Don McKee: Commuters getting hot about HOT lanes in metro Atlanta
October 31, 2011 01:05 AM | 2478 views | 8 8 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
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The failure of the state’s HOT (high occupancy toll) lanes along I-85 in Gwinnett County vividly demonstrates why people are fed up and frustrated with arbitrary, unresponsive government bureaucracies.

Years ago, state transportation wizards decided they would confiscate some of the previously open-to-all lanes along metro interstates and turn them into HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes restricted to vehicles with two or more passengers. The experiment failed because most metro commuters flat-out prefer solo driving. More cars had to squeeze into the non-HOV lanes.

So, faced with that failure — and most importantly, armed with a $110 million federal grant — instead of abandoning a bad idea, state road officials decided to fix things by turning 16 miles of the “free” HOV lanes on I-85 into toll lanes. The new HOT lanes charge fees varying with traffic density and require a minimum of three occupants per vehicle instead of two for HOV lanes.

The idea was to generate revenue from solo drivers able and willing to pay to move a little faster. That’s the purpose, pure and simple, hence the name “Lexus lanes.” But something happened on the way to the office. Lexus drivers didn’t flood the new toll lanes. Neither did many other drivers. Rush hour congestion worsened in the non-toll lanes.

Trying to fix the unexpected Lexus lack, Gov. Nathan Deal hurriedly slashed the peak toll charge and said he was asking for a waiver of federal regulations (remember, they come with federal dollars) requiring the three-occupant HOT lane minimum. He wants to go back to the old two-occupant rule, but that’s not going to happen.

The result: I-85 commuters are stuck worse than before. Commuter Howard Rodgers of Lawrenceville says his commute has doubled from about 45 minutes to almost 90 minutes, and he is heading a petition drive to make the state undo its wrong-headed decision. On his website stopthehotlane.com, he spells out what has happened:

“By removing the existing HOV lane for use as a toll lane the state has created daily traffic jams and backlogs causing greater pollution, increased travel times, and an extra tax on the citizens of Gwinnett County and points north during times of economic decline. The adjustable toll system amounts to a monopoly on the travel lane requiring customer to pay a higher surcharge (price gouging) for the ability to arrive to or from work in a timely manner.”

A lot of people in Gwinnett are hot over the HOT lanes. Last week, citizens opposing the toll lanes angrily walked out of a Republican town hall meeting at which state transportation officials defended the toll lanes but the people had no chance to speak, the Gwinnett Daily Post reported.

But not to worry. State officials said the same problems have resulted in four other cities that switched from HOV to HOT lanes. Interim transportation commissioner Gerald Ross assured: “As time went on, people got used to it.”

The message: Tough if you don’t like it. Just get used to it.

dmckee9613@aol.com
Comments
(8)
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Blackmon1971
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November 01, 2011
Just as a side note... I registered my cars with peachpass so I could use the HOT lines while out and about with the family. It's use is free as long as you have 3 people in the car.
Dave E
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October 31, 2011
As if more evidence were needed, the HOT lane program once again demonstrates that nothing is free-- especially money from a Federal agency. The money comes with requirements and it frequently turns out that it costs more to meet those requirements than the value of the original grant. The justification for the HOT lanes is that the concept works well in other parts of the country. DOT officials won't understand that such considerations don't matter-- until actual revenues are found to be far lower than projected amounts. In the mean time, this ill-conceived project has all but assured that the T-SPLOST will fail.
Pat H
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October 31, 2011
This is a mess for residents, but really confusing to tourists and travelers who are unfamiliar with these HOT lanes.

My son visits for the holidays, a family of 6, but without a Peach Pass they cannot use the HOT lanes. I will warn him in advance to avoid it, but how can people traveling at 60 mph possibly figure it out?
br548
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October 31, 2011
And you want to vote for TSPLOST and give them another penny? Are you mad?
Wanderer76
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October 31, 2011
Don't forget that these are the same cranial goliaths that closed one lane of the GA 400 exit off of I-85 a few years ago...!!! DOT masterminds at work...!!! Wow do these people manage to get dressed by themself each day is beyond me...!!!
Piney Woods Pete II
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October 31, 2011
Wake up folks. The I-75/I-575 toll lanes will be even worse. They will be constructed and controlled by a private company. The DOT bid package for this project contained language that stated the State of GA. could not do any road improvements in the area of I-75 and I-575 which would take traffic off these interstates.
GTL
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October 31, 2011
One correction to your article; the state DOT did not "confiscate" a general use lane for the HOV lane - they constructed an additional lane for HOV use by narrowing all of the lanes by a foot or two.

That said, IIRC, the HOV lanes were necessary to free up a moratorium on new construction in Metro Atlanta due to ozone levels - is that no longer a consideration?
anonymous
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October 31, 2011
Yes, the RINOs addiction to FED tax dollars is not less than the democrats. They never even consider the impact of the strings that are attached to those FED dollars.

So, have things in Georgia really gotten better since the RINOS took over ? I say not.

RINOs and Obama-nauts...time to kick them out of power in Georgia.
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