Bay Area: Carpooling kababayans complain over forced commute changes

By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

July 1, 2014

VALLEJO, Calif. – Kababayans are among those who been helping each other get to work for over 30 years through casual carpooling in this San Francisco Bay Area suburb.

But the parking lot where they meet for carpooling will soon be closed due to renovations.

The Solano County Transit or Soltrans have begun a two-year process of renovating the free parking lot at Curtola Parkway and Lemon street.

Now these commuters have to temporarily meet at another parking lot a few miles away.

And some carpoolers say this is an inconvenience not only because of the distance but because this parking lot charges five dollars a day.

Sarah Galamay who uses casual carpooling for the past 12 years said, “I live up on a hill at Maritime Academy and its going to take me twice as long to get here.”

Nine year casual carpooler Joel Cordaro said,” having to pay for parking is a big deal and for two years that’s a big inconvenience. I think what the city should do is to reduce the cost of parking for commuters to make it easier because it will be a big impact for sure.”

Galamay and Cordaro are just among the many Pinoys here who participate in slugging or casual carpooling.

This is when people meet as either drivers or passengers at a designated location and travel to the city.

The practice is also common to other traffic congested major cities like Washington, D.C. and Houston, Texas.

There are over 20 casual carpool pick-up locations throughout the bay area so commuters can save time and money getting to and from work in San Francisco.

Casual carpooling is not run by the city but this is a free service where passengers share the cost of toll and end up only paying one or two dollars each instead of the usual five.

For now this original parking lot where these casual carpoolers meet is still partially open.

John Ulloa still uses the lot but he says there’s not a lot of parking spaces left.

“This place is very important to a lot of people,” said Ulloa. “I had to run several blocks just to make my travels route meet.”

While the lot remains partially open during construction, you can see just how easy it is for commuters to park, find a carpool, and head to work with the freeway being right here.

In a phone interview with Soltrans Project Manager Marty Hanneman, he says that the changes are necessary to increase parking spaces, have better security measures, and build a new transit center.

In response to the negative feedback of the commuters, Hanneman says that Soltrans looked for the best available location by regarding proximity and safety for the temporary parking lot and says Maine street was the best option.

Commuters have also said they plan to voice their concerns at the next Vallejo open City Hall.

You can contact Rommel Conclara at rommel_conclara@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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