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WTF, California?

UPDATE 3:45pm: This is the response I got from Metro ExpressLanes:

As of November 10th, 2012 at 10:00 pm, all vehicles in the I-110 ExpressLanes were required to have a transponder. As of February 23rd at 12:01 am, 2013, all vehicles in the I-10 ExpressLanes were required to have a transponder. If you used the ExpressLanes after that time without a transponder, a photograph of your vehicle plate was taken and a violation notice will be sent to the registered owner. We understand that this change is recent and that you may not have obtained a transponder yet. To avoid having future violations issued we suggest that you open a FasTrak® account and have the toll amount paid to your account.

...

Please be aware that travelling in the ExpressLanes without a transponder is a violation of the California Vehicle Code and could result in the issuance of a citation by the California Highway Patrol.

As a friend of a friend said on FB when commenting on this:

The real problem is that the transponders provide a complete log of every place you drive. This is available, not just to the government, but to anybody with a court order.

E.g. if you're involved in a lawsuit, the other side is very likely to subpoena your transponder logs to see every place you've ever been, just to go on a fishing expedition looking for something to make you look bad. This is especially common [in], but not limited to, divorce cases.

So it looks like a fairly clear violation of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. Of course, is it worth the effort to take something to the California Supreme Court over a $55 violation? Perhaps the ACLU would be interested in this.

-------

Hey, Californians? Did you know that it's now illegal for carpools to use the carpool lane?

From the violation letter I received:

California Vehicle Code Section 23302 (b) requires that all vehicles, including carpoolers, using the Metro ExpressLanes have a FasTrak® transponder with a balance sufficient to pay the toll amount.

So, despite the fact that you are using the carpool lanes in the exact manner for which they were designed, you are still violating the law if you do so without paying for the state's special widget and having a balance in an account attached to said special widget. Oh, and of course they don't bother to, say, put up any notices or anything to that effect on the actual carpool lane signage.

And so, despite the fact that I used the carpool lane when I actually had two people in my car, I now owe the state of California $55.55 for a "violation" because I didn't somehow magically know that I would be breaking a stupid little law that I otherwise would have had no way of knowing about while otherwise using the system in the exact way it was built to be used.

Are there any reporters or columnists who read this? Would you like to pick up this story? 'Cause I think there are some people who might be mightily interested in this little tidbit.


Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
kiltcheck
Jan. 6th, 2014 05:52 pm (UTC)
Actually, not all of these carpool lanes work this way. You were using the Metro ExpressLanes -- which are a toll road. CA doesn't have very many, but I regularly use one in Orange County. Unfortunately, the carpool lane on the 15 is not created equal and there is signage if you look for it. The I-5 carpool lane is perfectly fine to use by anyone that's in a carpool as is the 405 in LA & Orange County. MOST carpool lanes are fine to use by actual carpools. There's a special access and isolation of the toll lane that is for the Metro ExpressLanes. The vehicle code distinctly tells you that it is for this special class of carpool lanes. And technically, people are NOT all carpools in the Metro ExpressLane and as long as they have the transponder and credit can use it. It is actually a toll lane.

I've always found the signage clear. You were probably distracted and missed the warnings.
ebenbrooks
Jan. 6th, 2014 06:15 pm (UTC)
Why, then, do the signs still say "Carpools of 2 or more persons per vehicle free"? I'm sorry, but that's entrapment if they're going to ding you for a violation that isn't a violation.
kiltcheck
Jan. 6th, 2014 06:23 pm (UTC)
Contest it.
ebenbrooks
Jan. 6th, 2014 06:25 pm (UTC)
I am. But I also want to bring the news media into it, if I can. I have a suspicion that most people are unaware of this little legal wrinkle.
kiltcheck
Jan. 6th, 2014 06:26 pm (UTC)
Actually according to the transit websites, you should've been ok:
http://fastrak.511sd.com/san-diego-toll-roads/i-15-express-lanes
kiltcheck
Jan. 6th, 2014 06:26 pm (UTC)
Call them and complain.
ebenbrooks
Jan. 6th, 2014 06:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I will do exactly that. :)
kiltcheck
Jan. 6th, 2014 06:31 pm (UTC)
You know. I remember using the myself before and never having an issue without the transponder. I'm sure that they have the occasional misstep. Tech ain't perfect -- after all, it has people behind it -- for now...
wyrmwwd
Jan. 6th, 2014 06:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. I find that, although I have been trying VERY hard to not break the law and incur fines, it has been virtually impossible. This is yet another example.

The world feels like it is just full of traps to drain us of every last resource.
ebenbrooks
Jan. 6th, 2014 06:18 pm (UTC)
That's pretty much it, yeah.
Kate Purnell
Jan. 6th, 2014 08:34 pm (UTC)
Contest it. The statute specifically reads:

"23302. (a) It is unlawful for ( )1 a person to ( )2 fail to pay tolls or other charges on any vehicular crossing or toll highway. ( )3 Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (b), (c), or (d), it is prima facie evidence of a violation of this section for ( )1 a person to enter upon any vehicular crossing without either lawful money of the United States in the person’s immediate possession in an amount sufficient to pay the prescribed tolls or other charges due from that person or a transponder or other electronic toll payment device associated with a valid Automatic Vehicle Identification account with a balance sufficient to pay those tolls. If a transponder or other electronic toll payment device is used to pay tolls or other charges due, the device shall be located in, or on the vehicle in a location so as to be visible for the purpose of enforcement at all times when the vehicle is located on the vehicular crossing or toll highway. Where required by the operator of a vehicular crossing or toll highway, this requirement applies even if the operator offers free travel or nontoll accounts to certain classes of users.
(b) For vehicular crossings and toll highways that ( )4 use electronic toll collection as the only method of paying tolls or other charges, it is prima facie evidence of a violation of this section for ( )1 a person to enter the vehicular crossing or toll highway without a transponder or other electronic toll payment device associated with a valid Automatic Vehicle Identification account with a balance sufficient to pay those tolls.( )5"

Essentially, part (b) says that failure to have a transponder is proof of violation (ie proof that you intended to not pay the toll). But since you were a carpool, there WAS no toll due from you. You can't be held in violation for failure to pay a non-existent toll. IMO, section (b) is irrelevant and you should contest the citation.
ebenbrooks
Jan. 6th, 2014 09:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I have submitted my contenstation, and I hope to hear back from them soon.
Kate Purnell
Jan. 6th, 2014 08:40 pm (UTC)
You could be caught by this

" f a transponder or other electronic toll payment device is used to pay tolls or other charges due, the device shall be located in, or on the vehicle in a location so as to be visible for the purpose of enforcement at all times when the vehicle is located on the vehicular crossing or toll highway. Where required by the operator of a vehicular crossing or toll highway, this requirement applies even if the operator offers free travel or nontoll accounts to certain classes of users."

However, the I-15 FasTrak Toll page directly contradicts this by instructing carpoolers to hide their transponders?!

http://fastrak.511sd.com/i-15-fastrak-tolls

"NOTE: If you rideshare with two or more people in your car, please remove the transponder from your windshield and place it in the Mylar bag that was provided with your transponder. This will prevent your transponder from being read by the FasTrak tolling system and will ensure you aren’t charged the toll."

California legislation at its finest...
ebenbrooks
Jan. 6th, 2014 11:44 pm (UTC)
This isn't for the I-15, but for the I-110 in Los Angeles.
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( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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