Metering lights can speed up commute for freeway traffic: Roadshow

Q: Having observed the impact of on-ramp metering lights for several years, there appears to be no or little impact on freeway traffic, yet huge backups on some on-ramps at various times. How much of our tax dollars were wasted on this boondoggle?

Dick Patterson, El Cerrito

A: Millions, but they do work. When Caltrans turned on meters on Highway 85 from Mountain View to Sunnyvale a few years ago, I did a test drive and found traffic zipping along at a much faster pace. They also led to a reduction in crashes which helped everyone.

Q: I doubt metering lights are even legal. I never stop at them if there is an open lane on the freeway.

Bianca Anna

A: A reminder that big changes are coming May 10 on Interstate 880. Fremont, Union City and Hayward will adjust the metering rate in real time from 5 am to 8 pm weekdays. That means that metering lights will be on midday outside peak hours, and possibly on weekends.

Previously, I-880 metering lights operated during pre-set hours in weekday peak periods. Metering light schedules were determined primarily by traffic in areas around onramps, rather than on the freeway, itself.

This upgrade is the first of four. The next phase will begin in June, at the northern end of I-880 in Santa Clara County, between Montague Expressway and the Alameda/Santa Clara County line. Next will be onramps in Oakland and Hayward, starting in July. The final phase begins in August from I-280 to Montague Expressway.

Q: Hooray for VTA and SJC!

I know people enjoy criticizing public agencies but I’ve had two great experiences lately. Three weeks ago I went on a short trip out of the San Jose airport and returned to a dead battery in the SJC parking because I left my dome light on. I flagged down an employee who called another for a jump, and I was on my way in 15 minutes.

A few days later my teen left his cell phone on a VTA bus. By the end of the day VTA had found it and I was able to pick it up early the morning of the next business day.

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