Here's how the transit credit works: For every trip on the buses which travel the same routes as the express lanes, $2 is credited to the commuter's toll credit account (they'll have to link their transit pass to their toll pass), with the potential to earn up to $10 per month for six months. The maximum credit that can be earned through this particular pilot program is $60.
It might be worth it for some commuters. Say you pay an average of $3.70 each way, the example in the image above, to get to and from work—that's about $160 per month (I'm estimating 22 work days per month). Ride the free transit five of those days and the credit would reduce what you pay monthly to around $120 per month. But it's really hard to quantify the savings with the HOV lanes: You can always choose not to take them if the rate is too high. However, monthly bus passes along the same route range from $130 to $180 depending on how far passengers need to travel. But you don't get a discount on the bus fare if you've pre-paid for the month. How about giving bus-riders a better deal for already having their cars off the road?
The bigger issue here is the strange message this sends: Making driving the "reward" for riding a bus doesn't actually provide the behavioral shift that's needed to keep commuters boarding those buses, especially when the cost benefits are so minimal. A report from 2013 showed that amenities like park-and-ride lots along the same corridor were already doing a good job at attracting what are called "choice" riders on the transit routes. The real way to get more riders to take the bus is to improve service: More buses, more often, with better facilities at each end and better connections into the neighborhoods in which they travel.
And that's the troubling part about all of this—where all this money ends up going. On some HOV programs like this, at least part of the funds raised by tolls are used to pay for transit projects which can help alleviate congestion even more. In Atlanta, it's kind of like a vicious cycle. The toll revenues go right back into the HOV program—to maintain the ever-crowding toll lane. [AJC via NextCity]
source: gizmodo.com by Alissa Walker