“The best stories have been generated by readers,” quipped Gary Richards, “Mr. Roadshow” columnist for the San Jose Mercury News since 1991, who addressed the Rotary Club of Los Altos last month at the Garden House in Shoup Park.
In addition to entertaining the audience, Richards delivered the inside scoop on developing transportation issues.
Before the advent of e-mail, his personal phone line was available for reader’s comments, which sometimes awakened him at night and often amused him. Initially a sports writer, he carried his sense of humor over to his six-days-per-week column on driving safety, citing hilarious stories. One reader’s e-mail recounted his consternation at a terrible female driver who turned out to be a new mom frantically pumping breast milk while she drove.
Another erratic driver explained when stopped, “I’m supposed to get married tomorrow, so I’m heading out of town today.”
French visitors made an appearance in his column. When stopped by an officer for excessive speeding, they explained, “We know American speed-limit signs are black and white, like that one that says ‘101.’”
Bay Area transportation is now at a pivotal point, according to Richards. On Sept. 20, “Lexus lanes” will allow single drivers access to the carpool lanes on Interstate 680 through Fremont for a fee between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. The amount of the charge will vary by time of day.
Commuters across the economic spectrum, not only high-income drivers, will use the new express lanes, Richards said, because people will pay to save time. Why? Interstates 680 and 880 and the Bay Bridge area jumped from the 36th most-congested commute in the state to No. 1 during the dot-com bubble. During that time, housing prices in the Bay Area increased dramatically and commutes grew longer. And congestion is not going to ease, Richards said.
The Rotary Club of Los Altos meets Thursdays in Shoup Park, 400 University Ave.
For more information, visit www.losaltosrotary.org.