Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Short Green, Changing Carpool Requirement to Three People, 680 Express Lane Lights + MORE

April 16, 2018 14:00 pm · 32 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: Can you work your magic to extend the time for the green light turning left from Oak Street onto Galindo Street in Concord? The green arrow is a very quick 10 seconds versus the three-minute wait for Galindo cross traffic. Thank you,

–Potential red light runner (but I don’t want to be)

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Thanks for reaching out, PRLR. The Jammer called the City of Concord and learned that former Traffic Czar Ray Kuzbari, one of the most hardworking and helpful city staffers ever, has retired. So sorry to see him go! But his successor, Abhishek Parikh, is sure to do a good job as well.

Let’s all congratulate Abishek, our new Traffic Czar! Sure enough, he answered the Jammer’s message immediately and promised to take a look at the situation. The Jammer will let you know what happens, and PRLR, don’t hesitate to let us know if you notice a change.

COMMUTER: A friend told me that they may turn the two-person requirement on the freeway to three people. Is that true? Seems like it would make it harder to carpool if you have to rustle up three people?

— Carpool Craziness

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Well, it’s definitely not a done deal, CC. The idea came up because traffic is supposed to move 45 mph or faster 90 percent of the time in the carpool lane, but it’s not hitting that goal in the Bay Area. This is one possible solution.

Not every freeway would be affected; the potential change would mostly affect us CoCo County folk because it would apply to Interstate Highway 880. The idea surfaced in November and there has been no further announcement to date.

COMMUTER: Regarding the carpool lane on Interstate 680: My observation is the lights do not turn on well over 50 percent of the vehicles using that lane.

I am under the impression that a single light means a solo driver which will be charged the advertised price and a double light is for carpools and low emission vehicles. Is the fine for violations a carpool violation or for the fee a solo driver would be charged?

–More Carpool Craziness

TRAFFIC JAMMER: As most Claycordians already know, the northbound I-680 express lane goes from Alcosta Boulevard to Livorna Road and the southbound express lane goes from Rudgear Road to Alcosta Boulevard.

MCC, you are correct: The single light means a solo driver who will be charged the price that flashes up on the display; the double light is for carpools, motorcycles or eligible clean air vehicles. The latter vehicles must have a FasTrak Flex toll tag to travel free.

The Jammer contacted the FasTrak folks, who told her the fine is the cost of the toll plus $25.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: This same gentleman also had a question about his FasTrak Flex tag beeping. The Jammer asked if Claycordians could supply the name of the song with the words “Beep Beep,” and what an amazing job you all did!

Technically, the esteemed Dr. Duran wins – a mere five minutes after the column appeared, he named the song the Jammer was thinking of: “Beep Beep (Little Nash Rambler),” by the Playmates. Let’s hear it for Dr. Duran!

Cowellian and the Professor also nailed this one. Beloved Claycordian Knights Who Say Ni (great handle!) suggested the Beatles’ “Drive My Car,” and indeed, “Beep beep-mmm Beep Beep, yeah!” is the chorus. 2 for 1 suggested Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” which also has a refrain, “Ahhh … Beep Beep! Toot Toot!”

Special kudos go to nytemover for nominating “Road Runner” by Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, and to Anne Noise, who mentioned a truly awesome song, Missy Elliot’s “The Rain.” “Beep beep … who got the keys to the Jeep?”

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

NuMerica April 16, 2018 at 2:16 PM

negotiates or navigates?

RunnerDope April 16, 2018 at 6:12 PM

Either is correct.

Stuck on the Bridge April 16, 2018 at 2:36 PM

I attended the West Contra Costa Taxpayer’s Assn. meeting this month. They had a speaker that is encouraging MORE high occupancy car lanes. But he says the ones they have must be enforced more in order to stop single occupied cars from using that lane. He says, if enforcement were higher, more people would use it correctly. Then, he even suggested that we go from the current 3 people per car to 4 people per car on Hwy 80! People in the room did not like that.

Willow Pass Road April 16, 2018 at 3:12 PM

Did anyone drive across the small narrow bridge on Willow Pass Road between Landana Dr. and Highway 4 today? I noticed yesterday that workers were putting in slow strips (not sure what they call them) and center road pylons. Did it slow traffic down today?

BoycottTheCircus April 16, 2018 at 6:50 PM

LOL, please these people don’t slow down for Sh*t, not even for kids playing on a neighborhood court…..

ClayDen April 16, 2018 at 3:15 PM

If the social engineering goal of car pool lanes is to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, they should not allow hybrids and electric cars in those lanes as they are more efficient than bigger heavier vehicles in heavy traffic. Trucks and big SUVs should be allowed to go free in the HOV lanes then. They could also make the hybrids and electric vehicles more efficient by removing the Hillary and Bernie stickers from them, thus making them lighter.

BTW, I do not own an SUV or a truck (and never have).

Star Lord April 16, 2018 at 6:24 PM

What about those of us with 500+hp cars that get bad gas mileage? We should be allowed too then.

Anon April 16, 2018 at 9:07 PM

Your logic has no place in this forum, let alone county or state! Please return to the planet Vulcan immediately!

The Observer April 16, 2018 at 3:43 PM

The bridge on north Willow Pass Road has been the site of a number of fatal accidents in recent years, mostly at night. Putting a few lights on the bridge might prevent some of the accidents.

Dorothy April 16, 2018 at 3:45 PM

Part of 680 heading to Martinez bridge is carpool for 2 people until you get near the last exit, then it suddenly becomes a 3 person carpool.

