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High Occupancy Toll Lanes Not So Hot

Will HOT be better than HOV?

Oct. 1 was a red letter day for the people who are forced to drive the 16 miles of Interstate 85 every day through Gwinnett and part of DeKalb Counties. The much promoted . Several years ago, the high occupancy vehicle lanes were opened with much promotion to let us all know this was the final answer to our driving woes on that highly travelled part of Interstate 85. HOV was welcomed by the transportation folks to be able to cut down on the gridlock on this much travelled highway.

Now, seeing HOV did not work, the gurus-of-traffic-flow have come up with a dandy solution involving the separating of the citizens from more of their hard earned money to pay for the right of passage on 16 miles of bad road. Maybe I should not be pronouncing this another government failed idea too quickly. Taking a clue from the explanations given by Georgia Department of Transportation, it is easy to see why people are confused about this latest venture in solving the traffic woes of the Atlanta region.

As best I can understand, there is no cost to having a pass, , to be given permission to drive in the HOT lane. The cost, if I understand the explanation, comes about when one drives in the HOT lane. The cost will be determined by the time of day, the number of other vehicles in the lane and the number of passengers in the vehicle. And, oh, by the way, before we start down the HOT lane we have to go online and let someone know how many people are going to be in our vehicle as we make our way down the 16 miles of this old HOV lane. We are also being warned that traffic enforcement will be strict in the HOT lane. Traffic citations will be given out with a fine attached to them for breaking the rules. Non-payment of the fine could result in the loss of vehicle registration, as I understand the brief explanation about the use of HOT. To receive a Peach Pass, a person must have a credit card or debit card allowing the folks at GDOT/HOT to send the bill directly to their account for driving in the HOT lane.

Please know I am not the type of person who sees a conspiracy under every rock (or government program). Could it be, however, with this next failed attempt at dealing with the gridlock on I-85 there will be the push to expand light, or rapid rail, throughout the region? Call me skeptical, but the next weeks will document once again the confusion occurring when unknown prices are passed on to the over taxed population. From where I stand, some people will be willing to pay no matter the cost, but others will complain when they get their credit card bill and it is more than they are willing to pay for the right of passage on HOT.

Are the toll lanes a smart solution for our transportation problems? Tell us in the comments.

