Q Is there an agency that will buy back older, smog-producing cars to get them off the road? If so, how much could I get?
A Yes, both the Bay Area and the state have buyback programs. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District will pay $1,000 for a car 1994 or older in the nine local counties. The vehicle must be currently registered as operable, must be drivable and registered in the Bay Area for the past 24 months and within 60 days of a required smog check that it must pass. Go to www.baaqmd.gov/vbb for details.
The state also operates a vehicle buyback program for vehicles that do not pass their smog check. This program offers $1,500 to low-income applicants and $1,000 to above-income vehicle owners. Details are at www.smogtips.com/vehicle_buy_back.cfm.
Q When I noticed signs last week listing carpool hours on our highways had been changed to run almost all day from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. continuously, I became excited and was hoping this was permanent and not a temporary change of the possible BART strike. I've never understood why we don't have 24-7 carpool lanes like they do in L.A. Our traffic may not be quite as bad as the Southland, but it can still stop on a moment's notice, so we need 24-7 carpool lanes.
A The change was indeed temporary due to worries of a BART walkout, but I believe that gradually carpool hours on many Bay Area freeways will be extended at least to 10 a.m. as they already are at the Interstate 880-Highway 237 interchange, on much of I-80 and at nearly all approaches to state-owned bridges. When more carpool lanes become express lanes, you may see longer hours, such as on Interstate 580. While the exact hours there have not been finalized, they are expected to be similar to the current carpool hours of 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. when these lanes open in another year or so. However, the system is being built to operate 24-7 as future demands require.
Q Since most people just complain to you, here are kudos to the city of San Mateo. When I moved there in 2009, there was a nasty pothole on El Camino Real near Highway 92. After a few months, I finally brought it to the attention of the city via its pothole repair link on the city's website. Within a week, it was filled and drivers rejoiced.
A few weeks ago, it was back, I reported it again, and the city responded to me within minutes that they'll be fixing it soon. I'm quite impressed!
A Me, too. I field up to several hundred questions a week, and while I forward many of them onto everyone from Caltrans to BART to the VTA and cities from Walnut Creek to San Jose and beyond, I cannot get to them all. But each place has a website where you can report everything from potholes to wacky traffic lights to red-light runners. So do as Wilson did, and you may be in for a pleasant surprise.
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 email@example.com or 408-920-5335.