Live Council Blog

7:42 The publicity guy for the Express Lane project just stopped by my table. He said their studies show that people who are late – often mothers picking up their kids – are the ones most likely to use it. I figured it would be rich people and people with bad credit, who act like they’re rich. I also complained to him about HOV lanes. I got a ticket a few years ago for driving in the HOV lane. It cost me my entire Argus NCAA Basketball Pool winnings.

7:27 p.m. Anu Natarajan is asking questions:

She asks about where the money goes. Unclear answer

Now it’s Bill Harrison

He’s talking about some Torrico bill and talk about the Express Lanes also being used on weekends.  Harrison says it’s exciting. All for council members in attendance have Fastrak. Wieckowski is out. I hear he had a death in the family.

Wasserman likes it too. California is sometimes so strange to me. People go crazy about raising property taxes, but everyone seems to think its great to charge $9.75 to drive on the freeway. In New York we have super high property taxes and toll roads, but at least the schools have art and music classes and class sizes are under 35. This crummy weather must be making me nostolgic.

Anyway, the meeting is adjourned. I’m going to look at old Don Mattingly videos on YouTube.

7:25: It’s Question/Sue Chan time.  First question: this there a camera? Yes, for enforcement.

What’s the range? It’s a big mystery. It hasn’t been set. It could be as low as zero when there’s no demand. In SoCal it’s been as high as $9.75. I’d rather be late.

What about hybrids? The state decides if solo drivers in hybrids can use the express lane for free.


7:22 p.m. Looks like this Express Lane/Toll Lane are already established in So Cal and Minnesota. Caltrans is showing a video extoling the project.  Basically if you’re a solo driver with Fastrak, you can enter the Express/Toll Lane for a fee (the video said $4) and glide on through Fremont.

7:15 p.m.  This is going to be a super quick meeting. Only thing left on agenda is a report on the planned I-680 Express Lane, or the I-680 Toll Lane. I’m interested to hear the report. I know that this is getting promoted as pro-environment because fewer cars might be idling, but the idea that rich folks can pay to avoid traffic feels a little strange.

John Dutra told me a year or so ago that he had a lot to do with the legislation that is bringing us the Express Lane. I didn’t say anything, but I was thinking that he shouldn’t be able to avoid the traffic I’m in just because he can afford the toll. But maybe it’s a good idea.

It’s Council prolocamation time.

The council is honoring the winning team of The Bike To Work Challenge. Three of the winning cyclists are from Fremont. They and they’re families comprised about half the people in the council chamber. It’s almost empty now. Marshak of the Tri-City Voice is here.

I actually saw him and his wife last week at Argus headquarters. We’re taking up less space these days, and he’s looking for more elbow room, so we might actually occupy the same office. It’s hard to imagine the TCB and TCV under the same roof, but I already have to sit in between a Red Sox fan and a Boys to Men fan, so things really can’t get much worse.

Matt Artz


  1. I don’t think this has anything to do with the City Council meeting and I’m a big Matt Artz fan but . . .

    Here is the current headline on http://www.insidebayarea.com/argus:

    “Classes at Fremont’s James Logan High cancelled due to power outage”

    Local newspapers will never disappear because they have a unique connection with, and knowledge of, the local community. I’ll tell you right now The Drudge Report and CNN.com have no clue that Fremont has annexed James Logan High School!

  2. Express Lanes, They are for the affluent so they do not have to sit in traffic.
    Working people (Middle class) will not be able to afford using them, so what we have here in our Democracy is class distinction by our government.
    The rich will thumb there noses at the working people sitting in traffic. It was the working people (Middle Class) who has paid for the road in the first place.
    I do not think anyone should support Express Lanes for the rich or also known as Lexus Lanes. It is the most undemocratic action our government can do for us.
    It is no wonder that they need a publicity guy for the Express Lane project

  3. Awesome, another boom or bust source of revenue for the state. The only bright spot is that the HOV lane will open during a severe recession, keeping in check the pie-in-the-sky revenue projections that services will surely be dependent on.

    The *real* carpoolers must be pissed, having to realize that conservation is reserved for the peons.

  4. When the concept was adopted by the county Congestion Management Agency, the revenue was supposed to be dedicated to improving transit options in the corridor. The question really is “would there be carpool lanes added to 680 without the toll alternative?”

  5. THere are two separate ideas here. They’ve been used in combitaion and they will sometimes get used separately – This discussion seems to suggest that the two are being considered in combination – which is a terrible idea.

