Down with OTP – a commute review

OTP: Local slang for Outside the Perimeter –  referring to metro-Atlanta residents who live outside the I-285 highway.  Originally a pejorative term used by bohemian urban hipsters,  intown intellectuals and culture snobs to express their disdain for the suburbs and suburbanites, it has become a colloquialism used by all Atlantans to differentiate “greater metro area” from the cluster of municipalities generally regarded as the city “Atlanta”.  Antonym: ITP.

Since October of last year – 6 months  – I have been commuting downtown on a motorcycle.  The advantages of using two wheels for the daily commute made the motorcycle an easy choice from our current location (see below).  14 miles total with 2 miles of surface streets at either end of a fast easy 10 mile Interstate jaunt, and only one hairy 6-lane merge.

The area we are looking at (Lilburn), being away from the major highways, has not exploded with huge new subdivisions in the past 20 years, and thus does not feed a huge volume of traffic into the cluster-fest that is typical Atlanta commuting.  The former country two-lanes taken to get to the freeways are relatively traffic free.

I tried a different route sample commute each day this week, riding out to the center of the hunting grounds, and then in to the office.

Current Route: I-85 to Williams Street exit to Courtland to Edgewood. 14.3 mi, 25 minutes

  • Pros: HOV lane all the way, dedicated left-side exit, Synchronized lights on one-way 5-lane surface street. Rarely any traffic slowdowns.
  • Cons: We’re moving

Option 1: Hwy 78 to I-285 to I-20 to I-75/85 to Edgewood Ave. exit – 28.6 miles, 30 minutes

  • Pros: Surface streets leaving this burb are underused country roads with little traffic; Fast interstate most of the way; Freeway exit is at work’s doorstep; Fast, high adrenaline
  • Cons: 4 separate freeways, each with their own hairy multilane merges; only one segment of HOV lane, with no dedicated on/off (i.e. crossing 4+ lanes of traffic to use HOV); It’s way out of the way as the crow flies.

Option 2: Silverlake to E. Ponce to Dekalb Ave – 23.7 miles, 40-45 minutes

  • Pros: Very direct avoids freeway mess;
  • Cons: Too surface street-ey, lots of lights, intersections, traffic; not as underused as would seem; Potential for speed traps, being picked off by local cops, esp. on DeKalb Ave – fast flowing artery with low speed limit; overall slow and stop & go.

Option 3: Hwy 78 to Scott Blvd/Ponce to Freedom Parkway – 20.6, 40-45 minutes

  • Pros: Also very direct, avoids a lot of freeway merging; ride through pretty Olmsted-designed Driving Miss Daisy neighborhood
  • Cons: Lots of stop and go traffic – sore clutch hand; “Pretty neighborhood” is a twisty road edged by 6″ granite curb and no shoulder, and is very heavily trafficked; Takes too long

The Verdict: Option 1 most of the time.  And leave earlier, to avoid most of the congestion.


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