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Commuters urged to dump the gas pump

COVINGTON -- Joyce Auld of Covington gave up the stress of sitting in rush-hour Atlanta traffic for quiet time and a comfy seat. She hasn't regretted it.

Since May, Auld has been using the Xpress Bus Service provided by the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. She said she's had fewer headaches and aggravation, less wear and tear on her vehicle and more money.

For three months, Auld spent $60 a week on gas commuting from Covington to Confederate Avenue. Then, she got a new job in downtown Atlanta, near a transit stop, and decided to give public transportation a try.

She's at the Springfield Baptist Church park and ride lot in Rockdale in time to catch the 6:45 a.m. bus four days a week. Most days, she's at work by 7:25 a.m. She catches the 4 p.m. bus from downtown Atlanta and is usually back to the lot by 4:35 p.m. "Can't beat that," she said.

It's often a faster commute than Auld could make in her own vehicle, since the bus uses the HOV lane from Wesley Chapel all the way to downtown. She estimated she's saving about $25 a week on gas.

Auld remembers the day it took her 30 minutes to make a right-hand turn. Now she uses her roughly 40-minute commute to relax.

"It's peaceful on the buses. The buses are clean. I'm just really enjoying that part of it," she said.

Auld is planning to sign up for her company's XPress pass payroll deduction program. "This is the best thing since sliced bread," she said.

Transportation associations throughout the state are urging commuters to do what Auld did and "dump the pump" the week of June 17-21. The pump, of course, refers to the gasoline pump. Dump the Pump is a campaign aimed at raising awareness about the region's total network of transit options and encouraging commuters to ride a bus, train or local shuttle.

Commuters who pledge to "dump the pump" at least one day during the week will be eligible to win prizes including Amazon gift cards. To register, visit GACommuteOptions.com/DumpthePump.

Often, commuters don't realize the transit options available to them, said Matt Markham, chief external affairs officer for GRTA.

"If you're looking at Newton County people don't always know there's a park and ride lot in Rockdale just over the county line. Commuters leaving Newton County every day heading down I-20 may not know that service is there," he said, referring to the lot at Springfield Baptist Church at 1877 Iris Drive.

Markham noted that some commuters do like the convenience of driving their own cars and for some, transit may not be practical, if they don't work near a transit stop.

But those who prefer it report enjoying the extra time to read, work or even sleep, he said.

Regional data show 38 percent of metro area working age residents live less than a mile from a transit access point, according to Tedra Cheatham, executive director of The Clean Air Campaign.

Each year, the average Atlanta commuter spends 51 hours in standstill traffic and roughly $4,000 on commute costs, according to a press release issued by the The Clean Air Campaign. That equates to about $16 per day in gas and car expenses.

In addition to the Iris Drive lot, there is a GRTA park and ride lot at 911 Chambers Drive off Sigman Road. There are six trips from each lot in the morning and afternoon, Markham said. The routes travel to midtown and downtown Atlanta. Fares are based on distance traveled. From the Sigman Road lot, fares are $3 per one-way trip, $5 per round trip, $25 for 10 one-way trips and $100 for a 31-day pass, counted as 30 calendar days after the first day the pass is used.

From the Iris Drive lot, fare is $4 for a one-way trip, $7 per round trip, $35 for 10 one-way rides and $125 for the 31-day pass.

Passes can be purchased online at www.xpressga.com, aboard Xpress buses or in person between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the GRTA office at 245 Peachtree Center Ave., Suite 800, Atlanta, GA 30303.

For more information, including schedules and routes, visit xpressga.com.

Dump the Pump is sponsored The Clean Air Campaign, area transportation management associations, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Cobb Community Transit, Gwinnett County Transit, Atlanta Regional Commission and the Georgia Department of Transportation. To take the pledge or learn more, visit GACommuteOptions.com/DumpthePump.