Metro Atlanta commuters speak out on highway toll lanes

The I-75 South Metro Express Lanes in Clayton and Henry counties are just some of the new lanes coming to metro Atlanta over the next decade or more. JOHN SPINK /JSPINK@AJC.COM

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported, Georgia is building a 120-mile system of express toll lanes to help address the region’s miserable traffic.

State transportation officials we can’t fight traffic congestion by adding more free lanes, which fill up as soon as they open. Their solution: a system of toll lanes that will guarantee you can travel at least 45 mph – if you’re willing to pay. They say other motorists also will benefit as more cars take the toll lanes, freeing up space in the regular lanes.

That’s the official line. But we wanted to know: What do you think about metro Atlanta’s developing system of toll lanes?

This was no scientific poll, so we can’t say whether most people love of hate the toll lanes. But some folks clearly aren’t happy with them – even some who use them. Here are excerpts from a few of the responses we received.

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I have lived in Gwinnett for about 15 years. The traffic has gotten worse since the (high-occupancy toll) lanes. I don’t have a Peach Pass and refuse to get one. Having a decent commute shouldn’t be reserved for the ones who can afford to pay an extra $50 a month to ride in the lanes.  I commute from Sugar Hill to Midtown and it takes me about 1:40 minutes to get to work lately when I drive. I have to leave my house at 7:20 a.m. to get to work exactly at 9:00 a.m. The majority of that congestion is in Gwinnett County where we have express lanes. From Pleasant Hill to 285 is a nightmare. Many times I opt to take an express bus which rides in the express lane so I can relax and read during that time.

Brandon Hart

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I live in Henry and make the commute to another county to work every day. I do not use the express lanes as I live in between the access points and if I did not live between the access points I would still not use the express lanes. I already pay for the car, the gas, the insurance and support through taxes the roads on which I ride. Paying an extra fee for riding on a road I already paid for that gets me nothing more than getting to the traffic jam faster does not appeal to me.

Sandra Oliver

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My experience has been good. I commute to Buckhead from Jonesboro Road in Henry County and back, daily. I use the express lanes more in the evening that I do in the morning and rarely regret it. It’s usually a lot easier at that point to determine if I’ll need it when coming home: first there’s a sign that tells the average speed both on both routes, then there’s a point at the I-75/I-675 junction where you can see what the volume is for the next mile. The Waze app is also a big help. If it looks bad, I jump on. If it’s nothing major, I can avoid it.

I can’t say I’ve had a bad experience at all. In the months that’s it’s been up and running, there’s only been one accident on the express lanes that kept me off and that was within the past week.

Otherwise it’s been a good experience.

Andy Mitchell

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I have lived in Gwinnett County for the past 15 years, and Lawrenceville specifically for the past 8. I work downtown close to Centennial Park. The traffic situation is nothing short of horrible for those of us who have no choice but to commute during rush hour …

I used to drive and started off paying for the HOT lane when it first opened. But then I realized that I typically only saved myself 10 minutes of drive time (at most) while paying somewhere around $11-$12 for that one-way trip. My current employer either pays for a parking space downtown or a bus or train. The bus saves me time because it has access to the HOV lane, which I do not have while driving solo. I can also boot up my laptop and work while riding.

Jenni Bolton

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On Friday I returned from Phoenix at 3:30 p.m.  I hurried to Peachy Parking to get my car because I hoped to avoid the worst of rush hour traffic to my home in Duluth.  No joy. I-85 north was already crawling.  I was tired, sick, and cranky so I decided to use my Peach Pass.  It did get me home quicker, but cost me $8.35 for just a few miles.

I was against the express lanes when they were first announced and still think they are wrong. Once again, poor folks are penalized while giving perks to the more affluent folks.  Everyone pays for building and maintaining our highways and everyone should have equal access.

Dianne Rose

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