I slept late and to make matters even later, I spilled makeup on my favorite blue blouse as I was doing my morning-getting-ready-for-work ritual. I had to scrub the makeup out of the blouse and then throw it in the dryer while I finished the rest of getting ready. So here I am on the last toll-free day of casual carpool at 7:20 a.m. with only one other waiting rider and no cars. But then three cars pull up all at once and my ride is the back seat of a Honda Accord.
The driver has his dark hair pulled back in a pony tail and is enthusiastically devouring a crisp red apple. NPR coming out of a speaker near me in the back seat. An ivory-like statue of a seated elephant rests on the dashboard. I sense that the driver and the front seat passenger are both going to work in the same place.
What a gorgeous summer morning. As we approach the toll gates, I say “It’s a special ride today – our last one toll-free!” The driver nods. “I wonder what the drive will be like tomorrow”, he asks. “Well, we’re all going to have FasTrak, so it shouldn’t slow us down”. I agree. I think the jam up might be at the non-carpool lanes for cash only drivers who suddenly realize they’ve got to come up with an extra $2. Unfortunately, the confusion will probably affect all the traffic lanes. “We’ll see.” I voice my concern about the toll creating problems for the future of the casual carpool, plus the fact that the car pool lanes are going to be converted into car pool/express lanes (to include solo drivers who pay a toll). The front seat passenger says she has a hybrid and uses the carpool lane with a permit, and once that started, she figured they’d add single toll drivers as well.
Both of them work in South San Francisco and lament that there is no direct or even good-connecting public transportation from the north bay to south San Francisco. They would happily ride BART or bus if the connection was there. I mention the $3 billion being budgeted for the express lane conversion and we loudly agree that with that kind of money, a LOT could be done to make public transportation in the bay area better. We laugh at the absurdity of it all – the higher tolls, the cost of the ferries and BART, the dependence on oil – as we breeze through the toll gate for a final free ride.