WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 11 Some More Toll Talk


A ride today in a comfy, warm Volvo, with a familiar face at the wheel – Jacob, the pink shirt guy! Today he’s wearing an orange shirt and rather amazing wrap-around sunglasses. They are like a Zorro-mask.

I ask him how he’s getting along with riders paying toll, and he says it’s been pretty fine. “Although, there’s this one rider – a guy who wrote me a check for his share.” I laugh. “He actually wrote you a check for $1.25?” “Yes, but he’s ridden with me before, and a couple of other times he either said he didn’t have the cash, or he’d get back to me later.” Sounds like a reluctant toll contributor to me. Or maybe he’s broke.

Jacob says that, being a non-confrontational kind of guy, he doesn’t insist if people don’t want to pay, so he didn’t give the rider a hard time. But a co-worker of his is quite firm about it. “She might let it go once, but she’ll let you know that’s the last time. A few days before the toll went into effect, she was reminding the riders to have their change ready when the tolls began.”

The lady passenger in the back seat says she has seen drivers refuse a ride to people who won’t pay. “And then no one else wants to give them a ride, either!” We all agree that is not a good thing to do. I remind them that even if the riders pay nothing, the driver of a casual carpool is saving $3.50 on the Bay Bridge and $2.50 on the Carquinez Bridge. The SHARING of the toll doesn’t mean the riders should pay ALL of the toll, although most Vallejo drivers seem to expect it.

Because Vallejo carpoolers have to pay for TWO bridges on our commute, I do understand the angst over these tolls, and agree that sharing is the right thing to do.

The return commute in the evening often catches carpoolers at the Carquinez Bridge after 7 PM, and the driver loses his carpool discount (carpool hours are 3 to 7 pm Monday through Friday). Once summer vacation is over, the freeways will be moving much slower, and if you pick up a carpool group in San Francisco after 6 pm, it’s likely you’ll cross the Carquinez Bridge after 7. Because we have a longer commute than other drivers, and more carpoolers than the other commute groups, I think we should get a break from the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA).

What do you think of this?: EXTEND THE CARPOOL HOURS ON THE CARQUINEZ BRIDGE TO 8 PM, TO ALLOW MORE TIME FOR VALLEJO (AND BEYOND) DRIVERS TO MAKE THE CARPOOL TOLL. Let me know what you think, and I’ll let the BATA know.

12 Responses

  1. This site is awesome. Hilarious, and awesome.

    I was trying to get a question answered about BMW windshield blocking FasTrak transponders. It’s still not answered, but that was some good reading…

    How do commuters meet up with the drivers, and where?

    amy.schroll@yahoo.com

    • Hi Amy. Thank you! To become a casual carpooler, it depends on where you are commuting from. There is a great website, devoted to all the nitty gritties of bay area carpooling, including pickup and drop off sites. Go to ridenow.org.

      It’s easy to do, just go to the pick up spot nearest to you and wait in line with the other riders, then hop in a car when it’s your turn. And your carpooling adventures begin! CG

  2. Nice to see you again. I enjoyed chatting with you and love your blog!

  3. I think the carpool hours are fine as-is. That’s what you get for living out in the hinterlands. Suburban flight/the silly desire to own a cookie-cutter home = charge more. I wish the tolls would be even higher for those going home to their tilt-up homes!

    • Wow Chirpe! Too hard! Some of us live ‘out in the hinterlands’ because we can’t afford to live in the innerlands. I actually do not live in a cookie-cutter home. I live in a decaying Victorian, built in 1878.

      And we already pay a LOT for the ‘privilege’ of commuting. If I drove every day, my commute expense would be around $10,000 a year.

      The carpool is a real win-win deal: it cuts costs for drivers and riders and hey, big bonus for all of us – even you ‘innerlanders’ – it helps keep the air clean and reduces traffic in and en route to the city and lessens our dependency on that thing called PETROLEUM. Why would you wish our tolls to be higher? Do you get a commission? We’re all in this together, whether we commute or not.

