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Officials: I-985 carpool lot vacant
Underused Rideshare is out of the way
The Georgia Rideshare lot at Exit 17 off Interstate 985 has come under fire for being underused. It has 360 spaces, but only a handful of commuters use it. - photo by Tom Reed

Area government officials are concerned that the Georgia Rideshare lot off Exit 17 at Interstate 985 isn’t getting enough use.

The 360-space lot, owned by the Georgia Department of Transportation, came under fire last week during a meeting of the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Technical Coordinating Committee.

“It defies any kind of driver expectation,” City Manager Stan Brown said. “... It’s way out of the way for the pattern that people are going to be taking when they are (going to carpool). They want to get off the interstate and right back on.

“And you can’t see the park-and-ride from the interstate. You can hardly see it from the ramp when you get off it, because it’s down in a hole.”

He also noted that the directional sign for the 126-space carpool lot at Exit 16 is a billboard in the median on Ga. 53/Mundy Mill Road.

“It looks to me like that sign should have been with the bigger park-and-ride to get people to that one,” Brown said.

The Rideshare lots surfaced as an issue when David Fee, MPO transportation planner, gave a presentation to the committee on a survey of commuters using the two lots, as well as a lot off Exit 4 in Buford.

The Exit 17 lot sits off Thurmon Tanner Parkway and is bounded by Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway and Frontage Road. It was built as part of the DOT’s $75 million reconstruction of Exit 16 and building the new Exit 17 interchange, completed in 2009.

The Exit 16 lot, which existed before the reconstruction, is off Mundy Mill and Wallis roads.

In 2008, the surveyor spent four days “to get a total of five completed surveys” at Exit 17, but, at that time, the new interchange wasn’t open and “signage was not conspicuous,” Fee’s report states.

“Neither reason holds true in 2012, as the interchange has been open for years and large Rideshare signs are positioned (around the area),” the report says.

Fee only found two people to survey at Exit 17.

His report states “the lack of lighting being turned on in the lot” and “lot security issues are a commuter concern.”

“The other theory is tradition. People use the (Exit 16) lot, so they don’t feel the need to switch,” Fee told the committee. “It’s easier for them to get in and out of that lot.”

David Spear, DOT spokesman, couldn’t immediately respond to questions about the park-and-ride lot. Teri Pope, Gainesville-based spokeswoman for the DOT, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Brown said he is “really interested in trying to come up with a game plan of how people know that lot is there at Exit 17.”

Oakwood has joined up with Gainesville State College and Lanier Technical College to build a massive welcome sign off Exit 17, at Thurmon Tanner and Atlanta Highway, using DOT property for the project.

The sign could be finished by fall, possibly earlier.

“It may draw a little more attention to the (lot) by having that sign there,” Brown said.