MTC considering options for Bay Area carpool cheats

A driver used a Chucky doll as a passenger in the carpool lane. Jan. 11, 2018 Photo: CHP Contra Costa

Not everyone is as bold as this one driver who let a Chucky doll ride shotgun as a fake passenger in the HOV lane.

But Metropolitan Transportation Commission officials are wondering how to do a better job with carpool cheats in the Bay Area, the Marin Independent Journal reported.

Commission figures show that 11 percent of people who use the carpool lanes during the evening commute on Highway 101 in Marin are solo drivers, while 14 percent of drivers using the southbound carpool lanes are alone.
Bay Area-wide, 24 percent of drivers are carpool lane violators in the morning, 19 percent in the evening. 

Randy Rentschler, director of legislation and public affairs for the MTC, told the IJ that right now, the carpool lanes operate on what's basically an "honor system." 

Drivers caught violating the rules face fines and fees of more than $500. The California Highway Patrol issued 64,000 tickets for carpool-lane cheating in 2016, up from 39,600 in 2010, the IJ reported. The driver who used Chucky was one of those who got a ticket in January.

Still, the enforcers can't keep up with the cheaters. In addition to slowing down traffic for legitimate carpoolers, the solo drivers also get in the way of Golden Gate Transit buses, MTC officials say.

Rentschler said the enforcement answer could be in technology, but that also has a downside.
“We’d like to rely more on technology to determine if people are cheating or not, but cameras make people nervous,” Rentschler told the IJ. “We are in a frustrating spot right now, we know we have problem, but we don’t have an easy answer.”