Q Regarding issues related to casual carpooling over the Bay Bridge:
Anyone participating in a casual carpool, especially women, take a smartphone picture of others in the vehicle and text it to a friend, along with the vehicle license number. I do not think others in the vehicle will take offense if the person says, "I very much appreciate your willingness to drive/join me, and I do not distrust you. I am doing this because it was recommended by Mr. Roadshow as something everyone should do when casual carpooling as a security measure."
This is a common and wise practice of many real estate agents (women in particular) when meeting a new potential buyer at an unoccupied property.
A Casual carpooling -- i.e., catching a ride with or picking up a stranger in order to get into the carpool lane and pay a reduced toll -- may be the best way to travel if there is another BART strike on Monday. Go to the 511.org site, which has a special BART strike alert page at alert.511.org, with all kinds of information, plus a map of expanded casual carpool pickup spots in San Francisco. You can also go to www.ridenow.org/carpool for a list of casual carpool pickup locations, plus etiquette issues.
San Francisco officials say a good spot is the sparsely used Spear Street casual carpool zones that are set up to serve most East Bay BART stations. Most people use the Beale Street site, and it is often jammed.
And in the event of a strike, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will have some incentives for casual carpool drivers and for employers who respond creatively. For carpools, a team of folks will distribute $5 Peet's coffee cards to drivers who pick up passengers at the three San Francisco locations in the afternoon. And the five companies that implement the most robust strategies to cope with a strike will get a visit from a cupcake truck or an on-site chair massage company.
Q What is considered appropriate for a passenger to offer, or a driver to ask for, in terms of compensation in a casual carpool? While the driver may pay a reduced toll or have it paid by the passengers, that savings is small compared to what a passenger saves by not incurring the full single occupant toll of $5 to $6, paying for gas for the trip or the recently jacked-up cost of parking in San Francisco.
A I say pay $1 per passenger to help defray the $2.50 carpool fee. It's simple and requires no digging for change.
This can be a touchy subject, with some passengers saying they resent paying any amount.
Q Do you have any data on how many people have created regular ongoing carpools as a result of participating in casual carpooling? Perhaps that is the one silver lining in this huge black cloud created by the BART strike.
A No. Carpool officials have not tracked this.
Q Have the powers that be given any consideration to temporarily eliminating tolls for carpools on all bridges crossing the bay during a BART strike? I have to believe such a move would help congestion a little, and, in the current situation, every little bit helps.
A There are no plans to eliminate tolls. But only carpools of three or more people and transit vehicles will be able to use the West Grand Avenue on-ramp at Maritime Street in Oakland to reach the Bay Bridge toll plaza from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Buses and carpools will also be permitted to drive on the shoulder here.
And in the event of a strike, Caltrans will again expand the carpool hours on Interstate 80 weekdays from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Q What happens if BART is on strike when the authorities decide it's finally time to open the new Bay Bridge? Will they wait until trains are running again? Cross their fingers, hope for the best and go ahead with the switch? Something else?
If they do go ahead, will it lead to Carmageddon?
A It's almost a sure bet that the new bridge will not open until late this year. If there is a BART strike at that time, God have mercy on us all.
You can find Gary Richards' columns at www.mercurynews.com/mr-roadshow, under the main navigation bar at Opinion > Columns, or at www.mercurynews.com/traffic. Follow Mr. Roadshow at Twitter.com/mrroadshow, look for him at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5335.