      We need to find solutions to lessen the necessity of commuting, to lessen our need for cars. Poking at each other isn’t the way to do that. CG

  4. Hi CG, love the blog. I agree that the Carpool rate should be extended to 8:00 p.m. for the return trip home at night as our commute back to Vallejo and Fairfield is really horrid sometimes. I also agree with you that we ALL have to share in the cost, not just the riders. I give a dollar, cheerfully, with each ride I take.

    What I do not like, is the nasty tone that some drivers have when I do not cough up an addtional .25. I am saddened to say this, but I have noticed that women drivers tend to be more snotty about it then the men. However, I heard a horror story today that really shocked me, about two men, who drive up to the Vallejo park and ride in the car together, take one passenger and demand $2.50 from the rider. This is just shameful. I understand they drive a dirty looking red car and usually are wearing reflective construction worker vests that Say “Kaiser Permanente” on them, so riders beware.

    • Hi Valerie – that is quite a horror story. And we will beware of the Kaiser thugs. I also contribute a dollar and yes, I’ve had that nasty tone and the annoyed body language when I don’t include the quarter. For pete’s sake, people, think about what you’re doing. I’ll say again: Drivers are saving $3.50 a day at the Bay Bridge and $2.50 a day at the Carquinez by just having 2 more bodies in their car. The actual money contribution from the riders should be considered a good-will ‘bonus’ and not a required ticket to ride. Thanks for the good comment and the vote for the extended hour. CG

  5. Hi CG! I absolutely adore your blog and read it frequently during my morning and evening commute. I have thought many times that a 7pm cutoff time for carpoolers going from SF to Vallejo is tough on drivers and riders, especially if you can’t get off of work by 5:30 or so. An 8pm extention would be great, and perhaps I’m cynical, but I highly doubt this will happen.

    • Hi Sascha! Thanks for the comments. Since it’s always all about money, I think you might be right about the 8 pm extension. The Bridge Toll folks may not care about the extra distance for the Vallejo carpoolers. When we cross the bridge after 7, they make $5 instead of $2.50. But I think it’s worth pursuing. CG

  6. Extending carpool hours on the Carquinez to 8pm? Why yes, certainly!! It only makes sense. Most commuters who drive through the Carquinez, eastbound, are likely to come from distances that prevent carpoolers from crossing the bridge by 7pm. I live in Vallejo, but is it arguable then to say that people who live west of the Carquinez have higher living costs. I don’t know. Irregardless, if carpooling really is about, or is about (at all), sparing the air and lessening congestion, then I would think CA roadway policies should accommodate the extended toll hours. If that’s the case, then why not have a 24-hour dedicated carpool toll lane?

  7. I have been experiencing some of the most hostile rides ever. Last Friday, the start of the Labor Day weekend was the worst. I used the Fairfield Park and Ride. When I got into a car heading home that evening, I asked the driver if he would take three passengers as the line was long, and there had been so few cars. He very angrily said no and I should have taken that as my first cue to not ride this guy. When I handed over my $1 he turned to me and asked where the rest of it was. I said I give a dollar. He proceeded to berate me, and I mean this guy was really nasty, so the other passenger volunteered a quarter for me. The driver continued to accuse me of “playing him for a sucker” and kept yelling at me that I should pay his toll for him, and when he refused to calm down, I told him to stop the car, give me back my dollar and I got out and walked back to the car pool line. We were almost at the ramp for the bridge, where the cops wait to catch cheaters. I felt that it was worth the long walk back and the second wait for a car because this man was clearly a violent and beligerant man. This toll is bringing out the ugliest in people.

    • Dear Victoria – wow – that is one of the worst toll tales I’ve heard yet. The rides from SF back to the North Bay seem to be the most contentious. Maybe because there are so many riders and so few drivers, it makes the drivers feel that they have the advantage and can call the shots. But you’re right, this situation does bring out the uglies. I rarely go home via carpool anymore – partly because of the long line to Vallejo but also because that’s where I’ve had my ‘ugliest toll rides’. Strangely, the morning ride to work has mostly been okay. I always pay just a dollar, but without exception every other rider I am with pays $1.25.

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