Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Citizen Carpool Police - Good start but will it be enough?

Did you guys see the good news today?? SB889, legislation that would set up a hotline and website for us to report illegal carpool lane users passed in the Senate Transportation Committee this week. Check out this article on SF Gate! We're moving one step forward to citizen carpool police- which I applaud.

I ride BART 4 times a week, but once a week, I drive to my company's San Jose location. It is a horrendously long drive. Always, on 680, I see single drivers zooming past me in the carpool lane. Over 10 years ago, I did the same thing and got caught. I've never done it again! There are much better ways to spend $300+ than to give it to the government.

It just drives me crazy seeing just HOW MANY solo drivers freely take up the carpool lane during carpool hours! WHERE IS THE CHP???? I've yet to see someone get caught! Why aren't the CHP patrolling during those hours??

It makes me so angry to see those law breakers get away with it while I am stuck in traffic. Particularly during the stretch from Bollinger on 680S to my turn off on 24W. It is 13 miles but could take up to an hour on a bad day! Yet, these law breakers take up the carpool lane, and then cut me off when their exit is up!

Am I going to use this hotline? YOU BET I AM! The limitation, however, being that it is a citizen-reported incident, is the offender will only get a measly WARNING! Still, better than nothing at all! It is a start, although I'm not sure it's enough.

So all you solo carpoolers, you better watch out for me on 680! I have a good memory and I am on to you!


Anonymous said...

i think this will be a big hit. with citizens policing themselves, i'm sure illegal carpool usage is going to drop quite a bit. everyone has a cellphone these days - the hard part is to get behind the offender long enough to copy down their license plate number.

Anonymous said...

I think it's nearly impossible to catch their license plate number. I first heard about this new way to report scoflaws several weeks ago, and I tried to catch some license numbers on northbound 880 in Milpitas & Fremont. By the time I could discern they were singles, I didn't have enough time to get the license numbers. However, I did see the CHP running an HOV trap in the same area about a year ago. A motorcycle cop stationed himself behind the pillar of an overpass in the middle of the freeway facing oncoming traffic. He was on his radio and reporting singles to 3 or 4 cruisers parked along the side of the freeway. Ever hear of the CHP "Wolf Pack?" This was a variation on that theme. Unfortunately, I haven't seen them since.

Anonymous said...

great point. i can't imagine it would be that easy to jot down a license plate number... think about this: if you are a single obeying the law and you see a violator zip by you, how are you supposed to catch the license # of the person unless you jump into the HOV lane too? at that point, someone might report you for violating the rules. this sounds great on paper, but hard to enforce.

bartmusings said...

You guys are right. Who would really believe me anyways if I were to report the license plate #?

I'm just so sick of seeing solo drivers take up the lane while i'm going 5 mph. I even considered going to a prank store to buy a siren so I can scare them as they pass my car.
I'll probably be the one getting arrested though!

Yeah, this probably won't help much. Maybe the state can install a overhead camera or some type of laser device that can sense whether someone is entitled in the carpool lane. Like skipping the tolls at bay bridge! Once my Fastrak didn't work, and I got a ticket that had a photo of my license plate.

how about that?

Dan said...

Here in Washington, they've had the hotline for quite some time. The person reported gets an admonishing pamphlet about carpooling within a week. This is about the extent of what can be done (and it will be similar in CA) when no police officer witnessed the violation.

Now you might be wondering why you should even bother, but I think there are two good reasons:

- Psychological impact: People who get the notices tend to be a little creeped out by them -- at least from my non-scientific study of two friends who got letters. Everyone knows they don't have privacy on the road, but knowing that someone was specifically watching them was enough to put them back in the regular lanes.

- Resource allocation: In the Seattle area the state patrol will focus their enforcement activities based on when and where reports were made. Consistent reports means a greater chance that scofflaws will get ticketed.

And yeah, most of the time you shouldn't be able to write down the numbers because traffic is flowing along. But you just might have time when you're stuck in yet another bumper to bumper crawl and the Most Important Person In The World is inching along solo in that carpool lane.

Josh said...

I think that what really needs to be done is to increase the fine for traveling in the carpool lane. It seems like it has been $271 for as long as I have been driving (and that's 15 years now!). While $271 is no chump change, I think that the possibility of a much larger ticket... say $750 or $1000... would make it seem like an even stupider decision to break this law.

Oh, and I have to add that after a week of driving that 680 commute to/from Santa Clara for a technical conference, I REALLY do appreciate the convenience of my BART commute.

Anonymous said...

Citizen tiplines concern me... Too much possibility of abuse. So someone disagrees with my political bumpersticker and now I get "don't use the car pool lane when alone" warnings....

A tipline is no substitute for increased CHP enforcement. Increased enforcement will also cut down on the speeders and the slowpokes....

dan miley said...

But how can i be sure there is not a second passenger? How can I know that an apparent carpool lane violator doesn't have an occupied childseat in the back that I can't see?

Anonymous said...

We don't need more people on cell phones while driving. Few people take advantage of bluetooth or handsfree sets