9/20: Are HOT lanes a good idea for Georgia?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Tolls are coming to I-85 on Oct. 1. They’re also planned for I-75. But these will be different from Ga. 400’s one fee for every vehicle. These are the so-called HOT lanes — high-occupancy toll lanes.

The cost will vary according to demand for any car or truck carrying fewer than three people. The more congestion, the more you pay. And solo riders can participate, for a price.

Benita M. Dodd, vice president at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, writes that moving toward tolling more roads in state is inevitable and logical.

Brian Gist, an attorney in the Atlanta office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, does not think they are a good idea and writes that the goal should be better transportation for all, not just for select few.

Read what they have to say and give us your take on the HOT lanes.

162 comments Add your comment

Road Scholar

September 20th, 2011
6:37 am

Clay: Using your analogy, draw the line across 5 regular and 1 existing HOV2 lanes. Now shove the HOV 2 cars into the other 5 lanes…they will move slower than before…so they lose “capacity” as you defined it. Now let cars willing and able to pay along with HOV 3 cars into the managed lane. Do the 5 regular lanes get a sizable boost? No. What happens when the demand for all lanes go up? It’s called growth.While the managd lane moves at 45 mph, the net affect for the majority of motorists in the regular lanes are in a worse level of service!

pastordc: The motorist from other counties/states can read the signs and/or take the risk of using them. If they are in violation they will get a ticket sent to the home address of the license tag!

For those above who don’t like this user fee, what is your solution…with a financial plan…to solve congestion in Atlanta? Sit in traffic? Never leave your home?

The operator gets the fees. SRTA gets those on I 85 and uses them to first maintain and enforce this system. If anything is left, it goes to other projects. For the I75/575 project, th consortium gets the fees to pay for maintainance and enforcement, then they go to pay back their money spent to implement and then to profits, if enough money is collected.

[...] 9/20: Are HOT lanes a good idea for Georgia?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Oddly enough… at peak times… the introduction of HOT lanes actually increases capacity, but insuring some cars and keep moving no matter how bad things get. This lane is just a demonstration/trial, but if it works in the future we might be able to …and more » [...]


September 20th, 2011
2:23 am

@pastordc… fair question… the toll is only on 1 lane of several. Out of towners aren’t really further penalized more than normal. The other side to this… The grant for this project is from the federal government. It is their idea and it has been done in a few other places. They are trying to show us how this concept can work, so we will expand this system if it does work. The money will be used to operate, manage, maintain, and built the HOT lanes.


September 20th, 2011
2:17 am

I don’t expect a whole lot of people to like the new HOT lane conversion, in fact when I first heard about it I was dead set against it. Afterall, it is a hard thing to stomach… adding a tax to an existing lane -and- there is no road widening! However, over time I have done some research on the concept and there is actually some validity to it. Believe it or not there is a reason it actually is designed to increase capacity of the roadway at peak moments of congestion, but it is hard to understand why at first.

Imagine you draw a line across all 6 lanes of traffic. At any given moment the ‘capacity’ of the road is how many cars can drive past that line in a certain period of time. The problem with congestion isn’t just that people can’t move quickly, but the slower traffic goes….the fewer cars can pass that line! Fewer cars will pass that line at 10 mph than they will at 25 mph or 45 mph.

So the trick for engineers is to come up with a way one or more lanes can keep moving at an ideal speed to move as many cars past that line in a given time (45mph). More cars will pass that line in that line if cars can move consistently at 45 mph and not get forced into slowing down.

The problem is there isn’t any good way to limit the number of cars into that lane that it keeps moving at 45 mph, but also allows in as many cars as possible with it moving at 45mph. The main tool they have to work with is variable tolling. Tolls that go up or down to influence more people to get in the lane…. or stay out of the lane.

Admittedly the tolls aren’t popular and it certainly isn’t equitable. Richer people will be able to benefit from them more often, but in the end with variable tolling the computerized system that engineers set up can insure at peak moments of congestion nothing slows down the maximum number of vehicles can -drive pass that imaginary line- in that one lane. Oddly enough… at peak times… the introduction of HOT lanes actually increases capacity, but insuring some cars and keep moving no matter how bad things get.

This lane is just a demonstration/trial, but if it works in the future we might be able to have an extra lane built and better on/off ramps between the regular travel lanes and the HOT lanes.

The extra added benefit is it helps express buses work well. Going into the future more people will want to use them, because they will go faster and make travel times more stable.


September 19th, 2011
11:00 pm

My question is, if this is a Federal Highway, why is it that the people in certain counties have to pay for this? This is not Georgia Hwy 400, or Georgia Hwy 78, this is an Interstate that travels from state to state. Why do people from other states that may not know about this toll, why do they have to be penalized also? Who gets the money from this?

Ken P

September 19th, 2011
10:09 pm

Are they a good idea? Are you kidding!? This is just another example of governmental taxation of every aspect of life! And, in addition to the charging for the public to use the roads that they have already paid to build with their taxes, and to use with their tag fees, it will certainly be a hoped-for plus to mail out fines for the violations of this abusive scheme!

It’s about as foolish and misguided as the ramp lights that require everyone to stop at the bottom of the ramp, backing up traffic onto crossroads, and requiring rapid acceleration into highway speed traffic; it’s more dangerous in both respects AND uses more fuel besides! But, it’s more about gouging people with fines for ignoring these foolish money traps!


September 19th, 2011
9:08 pm

$185 million lipstick job on your pig – and now your pig is uglier than before.

I don’t get it.

Mama Says

September 19th, 2011
7:38 pm

Toll roads are another way to raise taxes w/o legislative approval. in other words it’s taxation w/o representation. Who voted to impose the fees ? The legislature or the DOT and who is elected ?

Mama Says

September 19th, 2011
7:35 pm

let’s see the state is changing HOV lanes into “hot” lanes b/c they wish to help the congestion problem.

In order to do that we need to take a lane that encourages folks to car pool and that is free into one that anyone can drive in and it cost a fee.

humm looks like another tax, oh sorry I mean fee, which is being put into place to raise revenue. In other words an illegal tax for a road we have already been taxed on in order to build.


September 19th, 2011
7:22 pm

HOT lanes are fingers in a leak. They will prove unsuccessful at improving traffic gridlock. The solution to highway gridlock is a comprehensive transportation solution that includes, light rail, commuter rail and ongoing highway upgrades and improvements. The HOT lane idea is another idea among the many forwarded by the right wing to attack the majority of citizens who can least afford it and put the savings in the pockets of millionaires