Q I commute from Fremont to Sunnyvale on Interstate 880 and Highway 237. About six months ago, we started noticing that even our carpool would be stop-and-go! Here is what I propose to solve the carpool clogging due to the flood of Nissan Leafs.
A You blame owners of the Nissan Leaf and other electric cars for plugging up the express lane at 237-880, which has resulted in solo drivers with FasTrak being booted out of the diamond lane for up to an hour a day. Why?
Q When I started my job off 237 in 2010, a solo commute was 40 minutes one way for 21 miles. Now, it is 40 minutes at a minimum in the carpool lane. I blame the improving economy, the abundance of cheap financing of the Leaf ($2,000 down plus $99 or so for a lease) and companies giving free EV charges.
A Geez, I think all three are encouraging. What do you propose?
Q Increase the carpool threshold from two to three people per gas-powered vehicles. And increase the carpool threshold from one to two people per electric vehicle -- especially the Leaf! How do I get this petition started?
Call me a carpooler not amused at Nissan Leaf-clogged freeways.
A Call the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which 11 years ago proposed raising the carpool requirement to three people or more. The idea was quickly shot down after hundreds of complaints.
Except for the I-80 carpool lane east of the Bay Bridge, two is the rule on all Bay Area freeways -- and it will be a long time before it's upped to three. Caltrans says increasing the occupancy requirement to three may reduce carpooling by 75 percent and may be too severe if only a 10 to 20 percent reduction is needed to keep express lane traffic flowing.
Say, Uplander, how many people in your carpool?
Q Since the express lanes aren't working (Merc headline Monday: "Solo drivers stew as fast turns slow"), why is the Valley Transportation Authority proposing to add additional express lanes to Highway 85 in addition to converting the HOV lanes to express lanes? This is insane! The two extra lanes would eliminate any future light rail from being built plus anger frustrated drivers all along 85. Haven't they learned from you that extra lanes means more traffic, thus more gridlock?
A The problem is that express lanes may work too well. There are as many as 3,000 first-time FasTrak users each month in the 237-880 express lanes and as many as 14,000 repeat toll-paying customers overall a month, an increase of 4,000 since 2012.
Q With high demand for HOV lane stickers for plug-in hybrids and electric cars, why do we need this dumb program that just clogs up the carpool lane with solo drivers and results in a disincentive for less efficient, more polluting drivers to carpool?
A The program is temporary. In 2019, electric vehicles and those running on alternative fuels will lose their white and green carpool stickers and be stuck in traffic unless the Legislature extends the program again.