    HOV lanes dedicated to vehicles of a specfied head count during commute hours and anybody irrespective of whether you drive a Ford or a Lexus can enjoy the benefit of an HOV lane. This isn’t a “premium” service that allows someone to buy their way to the head of the line. This is an AOK way to encourage folks to carpool – – – – whoever added in the idea that some folks could be given the ability to buy access to the HOV lane was an idiot.

    “Toll” express lanes charge folks for the privledge of using them. The idea that a “toll” lane “gives back” as Gus suggests is a back-handed idea. First – you take away a lane from the local “corridor” then you attempt to marginally rationalize this takeaway by using the revenues to “improve the corridor” ???? what kind of backwards thinking is this ??? Keep in mind that this all happens less adminstrative overhead, handling fees, destination charges, dealer prep and anything else that gov. can think of.

    The mixing of these two ideas takes a potentially sound idea (HOV incentives) and turns it into a revenue “land grab”.

    Anybody that wants to see “express toll” thinking at its finest – take a drive into downtown Chicago sometime during commute hours – and have your wallet ready every 4-5 miles.

  6. Just came back from Houston and I am shocked that the following isn’t being implemented here:

    In Houston their freeway HOV lanes run with the traffic. They split the freeway and only go with the traffic in the morning (into town), and out of town in the afternoon/eventing (out of town). The other good thing is that you can’t exit the lane except at certain times, like SoCal carpool lanes. Cheaters WILL get caught.

    Here our I-680 carpool/toll lane is ONLY being planned southbound, not northbound. Seems like it would make MUCH more sense to do what Houston does and have a lane in between northbound and southbound and have this toll/carpool lane only go southbound in the morning, northbound in the afternoon/evening. Too bad nobody has thought about that.

  7. A couple of points. HOV lanes are always new lanes. They never take normal travel lanes and convert them to HOV. The new lanes on 680 will add an HOV lane in each direction, both north and south bound. People with 2 or more in the car can use them without charge, but single occupancy vehicles can only use them if they pay a fee for using them. That fee is calculated based on how heavy the traffic is at the time. It is collected the same way that FastTrak collects bridge tolls now.

    The idea of a moveable barrier to add only one lane and then move a barrier depending on which way you want the HOV lane to be going was considered at length, but was not adopted due to operational concerns and ongoing costs, as I recall. This, I believe, is an experiment, the first in Northern California, so we aren’t really sure how successful it will be.

    One fact I recall from the process. The conventional wisdom is that the traffic on 680 is coming from San Joaquin County environs. CalTrans did a license plate survey of the cars on 680 and found the majority to be from Contra Costa County.

    At that same time, more people from Alameda County commuted into Santa Clara County than commuted into San Francisco, with all of the transit options aimed at serving the SF commuter, except for a few VTA buses. It looks like they are finally going to start serving the SCC commuters, with BART and additonal lanes on the highways.

  8. Gus – I dont agree that you can mix a “toll” lane and have a successful HOV result in the long-term.

    Consider the prospect of what happens as the other non-HOV lanes become increasingly conggested and more and more pay-per-use drivers migrate to the HOV lane – – – what happens to the original intent and that all important HOV incentive ??

    As far as WHO the incremental lane is built for – – – the point is that if you want to IMPROVE the corridor – if that was your numero uno priority – you’d dedicate the lane to all drivers. Now – If you are a bit more forward looking in your management of this resource – you dedicate the resource to HOV occupancy. BUT – if you want to grab some revenue (and simultaneously are willing to reduce effectiveness of the HOV incentive) – you add a “toll” feature to the resource.

    That some percentage of tolls collected will be returned to “improving the corridor” is nothing more (in my estimation) than a way to sell constituency on what is NOW little more than a toll lane masquerading as a “green-thinking” HOV.

    My hunch is politicos have a slightly different view than constituency of what “green” ultimately means when it comes to this mixed toll/HOV lane concept. . . . . .

  9. Box,

    As I recall (it has been at least 5 years since I was involved), there was not funding available for the HOV lane without the toll addition. So, without the toll portion, there wouldn’t be HOV at this point in time. And, the toll increases as the congestion increases – the more cars the higher the toll. I don’t recall the higher limits, but there is less incentive to get into the toll situation as the cost goes up.

    But it is still an experiment. It works in southern California. Will it work here? Time will tell. In the end result, no matter what happens, there is a new lane in each direction on 680 which will at least be an HOV lane.

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