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Atlanta-Bound Bus Commuters Benefit from New Express Lanes

More evidence that express (toll) lanes benefit public transit when buses operate in the corridor. Riders on Georgia's Xpress buses, which use the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes, saw trip times reduced by 15 minutes.
May 15, 2019, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Just over a month after Atlanta's Northwest Corridor Express Lanes in Cobb and Cherokee counties opened to toll-paying motorists last September, Planetizen posted that they were proving very popular based on the number of trips taken. The nearly 30 miles of two, dynamically-priced, reversible [see schedule (pdf)] express lanes even reduced trip times for those traveling in the adjacent but physically separated general purpose lanes on Interstates 75 and 575 as well, reported David Wickert for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Nov. 13.

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said that, with many people using the express lanes, traffic in the regular lanes was moving 10 to 15 mph faster at rush hour. And the peak congestion period in the corridor had been reduced by nearly an hour. 

And last week, Wickert reported (in source article) that bus passengers using routes that travel on the new express lanes were experiencing faster commutes as well, arriving at their Atlanta destinations as much as 15 minutes early.

That’s forced the State Road and Tollway Authority [SRTA] to change schedules for some of its Xpress bus routes. ... Chris Tomlinson, SRTA’s executive director, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the agency opted to let commuters sleep another 15 minutes by pushing back departure times. 

The changes to the affected routes are among a series of Xpress bus schedule changes that [took] effect Monday [May 6]. You can find the schedules at www.xpressga.com.

In addition to Xpress, CobbLinc and the Cherokee Area Transportation System run buses on the new express lanes, according to GDOT's FAQ [pdf].

No free passage for carpools, electric vehicles or motorcycles

"Unlike the I-85 Express Lanes, transit riders and registered vanpools and registered law enforcement are the only ones who can ride for free on the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes," according to a GDOT/SRTA fact sheet [pdf]. "State-registered alternate fuel vehicles (AFVs), motorcycles and HOT3+ carpools must pay tolls on Northwest Corridor Express Lanes."

Toll schedule

"The minimum toll will be 10 cents a mile for most of the day," noted Wickert in his article on the lanes' first weekday of operation on Sept. 10. "Overnight (roughly midnight to 5 a.m.), the cost is just 50 cents per trip, regardless of the length of the trip."

Like Virginia's rather infamous 66 Express Lanes Inside the Beltway, the tolls on all Georgia Express Lanes are "uncapped," i.e., there is no maximum toll, ensuring that market forces keep congestion in check. "But state officials expect cost to be minimal at first and to increase over time," adds Wickert. The highest toll was "$4.95 for the longest possible one-way trip, and average tolls have been much lower," reported Wickert on Oct. 26.

Tolls on the state's busier express lanes are higher. "SRTA Executive Director Chris Tomlinson said the cost to drive the full 16-mile length of the I-85 could reach $15 to $16 at times," reported Wickert on Aug. 18, 2018, the month the decision to uncap the tolls was implemented.

Related in Planetizen:

Hat tips to Joe Cortright and Melanie Curry.

Full Story:
Published on Friday, May 3, 2019 in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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