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Bay Area braces for toll lane projects

Original post made on Jan 29, 2015

Projects that would add express lanes to two Bay Area highways through Mountain View are well on the way, part of a Silicon Valley-wide effort to alleviate traffic woes by allowing toll-paying solo drivers to legally use carpool lanes.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 30, 2015, 12:00 AM

Comments (25)

Posted by you've got to be kidding me
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 29, 2015 at 9:03 pm


You've got to be kidding me.

Who is going to pay that money? If they are only charging $1.60 (average) for every use, how can that possibly add up to $640 million? Or are they asking local residents to pay their sales tax money to subsidize commuters? Why can't we tax corporations to pay the transportation costs of their employees?

Posted by Usodum
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2015 at 11:04 pm

What a dumb comment. Where do you think gas tax revenue goes???

Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Jan 30, 2015 at 6:54 am

Did John Ristow really state that ..."rather, the option of paying a toll to obtain travel time savings would be available to drivers of all income groups." ?

By that logic, drivers of all income groups have also the "option" of purchasing a Maserati or lease an apartment at Madera...

Pretty callous statement from a Public agency representative...

Posted by Cyril
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 30, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Clogging HOV lanes with solo drivers seems a terrible idea to me.
I don't think there's much of any noise issue associated with it, but it just send the wrong signals to improve transportation in the bay area:
1) it will devalue the proposition of what HOV lanes were created for in the first place, at a time where few drivers have yet to considering carpooling
2) it essentially segregate highway traffic by saying "hey, if you can afford it, you can go faster than your less wealthy neighbors."
How is that solving traffic issues for everyone?
Is there an organized group fighting this initiative that we can join?

Posted by Mel
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 30, 2015 at 2:27 pm

I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!! Boy did I call this a year and a half ago. When they were revamping 101 through Mtn. View, I told my neighbor to watch, as soon as the they gave us this 'new and improved' highway, they were going to take it away and gridlock would be even worse than before they started the project.

Posted by Just build more lanes
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jan 30, 2015 at 2:53 pm

The days of care free car commuting are gone. We have reached that point that has been foretold for about 2 decades now. Know this as fact: If you commute in the Bay Area by car, you will never ever have an easy commute unless you are doing a reverse commute.

Posted by BayAreaBob
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 30, 2015 at 3:09 pm

As long as these toll lanes are newly constructed lanes and do not interfere with access to or traffic flow in currently existing lanes, I have no opposition to their construction. Just don't start piling on special free exemptions for things like "zero emission" vehicles, carpooling, buses, motorcycles, and any other crazy dreams that politicians and bureaucrats can conjure up to assuage their guilty, politically-correct consciences.

Posted by worse not better
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 30, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Building more lanes just encourages people to live farther from work, then traffic quickly gets worse for everyone. The only way to reduce traffic is to reduce the distance people have to commute, especially by solo cars.

Those $100 million lanes they built in Mountain View (using sales tax money, not gas tax money) just move the traffic jam further south. Now they are asking for hundreds of millions more. When that money is spent, traffic will still be awful and they will ask for billions more.

We need to move people closer to their jobs. If jobs are high-density, then housing also needs to be high density.

Posted by Hmm
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 30, 2015 at 3:42 pm

Ah, the lanes for the wealthy, the kings, and CEOs. While the others can wait in line. Unbelievable, who is our govt. working for, the people or the wealthy?

Posted by Not an improvement
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2015 at 3:43 pm

AS a survivor of the express lane addition to 237, I would feel very unhappy about having an express lane added to 85 as well. It has not been a success on 237 except for those that can afford to add $2-5 to their daily commute. I'm not one of those, so it has had a bad impact on my travel time.
Part of the problem is this:
"One difference between express lanes and the existing carpool lanes is that, with express lanes, there are limited entrance and exit points. The new express lanes will have double solid white lines designed to prevent cars from switching from lane to lane. Ristow said drivers moving in and out of carpool lanes back up traffic. And the limited access points should make the drive a lot easier for both carpool and toll drivers. "

Well, that would be nice IF THEY WOULD ENFORCE IT!!! Driving in the lane next to the ELane becomes extremely hazardous as people unexpectedly cut across the double white lines on a regular basis.

And while I am carpooling, having the extra cars in the lane has not improved my commute.

So the only people who benefit from express lanes are those who can pay $500-1000 a year for the luxury lane.

Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Jan 30, 2015 at 4:37 pm

With 85, wasn't the original plan to have Light Rail or public transit in the median?

That'd be a much better way to fight congestion than these toll lanes that "drivers of all income groups" would have the "option" to pay for.

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2015 at 5:42 pm

So can we have some clarity on this.

Does this mean that we will lose the 2 carpool lanes we already have?

Does this mean that carpoolers will only be able to enter and exit at designated places?

As a Palo Alto resident, I can't say I would pay to use a carpool lane unless I was on my way to catch a plane, do an exam, or something of similar importance that missing was not an option. There have been occasions when taking a passenger to enable use of the carpool lane has been the only alternative to getting stuck in 101 traffic. The recent improvements have made a big difference. I hope that we are not about to lose them.

