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To Reduce Traffic, Atlanta Will Pay Drivers To Use Public Transit

Get off the interstate when it’s busy, and you get a credit to use it when it’s not.

To Reduce Traffic, Atlanta Will Pay Drivers To Use Public Transit
[Photos: Kristain Baty/MARTA Flickr]

To ease the number of cars that clog urban roadways, some cities have turned to the controversial idea of congestion pricing, or charging drivers more money to enter the city at peak travel times. In London, which has charged drivers almost $18 to enter the city on most weekdays for the last 10 years, studies show reduced traffic, pollution, and even fewer traffic deaths.

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Yet no major U.S. city–where drivers tend to rule the road–has taken up the idea, despite endless debates about it in places like New York.

Perhaps a better option, or at least a more politically feasible one, is coming from Atlanta, where state transportation officials are now piloting a program that leads with a carrot instead of a stick.


When an Interstate 85 toll lane was first opened in 2011, it already had varying tolls rates depending on the level of traffic so that it could remain a reliable “express lane” alternative to the regular highway. But these days, too many people have been using it, so that it was jammed with traffic too.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the new program, run by Georgia’s State Tollway and Railway Authority, offers commuters in northeastern Atlanta $2 in toll credits for the I-18 express lane every time they use the bus instead during rush hours (the maximum credit is $10 a month). It also offers frequent rush hour commuters incentives to shift their commute earlier or later, and promises it will announce additional incentives for people who carpool.

“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,” says transportation official Christopher Tomlinson, in a statement.

Atlanta is about as far as you can get from Co.Exist’s recent list of seven global cities that are starting to go car-free. But hey, as traffic gets bad enough, it’s a start.

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[via Next City]

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About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire

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