Traffic Jammin’ With Janis Mara – Real ID Or Passport? Disabled Placard Fraud, FasTrak Transponders & MORE

August 20, 2018 14:00 pm · 18 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 2 pm and answers your commuting and transportation questions. Email your questions to

COMMUTER: Real ID? Get a passport instead. You can’t travel out of the country with a Real ID, so passport is the smarter choice. Getting the passport means you don’t gotta deal with the DMV circus entertainers and nobody in their right mind should ever wanna deal with DMV if they don’t have to.

–Kinsey Leaky

TRAFFIC JAMMER:  Kinsey Leaky posted this in response to a question regarding the Real IDs the Department of Motor Vehicles is currently issuing. Starting Oct. 1. 2020, you’ll need a Real ID, to board a domestic airplane flight and to enter secure federal facilities.

People all over the Bay Area and the state are reporting waits as long as eight hours to get a Real ID. There’s no denying it’s a nightmare.

However, if you have a regular driver’s license and a passport, those two documents will suffice. That’s what Kinsey Leaky was getting at, and the Jammer is thinking that this is good advice. Another approach: you could wait to apply until the mess gets straightened out.

Early this month, lawmakers approved nearly $17 million in additional funding to hire another 230 staff. The agency had already added Saturday hours at 60 offices, hired 500 new workers and redirected nearly 300 other workers to ease the load, the Sacramento Bee reported Aug. 8.

COMMUTER: The new FasTrak transponders have a switch allowing you to set the number of occupants. They WILL work just like the old ones for bridges where the number of occupants doesn’t matter.

If you wish to use a FasTrak ‘occupant-based’ (i.e. carpool) lane, you MUST have a new transponder to get the lowered rate… if it sees an old transponder it will assume you have a single-driver car.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Thanks, CalOldBlue, for your clarifying comment. There are two types of FasTrak transponders. One has the switch CalOldBlue mentioned; that’s the new one. The old one does not have the switch.

As CalOldBlue said, either the old school transponder or the newer one with the switch will get you across the Golden Gate Bridge or any other bridge in the Bay Area.

COMMUTER: I commute to work on downtown Oakland five days a week and park near the courthouse. Almost every day I see someone park in the same disabled spot, hop merrily out of their vehicle and stride down the street. The car stays there all day. How can I report this?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: That’s a good question, Seething. Call (510) 238-3099 Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The fine for misuse or abuse of a placard is $513. Also, Oakland’s Department of Transportation is cracking down on placard fraud. They’re running sting operations auditing disabled person placards all over the city, but especially in commercial districts.

One important thing to consider: Just because someone hops merrily out of their vehicle doesn’t mean they are able-bodied. Some conditions come and go. Or perhaps the disabled person can walk a short distance, but no further. Here’s a helpful NPR article on what are known as “hidden disabilities.

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

Shiloh August 20, 2018 at 2:44 PM

If conditions “come and go”, they probably should only use the space when they are suffering, not when they’re skipping 🙂 But that’s an integrity issue they will have to decide on their own …

Old Guy August 20, 2018 at 4:46 PM

I got my real ID Drivers license last week at Walnut Creek DMV.
I had an appointment … waited only 10 minutes and the whole process was over with in less than an hour … realvID, picture, written test.
Making an appointment is the key.

Bob August 20, 2018 at 5:22 PM

Hi, I need to get my DL renewed–do I need all those ID’s (3) that you need for an ID?–all I want is a regular DL.

(Also, made an appointment (Concord Office)–earliest I could get was October 15)


ex-coastie August 20, 2018 at 5:40 PM

While a passport will certainly work it is just another thing to carry (and possibly lose). My DL/Real ID fits in my wallet. If I fly to LA for the day I don’t want to bother carrying a passport around. BTW, I have both.
And – there is no written test for a Real ID. If you are of a certain age and are renewing your DL there can be a written test. Also, just because you APPLIED for a Real ID doesn’t mean they have processed it and sent it through the mail. Mine took weeks.

concord ygnacio August 20, 2018 at 9:20 PM

My passport fits in my wallet. I have a passport card which costs just $30 and is good for 10 years.

