Q I've noticed a few times that the express lane signs will say "HOV Only" instead of the toll on Highway 237 in the evening commute. Why would the express lane only allow carpoolers during toll hours?
A Good question, and here's the answer. When you see "HOV Only" on the sign over the carpool or express lane, it means solo drivers may not use this lane unless they are driving a motorcycle or clean air vehicle with green or white stickers. The "HOV Only" sign comes on when traffic in the lane is so jammed that it is not possible to maintain the minimum 45 mph speed required by federal standards.
VTA officials say traffic congestion has increased along northbound Interstate 880, forcing them to activate the "HOV only" mode more frequently during the evening commute.
Q How do they decide on the fee for the 237 express lane in the evening? I've found that fees less than 80 cents usually mean traffic is flowing along fairly nicely. However, sometimes at 85 cents, traffic is the same, while other times it is backed up to the overpass from I-880. The fee has been $1.10 to $1.25 and sometimes traffic is stopped at the overpass and sometimes it's clear sailing! Huh?
A Tolls are based on multiple factors, mainly congestion and average speed detected by sensors. Prices are then changed every five minutes if needed.
There could be a one- or two-minute lag between the toll rate and immediate traffic conditions. The system is designed to consider traffic conditions farther up- or downstream from the tolling area. For example, a driver may be experiencing smooth sailing initially when taking eastbound 237 to northbound I-880, but a higher toll rate is set to deter too many users because of congestion farther up on I-880 into Milpitas or Fremont.
Q Is there a website where I can check the current FasTrak charges at 237 and I-880? I commute to Sunnyvale and when traffic is bad -- that's usually when the toll is $2.50 -- I'll change lanes and switch to use the toll lane. But cutting from the right all the way to the toll lane on the left through commute traffic is pretty bad. If I had an idea what the charge was beforehand, I could switch earlier.
A Sorry, there is no website, as the tolls can constantly be raised or lowered depending on traffic conditions. You need to check the overhead electronic signs for current fees being charged.
Q My question is on the south I-880 to west 237 express lane. I love it. Who wouldn't pay $1.50 to $2.35 to fly by the stop-and-go traffic jam? But why didn't they simply make the whole route from I-880 to the end of the carpool lane on 237 a toll lane? The express lane ends about a mile before the end of the carpool lane.
A Eventually this will change. The VTA recently was awarded a $1.6 million federal grant to begin design work to extend the 237 express lanes an additional four miles from Lawrence Expressway west to Mathilda Avenue, maybe in three years. Long-range plans call for the toll lane to reach Highway 85 in Mountain View.
Q Besides the highway robbery of paying $4.17 per gallon, stations need to raise the accepted credit card limit, as $75 and 17 gallons DOES NOT FILL my truck and I resent having to put the same card through again. Not to mention I'm lucky the bank didn't decide that two transactions immediately after each other at my Valero gas station was "fraud" and block my card. I've had this happen before and it's unbelievably irritating.
A I could not agree more. But most credit card companies are sticking with the $75 limit for fraud reasons.
Q There is an enormous tree directly in front of our house on Payne Avenue by the sidewalk. Limbs are hanging down to the extent that it impairs incoming drivers' ability to see traffic on a nearby cross street. Also the hanging limbs touch the roof and windshields of taller vehicles. In addition, large cables cross the bushy tree. In my opinion, it's an accident waiting to happen. Who is responsible to trim the tree? The utility company? Caltrans? The city?
A None of the above. You are. Homeowners are responsible, and you need a street tree pruning permit, according to Ralph-the-City-Tree-Man. To get one, call 408-794-1901 or send an email to email@example.com.