Feds deny request to waive three-person car pool rule

From the Associated Press this morning:

Federal authorities have denied Georgia’s request for a waiver to allow two-person carpools in a new toll system on a metro Atlanta freeway.

The state had requested the waiver after repeated traffic backups in the new toll lanes on Interstate 85 in parts of Gwinnett and DeKalb counties.

CBS Atlanta reports that U.S. Department of Transportation officials said they believe it’s too early to evaluate the effectiveness of the so-called HOT lanes. In a letter denying the request, federal authorities also said the toll rates and motorists not being familiar with the lanes may be contributing to their low use.

The waiver would have allowed more drivers to use the new lanes for free.

Without the waiver, vehicles must have three or more people to use them for free.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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179 comments Add your comment

findog

November 22nd, 2011
8:32 am

Theoretically you get real traffic relief when car pools are 3-plus. That is because many double occupant vehicles are just family members that ride together anyway. Unfortunately theoretical, technology driven, advances in society are easily defeated by pandering politicians. Now the state republican party will send out a mass mailing that President Obama stole a lane from the I-85 commuters and without your contribution Governor Deal will not be able to reverse the state DOT’s decision to implement proven congestion relief…

Mark

November 22nd, 2011
8:43 am

I agree with the decision. If you allow 2-person carpools, then this whole experiment is pointless. You’ll go back to the status quo in terms of traffic levels and you won’t be able to ensure that the average speed of the HOT lanes above whatever threshold you’re trying to hit. If you want to admit that the entire idea was stupid to begin with, send the money back to the Feds and reopen the carpool lanes as they were before.

resno2

November 22nd, 2011
8:45 am

NIce stretch…

Can we just get this out there? Not every stupid decision that the Federal government has made in the past 2 years is obama’s fault, just like every obama failure in the past two years is Bush’s fault.

There…

Kevin

November 22nd, 2011
8:45 am

Let me get this straight-

A Federal initiative to enforce a behavior they feel is the best thing for us will end up costing us more (commute time, gas, productivity).

Tell me again how Federal bureaucracy isn’t restraining job growth or economic improvement? Ponder on that as you sit on I-85.

Also- theoretically, findog, you sound like a smart person. Realistically, you come across as a pompous ass. I do, in fact, blame BO’s administration. Read the facts.

Evan

November 22nd, 2011
8:48 am

I just don’t understand how anyone in their right mind thought this was a good idea in the first place.It was obvious that it was going to be a disaster when they started talking about it. They’re forcing more cars into the non-HOT lanes (unless you want to pony up some cash for the lane that you already paid for with your tax dollars).

If they had added a pay-only lane instead of changing the HOV lane into the HOT lane, then I would feel differently. Supposedly this is wildly successful in other cities. Did they add lanes in those cities or just convert an existing lane like they did here?

aviate

November 22nd, 2011
8:49 am

findog you are a misguided Dem. and although President Obama is a complete failure, he has nothing to do with HOT lanes. It is the incompetence of the State DOT, Legislators (GOP/Dem) and anyone that thought that the lanes would help or even work in the first place. It only take a 10 year old to see that if you take a lane away for a dumb idea that it is going to cause backups in the other lanes. Has anyone heard of supply and demand? The demand for the HOT lanes is not there at any price!!! Wake up people it is a shifted tax.

Ron

November 22nd, 2011
8:51 am

Evan, when has the guberment ever had a GOOD idea?

JeromeMJ

November 22nd, 2011
8:53 am

You are very foolish to even discuss this lane and the abuse of power from the government in making them a tooll lane. They need to learn fiscal responsibility and cut their salaries and benefits until they are reasonable and match the private sector.

WGA

November 22nd, 2011
8:53 am

The issue is not about the fee or whether or not 2 or 3 people can ride for free, the issue is having to sign up on Peach Pass and have an electronic indicator in your car.

