Peach Pass letter drives confusion

Some motorists thought Express Lanes opening; agency says it was clear.

Hold your horses, you Cruise Card-carrying commuters.

Recently, many of you received letters from the Georgia State Road & Tollway Authority explaining that your Cruise Card accounts are converting to Peach Pass accounts on June 20, making you among the first to have access to the now-being-built I-85 Express Lanes.

You may have gotten the impression that the Express Lanes are opening in June, replacing the existing HOV lanes. They’re not.

“[I was] definitely confused about the large packet of information I got from the Cruise Card/Peach Pass people,” said Kim Bannerman, a Midtown woman who travels across the region for work. “I tried to find out in the documents how much they would charge to my Cruise Card if I ever decided to use the Peach Pass lanes on 85. Still never figured it out.”

Sara Markway, an Atlanta-based sales executive with a Cruise Card, also thought the Peach Pass was her green light to the I-85 HOV lanes.

“I thought it meant that the [Express Lanes] are open,” she said. “Then I got really confused.”

SRTA spokeswoman Malika Reed Wilkins said the agency has not received any complaints that the letter was confusing and believes it was perfectly clear.

But just to set the record straight: The I-85 HOV lanes won’t become high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes (also dubbed Express Lanes) until late this summer. Until then, solo drivers cannot use the lanes with either a Cruise Card or a Peach Pass.

SRTA was just letting you know that it is converting Cruise Card accounts to Peach Pass accounts. That way, drivers who have a Cruise Card won’t have to get a new pass: Their Cruise Cards will work on both Ga. 400 and the I-85 Express Lanes.

When they open, that is. Which will be late this summer, not now.

Meanwhile, people who have recently ordered Cruise Cards will receive Peach Passes instead. Those devices will work immediately at the Ga. 400 toll plaza.

Once the HOT lanes do open, Peach Pass holders will be able to zip along the roadways passenger-free, but at a cost. The I-85 Express Lanes will increase in price as the highway increases in congestion. In other words, the more cars on the road, the more you’ll pay to speed along the Express Lanes.

What the letter means

Current Cruise Card holders accounts are converting to Peach Pass accounts. Cruise Card holders are not required to swap their old devices for a new Peach Pass device. Either device will work at the Ga. 400 toll plaza immediately.

I-85 Express Lanes: About 15 miles of HOV roadway in Gwinnett and DeKalb Counties will convert to Express Lanes in late summer. Commuters can use the lanes to avoid heavy congestion on regular lanes. They must have a Peach Pass or Cruise Card device to travel on the Express Lanes.

Toll fees: The Ga. 400 toll will remain 50 cents for most vehicles. On I-85, vehicles with three or more passengers, motorcycles and alternate fuel vehicles can use the Express Lanes free of charge. (That does not, however, include “hybrid” vehicles.) For cars with fewer than three occupants, Express Lane tolls will range from 10 to 90 cents-per-mile, getting higher as the road gets more congested. (Final rates will be set by the SRTA Board before opening, SRTA spokeswoman Malika Reed Wilkins said.)

Fee for device: The SRTA is not charging customers for the actual Peach Pass device. A federal grant allows the agency to issue up to 300,000 transponders at no charge. Registration for the new device opens in late June at www.peachpass.com.

Learn more: Visit www.georgiatolls.com and www.peachpass.com to learn more about the Cruise Card to Peach Pass transition, including a video about the I-85 Express Lanes.