I have the pleasure of traveling on 85-N twice a week during evening rush hour. My route consists of roughly 7 miles on 285 and 14 miles on 85N for a complete one-way trip mileage of 25 miles (that’s including surface streets). Before the implementation of the HOT lanes, my trip time was 25-30 minutes. Since implementation, my trip time has doubled, I spend 30 minutes on the bridge at Spaghetti Junction and tension among drivers is immense. [And by that, I mean my horn may need replacing by the end of the year]
The HOT lanes are one of Georgia’s biggest mistakes yet. Channel 2 Action News set up their camera at I-85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard during rush hour Tuesday (10/4) and watched five lanes of brake lights. There was one empty lane, which was the HOT lane. They also interviewed drivers and heard several complaints over the highest toll posted ($5.55) from Old Peachtree Road to Chamblee Tucker Road Tuesday morning. That price is $.30 cents more than Georgia’s minimum wage of $5.25 an hour
Any way you cut it, this cake tastes like crap. For those who either 1) had a hybrid/energy-efficient car or 2) carpooled with one other person, you can no longer be ‘green’ without paying for it. For those who drive the old-fashioned, not-so-green cars, your commute time has increased because of the digest of people who are now traveling in the ‘regular’ lanes. To use the lanes during rush hour is more expensive than using the lanes in the middle of the day or late at night.
Ms. Wilkins from the State Road and Tollway Authority said, “What the data said in the traffic and revenue study from about three years ago is that it would be no discernible impact to the general purpose lanes”. Well Ms. Wilkins, your study is outdated and wrong.
The system isn’t even effective. Users have to register online, (and currently, the processing time is SIX WEEKS to receive your ‘transponder’ for your dash). Then you must set up a prepaid account and “manage” that account monthly. Violations for driving in the lanes inappropriately (without a pass or without a valid account) are $75 + court fees.
You can visit the PeachPass website yourself and poke around. My favorite part is in the FAQ section. “Will the HOT lanes make my commute better or worse?” Answer: The I-85 Express Lanes will give you more choices for planning your commute. What? Ms. Wilkins also recommends contacting the Clean Air Campaign to be matched with carpool buddies, if you would like to be exempt from the toll.
So what are we going to do about it?
On Thursday, WSB-tv reported that Gov. Nathan Deal announced there will be a reduction in the toll rate along the Interstate 85 HOT lanes, starting with the Thursday rush hour night-time commute. Instead of $5.50, the cost would be $3.05 for the next two weeks. This is supposed to work as some sort of incentive to get drivers in the Express Lanes. Not sure how this will work, though. If the ‘sale’ is only for 2 weeks, and transponder receipt time is 6 weeks, newly registered users will not reap the benefits.
And, there has been speculation that the same system will be further imposed on 85, and spread to I-75 and I-575.
My suggestion? Boycott the HOT lanes! It has an effect. After one week, the prices were reduced. Besides, why should we support ANOTHER tax? We are taxed enough to travel as it is. Car sales tax, gas tax and now there is federal legislation to tax by mile driven. No thank you.
Georgia has attempted to implement traffic systems from other states many times before, but they JUST CAN’T GET IT RIGHT.