HOT lanes are not designed to ease conjestion for throughway roads like I-85. HOT lanes are geared for the GA 400 extension from I-85 to I-285 where you want to “tax” local commuters.

Each day, thousands of vactioners travel through this area not knowing about the electronic device being required. So last year those same families with SUV’s and cars full of their kids going and coming from Disney World now jam the remaining lanes. They either do not know about the device or do not want to pay for one for vacation time travel. Until they remove the electronic device requirement, traffic jams on the regular lanes are here to stay.

frustrated freeway freak

November 22nd, 2011
8:53 am

I respectfully (more or less) disagree that it would NOT relieve a bit of the congestion. One lane is underutilized, all the others are over utilized.

Giving two occupant vehicles the option to shift over would relieve some of the pressure on the over utilized lanes and get more utilization from the under utilized lane. Duh.

Not broaching the subject of double taxation, of course. Just another elephant in the politicians break room.

A B Normal

November 22nd, 2011
8:53 am

Every lane of 78 is still free from Athens all the way to ol’ Terminus (Atlanta in better days) and the scenery is much nicer too!

cartoon

November 22nd, 2011
8:55 am

What if you have a body in the trunk, and a deer tied to your hood? Does that count?

I’m so confused.

DannyX

November 22nd, 2011
8:56 am

How can anyone blame the Democrats on this one??? This decision came from the US Dept of Transportation.

Charles

November 22nd, 2011
8:56 am

and they are proceeding with bidding to extend this wonderful idea to I-75? I was riding on I-85 going out of town with four people but no peach pass stuck in traffic and we noticed the lane was almost empty- but the vast majority of the cars paying were new German and Japanese luxury SUVs and cars- often single occupancy. This is less about congestion that it is about pampering the minority willing and able to pay and give the DOT extra revenue — just like the 400 toll was meant to go away after the bonds were paid off — right, like that was ever going to happen. I would love to see the return on capital on this wonderful project. They are so sure it is the ignorance of the general public and not their wonderful idea that is restricting use – hmmmm

Mama Says

November 22nd, 2011
8:57 am

More B.S. from the federal government — now we are told how many lanes we can drive in after our tax dollars paid for the lanes in the 1st place !

Name (required) too

November 22nd, 2011
8:57 am

Sometimes you just have to help yourself. When others “help” you, it always comes with contingecies (many of which seem so small that you pretend to ignore them). With all these colleges and universities in Georgia, we couldn’t figure out this traffic issue without federal money? Let’s empower our own minds and talents. (Dang that sounds so conservative smh)

Allen

November 22nd, 2011
8:58 am

The answer is to apply the much touted federal approach to enforcement of immigration law to enforcement of the HOT lane: go after only the most egregious offenders (i.e., single drivers without a peach pass) and ignore the rest. Let them take the state to court and explain why it is important to apply the letter of the law to Atlanta drivers but only some vague notion of the law to criminal aliens.

findog

November 22nd, 2011
8:59 am

Kevin, aviate,
Just the facts
I have been opposed to this from the very start, been blogging with td and Road Scholar for a couple of years. I even miss Last Man Standing and wish Aquagirl would post more.
I am not any more smart than you probably are, I just happened to be an engineer who supported some work for the Georgia DOT the last five years. To paraphrase Newt, social engineering of transportation to get more vehicles off the road is no better than adding lanes to make wasteful consumption of energy more convenient.
According to my favorite drum line there is a Kevin in every marching band; is that really true?

Bryan -- MARTA supporter

November 22nd, 2011
9:01 am

Funny, Gwinnett denied MARTA for decades in favor of their cars and not are complaining when you have something that was suppose to benefit them. They have basically cut a full lane of traffic off. Traffic is horrible. That space could have been used to have MARTA heavy rail right down the middle, like on Ga 400. I bet those trains would have been a lot more full than the few cars that travel down the HOT lanes. Nice job!

