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DAY 2: 680 SOUTH TOLL LANE CRISIS CONTINUES

Original post made by Bill, Birdland, on Sep 21, 2010

Day 2 of the new 680 southbound toll lane over the Sunol Grade was no better than the first. Without any accidents or roadwork to blame, Caltrans officials must be wondering what was causing the miles long backup into Pleasanton. Transit time from Bernal to Hwy 84 at 7:30AM this mornig took 20 minutes, then traffic flowed freely in all lanes all the way to 237.

I believe "Curious" was right yesterday when she/he claimed the new toll lane was an epic fail (not quite sure the meaning of that phrase).

Online comments from the Mercury News concerning blog posts from Mr. Roadshow (Mercury News Columnist) indicated many solo drivers have already devised ways to "beat the system". 1) Keep their Fasttrack transponder in the mylar bag until/unless they are stopped 2) Tape a color photocopy of a Fasttrack transponder in their windshield 3) Move into the toll lane after the sensors and out of the toll lane before the sensors to avoid a charge 4) Disable their Fasttrack transponder 5) play the odds. CHP enforcement is minimal, if it exists at all.

Mr. Roadshow also indicated that there are NO plans for a northbound HOV/toll lane. There have been no assessments, traffic flow analysis, or EIR's conducted. No funding has been earmarked for studies or future construction.

This appears to be very poor planning on the part of Caltrans and the other government agencies responsible for spending tax-payer dollars on road improvements.

Comments (16)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Local Driver
a resident of Livermore
on Sep 21, 2010 at 5:13 pm

"Caltrans officials must be wondering what was causing the miles long backup into Pleasanton."

Actually, they know why traffic was backed up - people just aren't used to the new lanes yet:

"Transportation officials and the CHP blamed the backup on motorists entering I-680 from Highway 84 trying to work their way immediately across four lanes of traffic and into the fast lane.

"People were under the understanding that they had to shoot into the express lane," said Scott Haggerty, an Alameda County supervisor who is chairman of the express lane project. "That's not the case. You have a mile."

But once drivers got to the start of the new express lane, separated from other traffic by a 2-foot buffer marked with a double white stripe, traffic flowed freely."

- from: Web Link

And its a $370+ fine if you get caught using any one of the suggestions you mentioned above. Not really worth it to me.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Siena
on Sep 21, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Like I mentioned in the other topic about day one of the new toll lane, we just need to give it a few weeks until drivers adapt to this new change and figure it out. I can tell you from personal experience that many daily commuter drivers have their own "pattern" burned into their heads. If you mess up the pattern that they are used to, chaos ensues. It'll take a few weeks, but people will eventually figure it out and the toll lane will serve it's purpose.

I can speak from personal experience, as I have come very close to being run over and losing my life NUMEROUS times during commute hours when we've had to shut down a road and divert traffic to an alternate destination. With orange cones, lit flares, flashing red and blue lights, and in full uniform, I came "this close" to being run over at 45 MPH by a commuter. After a short pursuit, her excuse for ignoring all of the obvious "road closed" indicators was, "But this is how I get to work". That is just one story of many. Trust me----commuters have a tough time figuring out what to do if you mess up their routine. You can tell me I am wrong, and I will accept responsibility for being wrong, if things are not cleared up in a few weeks. Just give it some time to become part of the morning routine for people, and all will be good.

As to the cheating comment posted above, yeah, good luck with that. I'd have to research that one a little bit more, but off the top of my head I would think that it would be more than just a toll lane violation. It could be a misdemeanor penal code violation because of the work that would be involved leading up to the crime. But again, this is just off the top of my head.....I'd have to research this one. It's not worth it----just do it the right way.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ryan
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Sep 22, 2010 at 8:42 am

What a waste of tax payers money! The traffic was much better during all of the construction. Now that it is done, it adds twenty minutes to my commute.

Has anyone thought to turn on the metering lights at Sunol/Pleasanton or Bernal? That might help the congestion to 84.

Is there anything in the works for north bound 680 thru Milpitas and Fremont? It looks to me like Caltrans widened the wrong side of the freeway! No metering lights at any entrance northbound.

Just another blunder by the great state of California!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Maggie
a resident of Valencia
on Sep 22, 2010 at 9:13 am

Joe is correct - you've got to give it more than 2-3 days. It took a while for the s-curve on the Bay Bridge to become problem-free and now it's a non-event driving through there. I've been on the toll-roads in Southern California and they work. Patience is a virtue that appears to have skipped a few people that seem to prefer a doom and gloom attitude vs. let's wait and see.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Julia
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2010 at 9:15 am

Remember the New Motto...Vote the Incumbents OUT and push to replace all the incompetent agency heads. They are all self servicing individuals and keep milking the taxpayer's day.

Julia from Alamo


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brad
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Sep 22, 2010 at 9:57 am

This toll lane is a perfect example of incompetence in government. And the reason you get incompetence in government is that government is the only place that incompetents can get jobs. And now government incompetents are poised to determine how and when you receive healthcare.


