Oh, the siren song of the carpool lane. There you are, stuck in traffic as you try to get on the Bay Bridge, while that lane sits there, practically empty. Should solo drivers give in to the demon on their shoulder and take the carpool lane? Is it worth $500 to take that risk?
Yeah, $500. That's the cost of the tickets that California Highway Patrol officers have been giving to drivers that take the Sterling Street on-ramp to the east-bound Bay Bridge (that's the one at the top of Bryant Street) with fewer than three passengers in their vehicles during a recent crackdown. $500! That's not cheap.
The crackdown's been cracked because even more drivers than usual have been abusing the lane, CHP spokesperson Officer Vu Williams tells KCBS, causing increased gridlock for buses, vans, and legit carpoolers.
“We’ve noticed recently an increase in the amount of violators using that on-ramp with only a solo person in the vehicle or maybe two, but certainly not three as required by law,” he says. As a result, CHP officers are now watching the area and writing $500 tickets to those who break the law, which "requires three or more occupants per vehicle Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 7 p.m."
Besides the risk of a $500 ticket, there's the matter of contempt and schadenfreude coming from the riders of, you guessed it, mass-transit vehicles like tech-employee shuttles.
"When we pull (carpool abusers) over it’s kind of funny; you get all sorts of high-fives and cheers coming from those vanpools because they’re happy to see us out there,” Williams told KCBS.
However, the tech bus satisfaction at seeing justice served might be shortlived as, Williams says, once the crackdown ends, (as all must) the number of carpool criminals goes right back up.