Mountain Man

November 22nd, 2011
9:01 am

No one can seem to answer this question – Jim, this is a challenge. How does the automatic Peachpass system know that there are three people in the car? I have heard that you cannot travel in the HOT lanes, even if you have three people, unless you ave registered and paid money into an account. When you drive under the system, like GA 400, it deducts the charge. But back to my question, how does it know when you have three people so not to charge your account? If you can get the answer to that question, Jim, I would appreciate it.

the truth...

November 22nd, 2011
9:02 am

WHO gets the money collected from these tolls?

So you don’t believe in State’s rights? Good then you are an idiot and you must cheer when one more area of our locally affected lives are trumped by Washington beaurocrats ….ln this seemingly simple scenario, some Fed who doesn’t ride our freeways and God I hope never does….trumps logic…

Jeff H.

November 22nd, 2011
9:02 am

The whole thing is a mess, and the HOT lanes need to go back to the people that already paid for them – us taxpayers.

Scott

November 22nd, 2011
9:02 am

The HOT lanes are useless, and a theft of the HOV lanes that were put in at taxpayer expense years ago. Also, it’s very confusing that inside the perimeter on I-85 the lane is an HOV land, but then changes to a HOT lane. I think Atlanta commuters should be furious and demand their HOV lanes back…after all, we paid for them.

jd

November 22nd, 2011
9:04 am

The HOT lane decision was made by the BUSH administration — when Obama’s new transport sec came to visit 2 years ago — he looked at the idea and said — “Are you sure you want to do that?” The state said yes — took the money and the rules that went with it… so — blame the Public Policy Foundation — its their libertarian plan for transporting the wealthy more quickly!

findog

November 22nd, 2011
9:04 am

More facts,
The HOV lane was created by narrowing the existing lanes and then making the inside shoulder half the normal safe width.
So the State of Georgia first stole a foot of your everyday travel lane to add the HOV and then put a toll on the lane they stole.
The simplest solution for you I-85 bound commuters is to have your car converted to natural gas so you can cruse alone in an alternate fuel vehicles; that or buy a motorcycle…

Mountain Man

November 22nd, 2011
9:05 am

I agree with Evan – if you wanted to build a new lane, then charge for it to recoup your investment – I have no problem with that. But to take an existing lane out of service and make people start paying for the priviledge of using it – that is just wrong. Pretty soon they will decide to make ALL lanes of I-85 south toll lanes so as to make more money. After all, you have the coice to drive on the surface streets.

findog

November 22nd, 2011
9:07 am

Charles,
The project is projected to lose a million a year as the tolls would not pay for the technology, and that was before Governor Deal cut the rates

DannyX

November 22nd, 2011
9:07 am

Republicans in Georgia got us into this Express Lane and now a Republican in DC is refusing to change the rules.

So typical.

Joe-boo

November 22nd, 2011
9:08 am

When the Brothel gets busted, even the piano player goes to jail!

Mountain Man

November 22nd, 2011
9:09 am

What if Georgia passes a personhood act and you have two fertilized ova in a freezer in your car – does that count as three people?

Realist

November 22nd, 2011
9:11 am

Mountain Man – You tell it if you have three or more or not. You set the pass when you get it to either 3+ or pay. When you’re not doing that you call up/log in and change it. Then, when you go back, change it again.

This was an idea from the BUSH administration, not Obama. It’s basic Republican theory – use the market to regulate behavior. The lane was already taken away for 2+ carpools. When the economy was good the lane was starting to fail. Now that the economy sucks, well…there’;s more than enough room in the lane. The Republicans just said – WAIT! There’s room there! Let’s CHARGE FOR IT! And give our rich buddies a better ride!

So, being the good Republican state we are, we did.

Remember – Obama wants you to use public transit – not drive.

Gresham Brown

November 22nd, 2011
9:13 am

Still waiting on the Occutards to occupy an HOV lane. That will be pure entertainment at it’s best!

Fred

November 22nd, 2011
9:15 am

It’s all Obama’s fault.