Also the carpool lane on 4 from Bailey on ramp until about 1/2 mile to the end has NO diamonds on the road only signs saying it is a carpool lane. I don’t often drive that during commute time but I seldom see vehicles other than the driver going on by in that lane. I bet if I tried it even just once the highway patrol would have me on the side in no time at all.

Wrigleygum April 16, 2018 at 4:09 PM

Headed to Dublin this morning, noticed many vehicles with paper plates in the toll lane the whole way. I’m sure people noticed mine as well…lol

I noticed in the sign it was $4.50 southbound then back 45 minutes later northbound it
was $6.00 in rush hour, you gotta be out of your mind paying that.


Momo April 16, 2018 at 5:11 PM

I’ve seen it as high as $8.50…

KenInConcord April 16, 2018 at 8:55 PM

My son and daughter said it was totally worth it because they didn’t want to wait in traffic….. after a $125 fastrak bill I pulled their cars off my account and let them know where they could get their own transponders….

Guess who no longer thinks it’s a good deal.

Nunya April 16, 2018 at 4:41 PM

Why does no one honk their horns any more? Aren’t you supposed to honk when there is a hazardous situation like someone running a red light???

Shoulda Coulda April 16, 2018 at 5:37 PM

Horns would only last for about a day and a half
from overuse if you honked at all the red light

AnonZ April 17, 2018 at 5:01 AM

I honk my horn at least once per day (usually more) and my commute is about 8 miles round trip. Amazing how many people will sit at a green light waiting for the car in front to go. I give them 2 freakin seconds and then I honk. The first intersection I have to sit thru when leaving work is the worst. I will be the 5th car back from the signal and I’m the one honking for the other four cars to go. WTF people PAY ATTENTION TO THE ROAD AND GET OFF YOUR STUPID PHONES!!!!!

Vasquez April 16, 2018 at 5:45 PM

Just a thought about horn honking. Maybe people don’t honk today because they fear it will be seen as road rage. And that could lead to them getting shot at. I used to honk I was trained in the 60s to honk but with all the bullets flying today I decided honking the horn isn’t worth the risk it may incur.

Kentucky Derby April 16, 2018 at 5:49 PM

I gave up honking knowing it could lead to road rage. In today’s society, it’s not worth it. If you insist on honking – like at a light – honk lightly.

Tom Hill April 17, 2018 at 5:53 PM

All the road rage and bullets flying from honking is a california thing, the rest of the country still honks and no road rage.

JazzMan April 16, 2018 at 6:08 PM

I’m wondering how the 680 (and others) express lane sensors know how many people are in your car. I know the new FastTrak has a switch or something, but how do they know?

Julio April 16, 2018 at 6:22 PM

Horn honking was never meant to just be a hello to your buddy. It was always meant for emergencies. I learned to drive in the very early 50’s.

Wrigleygum April 16, 2018 at 7:37 PM

Just leave the Fastrak switch on 3 at all times. No fuss no muss.

Nature Rules! April 16, 2018 at 9:53 PM

Be sure to let us know when you get your first violation (and all subsequent violations). Your cheating ilk needs to be eliminated from the roads.

Mike April 16, 2018 at 8:51 PM

I’m all for carpool lanes.

But to allow the rich to pay a fee to drive in carpool lanes during certain times is wrong.

Where does the $ go? Same place the new fuel tax goes (Not towards the roads).

Reminds me of the special lanes for Comrades in the USSR.

AnonZ April 17, 2018 at 5:10 AM

Agreed! Sick to death of “Affluenza Syndrome” in our Country.

Taggit April 16, 2018 at 10:16 PM

I agree. All taxpayers paid for that highway originally and they all should get to use it. Letting some who can afford it buy a faster ride on what we all paid for is wrong.

Marymo April 17, 2018 at 1:09 AM

Driving south 680, there are a lot of cars with single drivers drive in express toll lane then quickly exit before sensor. How far back do they detect cars?

Wrigleygum April 17, 2018 at 5:18 PM

You can be a single driver in express toll lane. They are just bouncing in and out to try and avoid tolls, which is actually easy to do if no one is in other lane, but they will also cut people off to miss the toll also.
Now I’ll admit I’ll do anything to avoid paying a toll, the hell with them.

Commuter Question April 17, 2018 at 7:03 AM

I’m new to the area and was lucky to get a job in San Francisco near City Hall. My question is how long of a commute from Ygnacio Valley Blvd. / Clayton Road would it be driving or taking Concord Bart? I need to be there by 8 am What time should I leave for either? Also how long of a commute back from the city leaving at 5 pm and occasionally 2 pm? Thank you in advance for your answers.

3rdrail9er April 18, 2018 at 1:36 PM

I commute to/from SF regularly from Ygnacio Blvd.

I would leave no later than 5:30 to be at my desk by 8am.

Leaving your office at 5, it will take you approx 45 minutes just to get on the bridge. With Ygnacio Blvd traffic, figure to get home around 7:30 pm

White Knuckles April 17, 2018 at 1:08 PM

Driving — leave at 10 pm the evening before to be safe. On the drive back you will arrive home at around 9 pm regardless of what time you leave the city between 3 pm and 7 pm. Enjoy!

3rdrail9er April 17, 2018 at 1:56 PM

Getting caught driving solo in the express lane without the Fastrak transponder is a $280 fine (toll violation).

Getting caught driving in the Fastlane without an on the spot proveable (show the account on your phone) Fastrak account is a $480 fine (carpool lane violation)

I know this cause I left my Fastrak transponder in the other vehicle and found this out the hard way…

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