Cynthia Montgomery October 04, 2011 at 07:38 PM
Mr Ray, With so many northerners moving down to the land of promise and fair weather, we must realize that they are VERY USED TO PAYING TO DRIVE! It amazes me when I visit up north that you must pay to drive. Once it begins, it will never end. First,400 was the test road and since millions drive it every month it was just a natural step to turning i85 in to a income producing road as well. Fast forward and soon you will have to pay to pull out of your driveway past your trash can that has been paid for in advance. Why yes this is government at it's finest. Taking your money, crooked staff seeing it as their own, spending it on foolish ideas, or worse wasting it and asking for more. Yep! Let those rich people we keep hearing about pay to drive fast, they are used to it paying to drive on a road we have already been taxed for. Yep! government at it finest once again.
Gary Fox October 04, 2011 at 08:44 PM
I'm still wondering about the possibility (if rumors are correct) that Jannine Miller is in fact the patent holder for the Peach Pass technology. Talk about a HUGE conflict of interest. If this is nothing more than hearsay, someone please speak up. I would like to know. Please say it ain't so.
Gail Young October 04, 2011 at 09:01 PM
So far it has been a disaster. It has doubled my commute time and I have spent over $5 in tolls in two days just to save about 40 minutes total. I predict this will have a negative economic impact as well. Employers will have to pay more to get quality staff who will have to pay this exhorbitant extra "tax" or sit in the same gridlock we had pre-HOV lanes. I know several people who are actively looking for new jobs that won't require the use of I-85 for commuting...
Ray Newman October 04, 2011 at 10:37 PM
I was stuck yesterday morning trying to get downtown for two hours. Saw only a few vehicles in the HOT express lane. Afternoon return time was not much better, for the entire 16 miles not one vehicle was in the HOT lane while all other lanes were packed.
Ed Varn October 05, 2011 at 01:13 AM
My son drives to the MARTA Doraville station every day to commute to classes at Georgia State University. Not only is he now having to leave an hour earlier, but MARTA has put in a fare increase that means he'll have to pay $80/month for the "pleasure" of riding the train. And these people really think we want them to bring mass transit to Gwinnett? Seriously, we build a new lane with our tax dollars for alleged "green" purposes, and then it turns out we have to PAY to use it after all, thus sending everyone back to the other lanes causing even more pollution. What a cluster.
Ed Varn October 05, 2011 at 01:15 AM
As for Mr. Fox' question about the patent, I did find this: http://www.freshpatents.com/-dt20090115ptan20090018902.php Interesting, if it is actually the same Jannine Miller.
Cynthia Montgomery October 05, 2011 at 03:21 AM
Turn this patent issue over to a news media, tv or print and they will jump all over it in hope of a PEABODY AWARD, I know I would! That is how the AJC broke the school buying scandal last year. 2 years in the making but we see our leaders for the crooks that they are. No really it was all honest and above board,....R I G H T and if you believe that I have a bridge to NOWHERE I have for sale!
Andy D October 05, 2011 at 11:37 AM
Since the HOV lane (2+ occupants) is now an HOT lane (3+ occupants) and my wife and I will no longer get "free" rides, I'm not real keen on the switch. I, too, saw the barren lane Monday afternoon and wondered if SRTA viewed it as a success or failure. However, a paragraph in the article -- "The cost will be determined by the time of day, the number of other vehicles in the lane and the number of passengers in the vehicle. And, oh, by the way, before we start down the HOT lane we have to go online and let someone know how many people are going to be in our vehicle as we make our way down the 16 miles of this old HOV lane." -- sounded as if one must report vehicle occupants and that the toll will vary with that number. Not exactly. If I want to use my Peach Pass by myself (or with 1 other occupant), I legally enter the HOT lane, drive, and the posted toll is debited from my account. If there will be 3+ occupants, I call (or request via web) to switch out of "toll mode" at least 15 minutes before travel. When done, I simply reverse the process and return to "toll mode". Personally, the greatest benefit to me is for the occasions when I travel on GA 400 and don't want to fish for $0.50. I think that, SRTA has poorly explained things, opening the door for misinformation and myths (e.g., "we have to...let someone know how many people will be in our vehicle"). http://www.wsbradio.com/ads/peach_pass/ does a better job, but an infographic would be superior.
Andy D October 05, 2011 at 11:38 AM
(This kind of reminds me of the first Gwinnett Daily Post article I read about the planned Diverging-Diamond Interchange -- no picture, no inforgraphic, no nothing, except for article text -- so I had to go online and look at several sites and videos before I could finally wrap my head around what it was all about. Now I can't wait for them to show up!)
Cynthia Montgomery October 05, 2011 at 11:48 AM
Are drivers having a protest "drive-in or drive off" as it were to show their displeasure over the program. Another government agency with no idea of how morning works in most homes! "Honey can you go on line and reserve our spot in the HOT lane please?" "Sure dear right after I finish my make up, feed the dog, put out the cat, change the baby and get his diaper bag packed, get the kid's lunch money and get them out the door and find my morning meeting reports, sure dear NO PROBLEM!!! " However I do like that it seems those HIGHWAY ROBBERS that used to zip in and out of the HOV lanes with just themselves as passengers are too afraid now to be a road thief now! .
STEVE RAMEY October 05, 2011 at 11:50 AM
The Peach Pass is doing exactly what it was designed to do...confuse the driver and run up the dollars, a voluntary tax, on said drivers credit card. i'm surprised the ACLU and other haven't jumped on this as a biased unfair trick with slick officials knowing the po' folk' ain't got no credit card. After all is said and done, doling out tax dollars for a rail system will seem like a welcome change compared to the gut wrenching drive on I-85 every day. As my first sentence said, Peach Pass is doing exactly what it was designed to do including changing the mind of those opposed to rail!
Ray Newman October 05, 2011 at 12:21 PM
I agree with you Steve, "The Peach Pass is doing exactly what it was designed to do..." Someone said to me the HOT lane is just for the "rich," Confusion is everywhere on this issue, but someone knows there is a plan behind all this confusion.
Andy D October 05, 2011 at 12:32 PM
Cynthia- are you making a decision as to whether or not you'll have 3+ occupants in your vehicle (and, therefore, be eligible for a "free" trip) literally only as you're heading out your door in the morning (and, presumably, you live less than 15 minutes from an HOT-lane point of ingress)? If that's truly the case, couldn't you ask one of the other occupants to make the switch-us-out-of-toll-mode call for you? If not, couldn't you make the call (or use the website) anytime, e.g., the night before? And I assume this was poetic license, but you're not "reserving [your] spot in the HOT lane"; you're merely flipping the Peach Pass between "toll mode" and "3-or-more-occupants" mode. Ugh. I don't know why I'm defending anything about this arrangement since SRTA doesn't pay me anything, let alone for debunking myths!