DannyX

November 22nd, 2011
9:15 am

“The Republicans just said – WAIT!”

Not the one in DC!!! He said no dice Georgia, stick to the terms.

Mountain Man

November 22nd, 2011
9:16 am

So, every time I get three people in the car I have to phone in and change? Or leave it set like that, and phone in and change if I want to use it as a toll? Yea, that is efficient. And, as others said, those vacationers passing through have no chance to use it, even though they have three people in the car.

Atlantaphotog

November 22nd, 2011
9:17 am

We can probably stop the “Federal Obama Big Brother” crap now, folks. It wasn’t the Fed’s idea to put the HOT lanes in place… it was the Georgia DOT and Nathan Deal’s idea. They then decided to also use some Federal money for the project as well as other tax monies, and at that point yes, the Feds DO have a say in it, because Federal money was used.

Let’s review: The HOT lanes were not the Feds idea. They were not Obama’s idea. They were the idea of the leader who you people voted for, in this state.

The State is unwilling to put commuter rail in the suburban counties, even though many larger cities have had it for years (or decades). The state refuses to put any money into MARTA to extend the rail into park-and-ride stations and lots in Gwinnett, and the State refuses to give money to Gwinnett to build their own rail, etc etc…. the HOT lanes were their best idea, and THEY went to the Feds for money to add to it. They got it. There are repercussions in using Federal money, as in, you give the Feds a right to say how it’s used to some level. They got that too. Stop complaining. Use the lanes – or don’t. Then remember this the next time you stand in a voting booth to vote for the next Governor – and do try next time to pick one with a brain.

PeachPassThis

November 22nd, 2011
9:17 am

How about an email address of someone at the Federal DOT so they can get more real-time data on how commuters, Holiday travelers and Atlantans feel about this decision?

Bill Gullion

November 22nd, 2011
9:19 am

I live in Cobb County and rarely drive on I-85 North. I did so yesterday between 2 PM and 4 PM with my wife. I got off at Beaver Ruin. All the way out and back on I-85, we never saw a single car using the HOV lanes! This has to be one of the greatest fiascos I’ve ever seen. The state and federal governments will be in for a real battle if they try HOV lanes on I-75 north. It’s not working. Give it up.

Richard

November 22nd, 2011
9:19 am

I suggest that some people go out, cover up your license plate, and beat those cameras with a baseball bat. Then OCCUPY THE HOT LANE.

L2223

November 22nd, 2011
9:20 am

Actually, Kevin and all those blaming the federal government, let me get it straight for you. I’m as opposed to the whole idea of the HOT lanes as much as you are. But let’s lay blame where it really lies and that’s with Georgia’s state government. It’s not the feds controlling states’ rights, it’s not Washington bureaucrats, and it’s not Washington telling us what to do. True, it is a federal initiative, but Georgia’s (conservative) state government applied for the federal grant money to fund the HOT lanes. It was not forced upon us by the federal government; our conservative state lawmakers applied for and accepted the money knowing and agreeing to follow the stipulations laid out in the FOA (funding opportunity announcement) requiring 3+ riders, tolls, etc. The revenue from the tolls goes back to the state for maintenance of roadways, the HOT lanes, etc. Georgia wanted the extra revenue, so Georgia applied for the federal money. If we don’t want to abide by these federal stipulations, our state should not be applying for federal funds! Go tell that to your republican state congressman!

cartoon

November 22nd, 2011
9:21 am

We could solve this problem by allowing hitch-hiking in the HOT lanes. Then, when there’s only two schmoes in a car, they can simply pick up another schmoe.

whatta they gonna do?