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Posted by Marie
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 22, 2010 at 10:10 am

What did Caltrans think, by adding the pay lane that there would be no more traffic? There was a back up before 84 before the pay lane and there will continue to be one. Once you get past 84 it opens up so why pay, and have you seen how much they want to charge per stretch of road? It could cost you $10.00 a day to take the pay lane. We already pay alot for gas with the commute we all do going south and they want us to pay another 10 bucks. Yeah whoevers bright idea this was, you should of added a carpool lane North instead. If you want people to carpool then you need to have lanes in both directions!


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 22, 2010 at 10:52 am

Sunol grade commute was fine before CalTrans started work on the I680/84 merge median barrier. This is when the entry to the carpool lane was moved south which aligns it with the 84 merge lanes. This created a backup that stretched from 680/84 to Bernal for at least the last 6 months. Now that the Express lane is open, the backup stretches from 680/84 to Alcosta, an additional 6 miles. Until CalTrans moves the carpool entry lane back to its original location, there will be no improvement in the backup. The cars wanting to use the carpool/toll lane coming from 680 south need to be given the chance to move into the lane before the 84 merge. This starts clearing the traffic out of the fast lane so that cars in the 2nd and 3rd lanes can move over to allow the 84 merging traffic to enter the freeway. This is not rocket science.

If nobody complained about the Sunol grade commute after the carpool lane was added, and no cars are paying to use the toll lane now, why was this Express lane even built?


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Posted by Michael Leonard
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Sep 22, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Michael Leonard is a registered user.

I drove the toll lane route for the second time today at 8:30 and it was a major waste of time. Traffic was backed all the way to Sunol Road where I got on so I lost time there over a normal day. Once I got to the toll lane traffic in the other lanes was going as fast or faster than I was. I don't expect the problem at 84 to clear up, you have all that traffic dealing with a short merge lane. There is no exit at Scott Creek and I sure don't want to take the backed up Mission or 237 exits. There is no value to using this toll lane, it is causing backups and isn't any faster and prevents me from exiting where I need to. I want my $2.25 back.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SF worker
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2010 at 9:04 pm

I am glad I work in San Francisco and take BART!

Looks like Cal Trans did what they usually do - screw things up.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 22, 2010 at 9:11 pm

I agree with Mike. I've used it twice and experienced the same thing. Once in the lane traffic in the other lanes is moving at about the same pace (until you get to Mission).


I did notice today that the CHP can determine if a user is violating the carpool lane by have a transponder but placing it in the foil bag while driving in the lane. When you pass under the transponder, if you look in your review mirror you will see a light flash green or yellow. When I passed through the light flashed green (obviously signaling the transponder had been detected). When the vehicle behind me passed through the light was yellow. This individual had multiple people in the vehicle.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Birdland
on Sep 23, 2010 at 10:22 am

CHP can determine if a toll lane user is not using their Fasttrack, but they have to be in a position to observe the signal light and pursue the offender. There is no where for CHP to hide on the Sunol grade after the toll lane entrance. The only place they can hide is after Washington around the bend, but most long time commuters know this is where they hang out. Without better enforement, the toll lane will continue to be used illegally by non-paying users. This was a problem when it was an HOV lane only and continues to be a problem.


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Posted by Devon
a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Sep 23, 2010 at 10:39 am

If we get enough suckers to use that lane and CHP to start ticketing violators that crosses the line or not pay the toll, we will be out of the budget deficit in no time.


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Posted by Jack
a resident of Dublin
on Sep 23, 2010 at 11:15 am

Traffic start to moving after 84... In fact, car actually moving faster outside of the toll lane.

Why you want to pay when there is no speed advantage?

This toll lane actually add 20 minutes of my communicate time from Dublin to Santa Clara. Without the conversion of the toll lane, traffic is lot better


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Macro
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2010 at 1:01 pm

The back up is mainly due to 2 causes. The first, carpool entrance is move southward. As what we have experienced during construction a couple months ago, a slight change of this carpool entrance can have great impact to traffic. This entrance location is very sensitive because it is just around a big curve and served a overflow buffer for 84 merge. Even moving a few thousands feet, it can make traffic dramatically worse or better.

The second, unlike normal carpool hour, it is not free for solo driver after 9:00 AM. So, it may help for peak commute hour, it will definitely make traffic worse after 9:00 AM. Unless officials can correct these problems, traffic will be constraint before express lane entrance and this expensive toll lane is completely useless. Until carpool lane is extended into Pleasanton, The best they can do is to reconfig lanes pricing structure and make sure traffic is back to pre-express-lane-era.


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Posted by Michael Leonard
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Sep 27, 2010 at 10:52 am

Michael Leonard is a registered user.

It is now the 2nd week and traffic is still bad. I went through at 9:30 today. The problem is with the traffic merging from 84. There is a lot of it and a short merge lane. After the 84 merge traffic picks up. It did slow at the Washington St. bend and again at Mission.

The lane striping was up for weeks ahead of time so I don't see getting used to the new lane being an issue. I didn't see cars trying to dodge across the lanes. Not having the lane open up to all traffic is a problem and so is losing a lane. I'm not sure how they justify keeping it a toll lane all day.


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