It also doesn’t have my address on it, so I can use it for TSA (there have been many cases where rogue TSA agents know you are travelling and write down your address to go burglarize your house when you are gone).

Plua, I show this card for ID all the time. This allows me to keep my DL squirreled away safely in my wallet. If I lose the passport card, so what? The consequences are more severe if you lose your DL (i.e., you can’t drive then).

Cautiously Informed August 20, 2018 at 6:36 PM

Regarding Real ID, you stated ” you could wait to apply until the mess gets straightened out”. Are you implying that we should wait until the day that the California DMV gets privatized?

Janis Mara August 20, 2018 at 8:03 PM

Ahahahahaha Cautiously Informed, you got me there!

wesley mouch August 20, 2018 at 8:36 PM

Can somebody confirm you must have the real id to buy a firearm? Don’t understand why that’s needed if you pass the background check.

concord ygnacio August 20, 2018 at 9:24 PM

You do not need a Real ID DL or Real ID ID card to buy a firearm according to the ATF:

Phred August 20, 2018 at 9:09 PM

I was required to visit the DMV to renew my driver’s license due to repeated renewals online/by mail. My appointment was one week ago in Walnut Creek. Chose to apply for Real ID since I had to appear in person anyway. Arrived at 8:45 for 9 am appointment. Completed process at 9:20. Received license in mail today. Make an appointment if you can. I know you can’t get one right away, but it will save hours and stress.

Atticus Thraxx August 20, 2018 at 9:40 PM

I can confirm RealID is not required. Check crpa org to verify. Or any gun shop.

Karla August 20, 2018 at 9:44 PM

Anyone using a placard is issued an id card for that placard. If the placard owner can’t show it then a ticket should be issued. Why do people drive around with it hanging on the mirror.? It’s a Parking Placard. It even says on it “remove from mirror while driving”. Such an important thing for so many can also be so abused.

KAD August 21, 2018 at 12:13 AM

What ID card? My husband has a placard and he does not have an ID card.

concord ygnacio August 21, 2018 at 9:17 AM

California and some other states issue the placard holder a sheet of paper that acts as an ID card. It says who the placard holder is so police can check that against your ID, to see it is you who is using the placard, or if the placard owner is nearby (like if you just dropped of or are waiting for your handicapped grandmother and are parked in a handicapped spot).

Pacificgas&explosions August 21, 2018 at 8:32 AM

You’ll need the Real ID if you are a firearm owner.The ATF will not accept California non-real ID Drivers Licenses as a form of identification required for the 4473 Background check form. They may change this stance, but for now that is their policy. You’ll also need one if you’re an FFL (Federal Firearms License Holder).

Me too August 21, 2018 at 11:42 AM

2 more substitutes for CA RealD are Passport Card (30 dollars) and Global Entry Card (100 dollars every 5 yrs + deep FBI background check)
I have both so I see no real benefit to waiting in line for hours.

Concord Gal August 21, 2018 at 1:07 PM

back on the issue of the Transponder….I still don’t get it. I understand there are 2 types. I commute solo due to my office location and have the regular one for the bridge.
My family of 4 traveled for vacation on a Tuesday morning commute on 680 and 580 and got into the carpool lane but I didn’t have the new transponder for multiple passengers so had to pay the lane usage fee.
Question – If/when using the new transponder, how does the recorder know if I have multiple passengers in the car just because i have filled the switch? or passengers in the back seat (2 kids) but only 1 driver.

Chicken Little August 21, 2018 at 3:07 PM

It only knows what the switch tells it. But the usual penalties apply if you get caught cheating, so it’s better to just pay the toll, IMO.

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