November 22nd, 2011
9:26 am

Scre* the feds, what are they going to do if two persons ride in the lane? All the state has to do is just not enforce a fine for two person car pools that are properly Peach-Pass registered. The only way they get caught now is if a car-pool cop pulls ‘em over and checks their registration status. If a cop sees 2 people in the car and they have a P-pass, let ‘em go on by….
BUT we know that crocodile tears are being shed by Queen Gena anyway on the turn down as they want the $$$$…..I’m sure she is sooooo disappointed in the ruling…..

john

November 22nd, 2011
9:28 am

The SRTA gets the revenues from the tolls. They are the ones that pushed tfor this stupid idea. Same group that refused to take away the GA 400 toll road. why. They need to pay for Dr. Evan’s 200k salary to run a toll booth.

Someone needs to investigate the procurement of the technology. It was awarded to a buddy of the good doctor, and the technology was not compatible. A huge waste of ga tax payers dollars. They had a report that it would worsen traffic, yet they still spent the money. The SRTA must be abolished.

Flatpickpaul

November 22nd, 2011
9:28 am

Please note, former Governor Sonny Perdue (R) signed off on this. And here’s the vote of support from that “Free market think tank,” GPPF http://www.gppf.org/article.asp?RT=16&p=pub/Transportation/hotlanes.htm

Federal News

November 22nd, 2011
9:30 am

Speaking of Federal news, did anyone see a story in the AJC which changed dramatically from when it was first reported as a “terrible accident”.? I didnt see it except for here:

http://www.13wmaz.com/news/article/152619/153/Georgia-Man-Admits-to-Killing-Federal-Officer?odyssey=obinsite

Mountain Man

November 22nd, 2011
9:30 am

What I have read about HOT lanes is that they are good if built as an additional lane. I don’t believe that was the case here. If someone has a link that shows that an additional lane was added (by squeezing the lanes one foot and taking the emergency lane), please publish that.

Mountain Man

November 22nd, 2011
9:32 am

So what if I sign up for a Peachpass as a three-person carpool and drive solo in it. How is the system going to know? Will it send information about every car to a police officer stationed there? What if I use dummies in there with me? Hey, this could be fun.

Laughing Cow

November 22nd, 2011
9:35 am

As an architecture student, I find it very amusing that you all can complain about the traffic you are enduring.
I would think the solution would be more obvious, and its apparently not.
You can’t solve traffic by adding lanes, expanding highways; because for every lane you add someone else will fill it faster than you can switch to that lane. At the rate people are moving into atlanta it will be impossible to ever fill the need.
What you can do, is become active in decisions made in the communities. Help fund an EFFICIENT public transportation system, live closer to city and create a dense urban environment so that everything you need is in a decent distance and decreases the importance of car use, so that your job, childs school and etc are in walking distance or accessible by transit.
You will decrease the amount of money spent on “expansion and relief” efforts while making it healthier for yourself and children.
The problem is… Most you you don’t want to give up using your own car for the good of your local economy and the state.
Successful models: America’s Metropolis, Switzerland, Charlotte (they’re trying), Denver and a few other cities…

JamminJ

November 22nd, 2011
9:35 am

The HOT lanes were a bad idea to begin with, unless you have money. To me it’s a slap to the face of all hard-working taxpayers. Like somebody already said we have paid for these roads already through taxes. And how is it that just because you have money you have more opportunities on a public road, it’s not a private road. The State clearly only cares about those with money and roads, they do not care about public transportation. I’m sure developers are licking there lips and want to build more toll roads using our tax payers money. The State government is sold out to large developers. I just don’t understand how taking away an incentive to carpool is a good idea, in lieu of money. And think about the money wasted making those lanes HOT lanes, millions of dollars to take away a carpool lane, GREAT IDEA IDIOTS! Lets just build more lanes and not think long term, that’s the ticket.

Mountain Man

November 22nd, 2011
9:42 am

Laughing cow – the problem is with locating all the jobs in Atlanta, with people living in the bedroom communities outside. Move the jobs out where people really want to live, where schools are not APS and houses are cheaper. Locate the businesses there rather than concentrating them downtown. Scatter the State government out to the suburbs. Leave the city to fester in its own garbage.