The Mercury News Weekend
Express lane critics detail their frustrations
Q Toll and express lane signage is a mess on Interstates 880 and 680. Recently I drove from San Jose to Richmond and back on 880, with a passenger in the car. I was busy watching traffic and trying to read the signs. The passenger, also a licensed driver, read signs and helped me interpret them. My FasTrak Flex was set to 2.
After that drive, I have no idea if I have tolls to pay, and if so, how much, or whether I violated rules and will be charged a penalty. Signs say HOV is 3+ occupancy. They do not say whether a non-HOV car can drive in express lanes at some toll rate, or is not allowed. Tolls are posted on lighted signs at intervals, but some are out. No signs mention whether the toll is for HOV only or for non-HOV, also.
The only way to be sure of not violating some rule is to stay out of the express lanes completely. This whole scheme penalizes poor people and serves those who are wealthy enough not to care about charges, overcharges or penalties.
If you're new to express lanes, yes, the signs and new rules can be confusing.
Bless you, Joe Urbassik, regarding your disdain for the confusing FasTrak. Yes, the designers deserve every headache! I have FasTrak, but avoid toll lanes due to the lack of a simple, clear and understandable system. I hate it.
– Scott Anderson
The big problem with FasTrak-enabled toll lanes is the incredibly confusing policies and signage that have resulted.
It's not uncommon to see a stretch of road with “FasTrak Required” signs interspersed with lighted messages reading “Open to All.” Which takes precedence? Is FasTrak required but single-occupant cars are OK? Should I, in my non-FasTrakequipped car, weave into the lane after an “Open to All” sign and back out whenever a “FasTrak Required” sign comes up?
Trying to decipher this at 65+ mph is an accident waiting to happen. It's no wonder motorists are hit with unexpected charges, and prone to disbelieve their FasTrak bills.
Can the powers-that-be please simplify this mess? – Les Niles, Los Gatos
Q My biggest pet peeve about FasTrak lanes is that they run from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., rather than typical commute hours of 5 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m., with a few exceptions. This creates slowdowns and backups midday in some areas, while there are few cars in FasTrak lanes. Stopand-go traffic begins earlier than 3 p.m. on many freeways. Extended FasTrak hours are adding traffic congestion and pollution, rather than reducing it. – Dale Allison, Sunnyvale
A That's the last word for today.