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Solo Drivers Can Share Converted Carpool Lanes on Route 237 Starting Tuesday

New VTA express lanes between Milpitas and Mountain View will cost an average of $3 to use.

Starting Tuesday at 5 a.m., solo-drivers on State Route 237 can share previously carpool-only lanes—for a cost.

During commute hours, solo commuters who choose to use the new express lanes—four miles of converted carpool lanes—will have money deducted from their FasTrak transponder, according to VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress.

The device can be purchased from the device’s website, or at select retail locations around the Bay Area, including select Walgreens, Safeway and Costco stores.

The tolls range from 30 cents to $6 one-way, but are adjusted according to the level of congestion, according to Childress, with an average toll of $3. Cars with two or more passengers, clean air vehicles with a special decal, motorcycles, and public transit will continue to be able to use the lanes for free.

Solo commuters heading southbound on the I-880 can enter the new route 237 Express Lanes in Milpitas, south of Dixon Landing Road, according to Childress. They can then continue westbound on Route 237 to Mountain View, ending after the North First Street Exit.

Eastbound, from Mountain View to San Jose, commuters can enter the express lane between North First Street and Zanker Road, and continue to northbound I-880.

“Since the express lanes have limited entry and exit points, motorists are advised to plan ahead,” said Childress in an advisory about the lanes, which are marked by double solid while lines. 

Commute hours will for the eastbound morning commute are 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., with the time stretching to 10 a.m. on the westbound commute. Afternoon commutes maintain the same time in  both directions: 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The VTA has been implementing the Silicon Valley Express Lanes program since 2008, working to convert 180 miles of carpool lanes in Santa Clara County to provide congestion relief during rush hours.

The express lanes were originally slated to open Thursday, March 15, according to Childress, but were postponed due to rainy weather.

Dan Pitchford March 19, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Qustion... how does your FasTrak not get charged if you have 2 or more people in your car?
Genevieve Bookwalter (Editor) March 19, 2012 at 08:50 PM
That is a really good question. Let me see if I can get the answer for you.
Brandi Childress - VTA Spokeslady March 19, 2012 at 09:29 PM
If you are carpooling and you have a FasTrak transpondor, make sure to place your transpondor in the Mylar bag it came with to prevent the antenna from reading and deducting a toll. If you happen to need a Mylar bag replacement, call Bay Area Fastrak at 1-877-229-8655, and speak with a customer service agent. They will send you a free replacement in 5-10 business days. A Mylar balloon works just as good! For more helpful tips on how to use Express Lanes, go to http://www.vta.org/expresslanes/faq.html
Tim March 19, 2012 at 09:45 PM
You're not supposed to use your FastPass if you are HOV 2+. You should have a special pouch that came with the FastPass. You need to remove your FastPass and place it in this pouch to avoid being read. and charged (or simply not have the FastPass in your vehicle). I'm assuming this is like the 91 Toll Lanes in Orange County where CalTrans cameras ensure people using the lanes w/o a FastPass are indeed HOV 2+ or a violation will be sent in the mail to the registered owner of the vehicle.
Claudia Cruz (Editor) March 19, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Thanks Brandi and Tim!
Dan Pitchford March 20, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Thank you all for the info!
swiss March 22, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Definitely perk for the rich, although I have no complain if this can ease the grid lock. Unfortunately, this express lane will not help. VTA has changed the hours of operation in the morning from Carpool hours of 5am-9am to express lane hours 5am-10am. This means there are only two lanes available to the drivers who cannot afford to pay for one fewer hour. Traffic was horrible even when the carpool lane was available to all the drivers after 9am. Now, it will make it worse, but only for those who cannot pay. If their objective is easing the traffic by doing this to force commuters to use public transportation, then I can understand. Yet, there is no available public transportation that can take you from East Bay to Silicon Valley in a reasonable time. In my opinion, VTA is forcing the commuters to pay by extending one more hour of operation in the morning, like those red light cameras. It will make traffic worse. I urge VTA to roll the hours of operation back to 5am-9am.
Tim March 22, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Will this "express lane" be tolled 24/7 or just during the commute hours posted? I thought it was 24/7 with the toll price based on the congestion level. I think agree with swiss that congestion will be worse with this lane. In SoCal the toll lanes work because there's still more than two standard lanes. In addition, in the case of 237, the toll lane ends well before the 101 junction meaning solo drivers will have to merge to the right two lanes and add to the congestion there. If they are going to do this, they seriously need to at least extend it all the way to 101, and in addition, idiots that can't read the signs will continue to cut across the double white lines. A physical barrier is needed.
Kathleen Podrasky March 23, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Hi Tim, The tolling hours are the posted hours, 5-10am westbound, 5-9am eastbound, and 3-7pm both directions. The double solid striping that prevents crossing in or out of the express lanes is 24/7. CHP is enforcing the traffic laws and those caught crossing will ticketed with a $481.00 fine. The SR 237 express lanes will eventually be extended, first to Mathilda Ave, and then to SR 85 over the next few years. For more details on the express lanes project, please visit www.vta.org/expresslanes.
Tim March 23, 2012 at 09:20 PM
@ Kathleen Podrasky: Thank you. I actually used the westbound lanes this morning for the first time. I do hope they consider extending the lane to the end of where the old carpool lane ended near 101. I think it would be under a mile. In addition, no fewer than 5 idiots cut left across the double white line, one of which I almost rear ended. CHP enforcement is not enough in my opinion. They can't be there all the time. I hope you consider adding a physical barrier between the double white line like the orange cone platic rod type things they have on along the 91 express lanes in SoCal.

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