in a 50 M.T.G.,Toyota,&I’m in a full sized Dodge SUV,What did You think would happen?

Simonpure December 20, 2016 at 12:24 PM

@ #9 Oh come on already. So the little ol lady from Pasadena that can’t get in her car fast enough just has to stay home.

mary f - ph December 20, 2016 at 1:22 PM


I am just saying be aware of others before opening your door. That is all.

Chill out December 20, 2016 at 2:00 PM

@ Mary f -ph.
Perhaps embarrassed was waiting for the elderly woman to get in her vehicle because they wanted her parking spot.

Also Officer Leo stated in his answer that ” The reader clearly indicates that this is non-commute restricted hours, so the HOV is open for anyone to use.” so no he is not partially wrong.

As for your rude and condescending reply to Simonpure…. there is a reason people say “no one likes a know it all” and more often than not they know a whole lot less than they think they know.

Willie Killagain December 20, 2016 at 2:52 PM

Thats tough to answer Gary,because I haven’t found to many faster then Me,Oh ya there was one,a corvette,no I dont think He was an idiot ,He had nitro.

Gary December 20, 2016 at 3:23 PM

#23 If you knew how to spell,you might be taken seriously.You are pathetic.

Atticus Thraxx December 20, 2016 at 4:18 PM

Arrive safe. Everything else is ego. Ego should be used to get yourself out of trouble, not into it. Kinda like four wheel drive. It can be learned if I learned it.

Gary December 20, 2016 at 7:18 PM

#28 Willie,Because you are unable to figure out that i did not post #24,it is obvious that you are a product of the California public school system.

Captain Freeway December 21, 2016 at 10:48 AM

In order to reward the Bad Behavior of Selfish, Aggressive, Speeding, Lane-Changing, Gap-Shooting Tailgaters — one must always move over, no matter what lane you are in, no matter how fast you are going, no matter if you’re boxed in or not and no matter what the flow of traffic is doing. For example, if the flow of traffic is 75-85mph, and you’re going with the flow and some FunkTard Aggressive Driver comes up behind you who wants to go even faster– you must move over, get out of the way at all costs even if it means being unsafe or it disrupts the safe and smooth flow of traffic. You must yield to that jerk behind you. The speed and driving habits of the most aggressive POS driver is what rules. After all, they might be a doctor headed for emergency surgery, or a husband taking their wife to the hospital to deliver a baby… or, they just might be a jerk driver that must have his way – Move Over, Geez!! Be safe out there, watch out for the Aggressive Lane-Changing Gap-Shooting, Tailgating, Exit Cheating, Cigarette Butt Tossing Funktards… and please try not to be one yourself, because we already have too many of them! Take care, CF

old-school guy December 21, 2016 at 12:28 PM

VC 21650 uses the words, SLOWER traffic keep right. Slower relative to the car(s) behind you. 70MPH might be fine for you, but you’re slower than the guy driving 75 coming up behind you. Time to move to the right. Interesting that there are as many “Slower traffic keep right’ signs as there are speed limit signs on HWY 24 (both directions).

@Captain Freeway December 21, 2016 at 12:34 PM

I’m so glad to see that you’re finally starting to understand.

Captain Freeway December 21, 2016 at 3:15 PM

@34 – Haha, perhaps you are one of “them”. Good luck with that…

Captain Freeway December 21, 2016 at 3:25 PM

@Reality says… #4 — As long as you’re on the subject of teaching younger drivers, I can’t count how many people I see driving like Aggressive, Lane Changing Gap-Shooting Idiots… with children in the car with them. These types of road bullies will cause havoc no matter what lane people are in or how fast they’re going at the time. It’s interesting that you focused your post on people in the left lane that need to move over. So, my assumption is that you’re one of the people that would rather have everyone just stay out of your way. I don’t think you’re really interested in ensuring younger drivers learn how to drive well and safe. Good luck with that. Good thing there are more safe reasonable good drivers than aggressive selfish ones. Take care, CF

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