Posted by Justin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 1, 2015 at 11:10 am

"With 85, wasn't the original plan to have Light Rail or public transit in the median?

That'd be a much better way to fight congestion than these toll lanes that "drivers of all income groups" would have the "option" to pay for."

Really? How effective is light rail at fighting congestion now? Also there is nothing stopping express busses (which would probably be faster than light rail) from using HOT lanes.

Posted by Oh sure, that'll make it better
a resident of Bailey Park
on Feb 2, 2015 at 1:34 pm

For any committed, single user car commuter thinking one day traffic will improve, guess what? They are also and still trying to improve traffic in L.A. too.
In other words, get used to traffic and being stuck in it unless you get you of your car. Gripe and complain all you want, you cannot fight the physical realities of the situation.

Posted by incognito
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 2, 2015 at 2:13 pm

"worse not better" is exactly right. we can't build our way out of traffic congestion. anyone who's been to North County San Diego has seen continuous freeway renovation there for about the past 10 years straight. instead of 3-4 lanes of traffic, they now have 7-8 lanes of traffic inching along as people continue to live far from where they work and vice versa.

Instead of more traffic lanes, we need better city planning.

We keep building prisons instead of schools, we keep building freeway lanes instead of well-designed public transportation.

Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2015 at 6:44 pm

The fact that people would rather sit in traffic than take public transit speaks volumes. Until VTA can deliver something even modestly efficient, that trend will continue regardless of obstacles placed in our paths. Hint: dedicated bus lanes on the ECR aren't the answer. Neither is an absolutely, stupidly expensive bike share program...

Posted by Prak
a resident of North Bayshore
on Feb 2, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Highway 101 upgrade in Bay Area - Please consider the extra lanes created that can be used in a reversible way - in the direction of traffic. These extra lanes can be used for handling car pool and for toll lanes. This gives so much extra road capacity in both the directions.

Posted by Piecemeal
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 3, 2015 at 12:09 am

I've always been frustrated/curious about the piecemeal approach to adding freeway lanes. We start at 3 lanes (101 many years ago). Then, with massive disruption, we go to 4. Then, with more massive disruption, we go to 5.

Why not just build out at one time (in the areas that have room). Clearly, the lanes will be used. As an example, 85 in the Saratoga area has 3 lanes, but has ample room. When the decision is made to expand, can we jump straight to 5? Why did they start with just 3 in the first place? It seems there would be massive economies of scale in doing the work all at once.

I'm a bit skeptical on the toll lanes. This isn't adding space, just attempting to a cost. Perhaps there's some marginal benefit in getting a few more cars in the diamond/pay lane during rush hour. I'll probably pay. But I'm surprised there hasn't been more outcry that this is prejudicial against lower income drivers.

Do some employers cover the cost as a perk to employees?

Posted by Speed Limiter
a resident of Bailey Park
on Feb 3, 2015 at 6:46 am

Frustration: Being locked into a toll lane where you can't change lanes (double white line)and then getting stuck behind someone going 55 mph as the other cars in the free lanes pass you, and you're paying money to do it.
This goes on all the time w/ the free carpool lanes on 237.

Posted by tommygee54
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 3, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Building another lane in the median???!!! It appears that the section of 101 at Shoreline where the 85 ramp runs into 101 gets a new lane built every few months it seems. If I remember correctly the number of lanes already spread out in this area is at least 17!!! That is SEVENTEEN lanes of traffic already. And now another one along the median---no more median divider I guess. Perhaps the engineers can build a double decker of EIGHTEEN lanes---then we would have 36 lanes total. Who cares if there is an earthquake. Just bring in more cars!!!

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2015 at 5:17 pm

In time we going to do a L.A, and build car/express lanes above the freeway which i driven. People complain about a 4 story building but wait til you see this built which it is ugly, gray and big.

I know they even talked abbout converting the L.A Rive into lanes of traffic.

Posted by Wasteful
a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2015 at 7:59 am

Waste of money! This is not a solution. The only way this would have an impact t is if they raise the price to drive in these lanes and use the proceeds to pay for public transport. Commuters should not be driving. This is not progress, this is taking a step back into time.

Posted by Dan
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 8, 2015 at 3:23 pm

News of BRT on El Camino one month then Toll lanes next. Could things be so bad someone is prepping us for toll lanes with the VTA Bus on El Camino.

Posted by tommygee54
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 9, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Hey Dan, your idea might actually happen; the public would have no say so her comes BRT on El Camino Real and another lane in the median of 101 at 85 and Shoreline. Way to go Mountain View officials.

Posted by JeSuisCharlie
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 10, 2015 at 4:00 pm

I approve of this ONLY if all of the toll lanes along the highways are newly constructed lanes and not converted carpool or regular traffic lanes --- along the entire length of the highways. As I understand this project, that is not true. There are some stretches of highway like underpasses and overpasses, where CALTRANS plans to add no new lanes and rather plans to convert carpool lanes into toll lanes because it is impossible to add additional lanes without extremely expensive, major construction work. This is totally unacceptable because it will add "choke points" where carpool lane traffic must merge right into regular traffic lanes. These choke points will create a queueing effect that will cause huge backups during rush hour traffic. We will be no better off unless these choke points are not created.

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