Jimmy Orr October 05, 2011 at 01:49 PM
Ray, did you mean "red ink day" instead of "red letter day?" Using the HOT lanes might well put the user on the "red" side in their financial ledger. The only advice I could/would give is be absolutely sure your Peach Pass debit account has sufficient funds.
Ray Newman October 05, 2011 at 02:19 PM
You are right, Jimmy. It is "red ink" that will continue to flow down these highways around the metro area.
GregRodgers October 05, 2011 at 02:56 PM
Ms. Montgomery...you may be right about some northern states, however, not all nothern states have HOV Lanes that charge. Please check I-93 in Massachusetts. Its an HOV lane similar to what we had on I-85. The only pass that they use in Massachusetts is for the Toll Booths. The pass charges so the driver does not have to wait in line to pay. These tolls are near Logan Airport, Mass/NH boarder and the Mass Pike. If you do not frequent these areas, you'd never pay to use the highway, unlike the I-85 now. The I-85 Peach Pass is ridiculous and will only serve rich folks. This northern transplant hates the new tolls, as well as the terrible Airport Idea. The commuter rail I am for as this should have been done long ago. Sticker shock today is caused by not doing this years back when it was far less expensive. It does not mean it is not necessary. Not making a rail system years back = poor leadership and racist views.
Scott October 05, 2011 at 03:02 PM
All Hail the I85 HOT Lanes! (kidding). Like many of you I used to use I85 to travel to work before the original HOV lanes and the much improved 316/85 interchange. The Monday & Tuesday AM travel times reminded me of drive times from the 90s. 70 minutes to get from Sugarloaf to JCB! Today I used 29 as a backup. This time it was about 40 minutes from Lawrenceville to Lilburn. That's heavier than it has been since before the construction zone in Lilburn. So even though I85 is worse I think it is also impacting the side streets. And I'm sure nobody from SRTA or the DOT is doing any studies on the side street impact. @Andy your comment to allow others to change the toll for you. I attempted this the other day, since the peach pass is on a personal account with the website you must give your personal log-in and password to others for them to change it for you. Sadly this is a huge privacy concern because they would then have access to any peach pass on your account. This brings up an entirely different issue I have with this. Why are the lanes "LIVE", but I can't find a source online telling me how much the toll is NOW? I would like to check it out and plan my commute better. If I have to leave to sit in 70 minutes of traffic then I better get on the road. If I have time to sit with my son and get him ready for school and pay $1.50 for the toll then I might consider the value of family time more important. HOT is EPIC FAIL!
Cynthia Montgomery October 05, 2011 at 04:44 PM
THE RICH DITCH on i85 is a failure because no one in Atlanta is rich anymore! I love it! I guess the only day we will see it in use is the day Georgia Tech Yellow Bees plays in the Georgia Dome for the National Championship and we all know how long that will be, Please forgive me, my GT friends! No wait, maybe the Red and Black Bulldawg Parade to the last game will fill the RICH DITCH as we tarry our way down to HotLanta for what is shaping up to be a great end of the season rival blowout!
steve shirk October 05, 2011 at 05:54 PM
Has no one else noticed the gridlock caused by those exiting the HOT lane to get off on JCB and 285? My commute has increased by 30 minutes each way every day this week. I can see no other reason for the delays but the dirth of vehicles all exiting the new lane in such a short distance, thereby causing everyone to brake stopping traffic for miles. I for one am livid that our government creates additional gridlock in an already nearly unbearable commute in order to bilk us of more of our money. I will vote against every single incumbent in every elected position in Gwinnett and the state until this abomination, no pun intended, is removed!
Gary Fox October 05, 2011 at 09:41 PM
EVERYONE PLZ TAKE NOTE!! Go back up to Ed Varn's post in reply to my question re: Jannine Miller and the patent for the Peach Pass technology. Seems as though it is true - a state employee in a position of forcing the Peach Pass on the public. Same state employee holds the patent to the Peach Pass technology NO that's not a conflict of interest. Can we please bring back public hanging on the square, like they used to hang horse thiefs.
Jenny Ball October 05, 2011 at 09:44 PM
http://www.grta.org/board_calender/Board_profiles/Profiles_07/miller.htm This link profiles Jannine Miller's position with the GRTA and her proposal to secure a 110M Federal grant for the implementation of the HOT lane project. Jannine Miller is also one of the patent holders/owners of the "Peach Pass" technology used for the HOT lane. I am assuming that part of that federal grant money was used to purchase the Peach Pass technology from the patent holders, so Miller would have a lot to gain from the implementation of the HOT lane. Maybe I'm assuming too much, but on the surface it seems like this would be a huge conflict of interest -
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew October 05, 2011 at 11:19 PM
Well team, The best way to avoid the backups at off ramp sections is NOT to participate by creating a gap or to letting them “move to the right” in front of YOU. If you're in the left General Purpose Lane, SMILE politely and just point with your thumb to your BACK bumper... Remember, they have PLENTY of time on their hands and THEY CAN wait a bit. Once the right “Rich Ditch” driver crosses the double line and gets a 150 dollar fine, things will change quickly. If the state wants us to drive like we are in N.Y. N.Y. - let’s give to them. First tip - After the first smile, NEVER let the driver on the left see you move your head – it will be taken as a sign of weakness and that you can (and most likely will) be cut off.
Ed Varn October 06, 2011 at 12:42 AM
"Not making a rail system years back = poor leadership and racist views" Seriously? Some things never fail. Give a Northerner a chance to complain things aren't like they were "up North" and inevitably the race card will be dropped. Curious what you mean by that comment? Because many vocal opponents feared crime following MARTA north to Gwinnett that was racist? Are you saying crime is necessarily racial in its form? If so, the racist slur would more be directly at you for perpetuating such a stereotype. Now, "poor leadership" I won't argue. But racism will always be with us until people like you learn to let it go.
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew October 10, 2011 at 05:02 AM
Me thinks that the racist tag reply belonged to the post by GregRodgers, not me ... I can be tagged by many a name but THAT one. enjoy

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