Atlanta Will Pay You to Take the Bus

(AP Photo/David Tulis)

Interstate 85 commuting greets many Atlanta drivers with long lines and the ever-present possibility of a higher toll fare. In an attempt to thwart both unpleasantries, state officials are asking commuters to consider taking public transit in exchange for credit on I-85 tolls.

The pilot program is offering northeastern metro Atlanta commuters $2 in toll credits for every transit trip — on lines with routes that include I-85 — with a maximum of $10 a month and $60 over a six-month period, reports the the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This means that commuters willing to kick back for their commute five days a month could underwrite much of their driving the rest of the month. To get the credits, drivers have to register and connect their bus pass with the highway express lane mechanism, called the Peach Pass.

The I-85 express lanes have skyrocketed in popularity and use since opening in October 2011, averaging 23,000 trips a day.

“With more commuters using the I-85 Express Lanes every day, we are providing even more reasons for our customers to give transit a try and reduce the number of cars on I-85 during peak rush hour periods,” a regional transit agency director said in a statement. “By letting someone else do the driving, commuters can save money, put less wear-and-tear on their personal vehicles and relax, study or get some work done ahead of schedule.”

This is not the first recent attempt at mitigating rush hour traffic on I-85. In addition to developing a carpooling initiative, representatives have just straight-out asked residents if they could shift their commuting time to better accommodate the population.

Atlanta is not alone in matching the struggle with highway congestion to public transit. Infamously car-loving cities such as Los Angeles and Phoenix have eased into increased transit use due to overwhelming traffic too.

Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.

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