The first song on CAKE’s 1994 debut album “Motorcade of Generosity” is “Comanche” and repeats this line, “If you want to have cities, you have to build roads.” The line is symbolic, meaning success comes in steps. But in literal practice, the phrase is becoming less true for city developers. Connected or “smart” vehicles and traffic signs and signals are increasing in number, and Georgia has become a cutting-edge testing ground. With a main goal of decreasing traffic delay, the technology is bucking the traditional paths to gridlock relief. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: Why I-285 flooded in the same place — twice iATL, the Infrastructure Automotive Technology Lab, just opened two weeks ago off of Haynes Bridge Road just west of GA-400 in Alpharetta. The main room in the brand-new building displays several types of traffic signs and lights on its left wall. Then two long rows of traffic signal boxes, simulating all the types in use around the country, take up the rest of the room. Each box and signal is equipped with wireless radio technology that allows them to communicate with each other — and with smart vehicles. “It all changed on January the 7th, 2019,” iATL director Bryan Mulligan explained. “The reason being is that the Ford Motor Company announced at C.E.S. that they were doing connected vehicles.” Ford became the first automaker to commit to making all of its new vehicles connected by 2022. This means that their entire showroom fleets will soon be able to work with traffic signal settings and other radio-equipped smart cars to decrease congestion and the instance of high-risk maneuvers. These cars will not all be self-driving, but they will be able to prompt drivers to make better decisions and move more freely. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: Setting an extremely attainable commuting bar for 2020 Enter the entrepreneur Mulligan, who is also the president of Suwanee tech company Applied Information. This firm builds this smart signal technology and also deploys it via its Travel Safely app, which can communicate with traffic signals as a smart vehicle would. Mulligan explained this technology in a Gridlock Guy piece on the North Avenue smart corridor two years ago. Applied Information and an army of other tech firms, automakers, and other stakeholders in the technology and transportation industries are using their strengths in the private sector to innovate and then work with the public sector for traffic solutions. In metro Atlanta, the City of Marietta was the first to deploy Mulligan’s technology and now equips first responders’ vehicles and CobbLinc buses this way. Traffic lights turn green automatically, for example, for a bus that is behind schedule and has five or more people on board, and the city controls that threshold. Traffic lights also go green for fire trucks and med units on emergency calls. “(The cities using this technology) see that they can deliver better health outcomes by saving heart attack, stroke, accident and opioid victims,” Mulligan explained. Marietta City Manager Bill Bruton told Mulligan the hastened response time is most helpful to those who overdose on opioids, because successfully administering the opioid antidote Narcan is extraordinarily time-critical. » RELATED: Remembering WSB’s Pete Combs and the I-85 plane landing “The data shows that (smart technology) saves about 11 seconds per intersection, and the paramedics fly between five and six intersections on their way to a call.” So the data has shown Mulligan and city planners that response times have decreased by about a minute. Mulligan calls this a “Day One Application” of his products: They are immediately successful for first responders, before the first civilian smart car ever prevents a crash or before the connected buses alleviate traffic. 125 smart intersections have just gone online in Alpharetta, and the city’s fire trucks are already equipped to trigger these traffic lights. The City of Marietta has continuously grown this technology in its densely populated areas. Atlanta has had the North Avenue smart corridor for more than two years, but now has smart technology on Campbellton Road and is working on it for Martin Luther King Junior Drive. Each of those corridors sees heavy MARTA use, and the city believes connected buses and signals can make big impacts there. This technology is catching on statewide, in fact, as smart speed limit and school-zone signs and signals dot the entire state. Mulligan said that Georgia truly is on the cutting edge in this realm. “There is a very robust and progressive culture here that is not prevalent in the rest of the world,” Mulligan said of both the Georgia private- and the public-sector entities with which he has dealt in the past few years. State officials, including Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, mingled with stakeholders in the automotive and technological fields at iATL’s recent grand opening. Many chest-pounding events of these are all bark and little bite. But given the sincere interest from cities and automakers and their use of iATL as a testing field for the technology, this wireless wave has some punch. And given that any city that deploys these innovations can nearly guarantee faster emergency-response times means the investment is successful out of the gate. Mulligan estimated that the cost of the entire connected systems that Alpharetta bought roughly equaled the cost to add an extra lane to one intersection. The answer to building cities is no longer just building the roads. Listen to Turnbull’s interview with Mulligan on the WSB Traffic Podcast. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.
It is a sad time. I need to have a pity party and go get some of my friends...let's go cry a minute.' That's Carol, one of the many dedicated and loyal customers of Life Grocery, the natural and organic foods and products store in Marietta. Carol's been a customer for 20-plus years. There's also Richard, who's been a customer even longer - since the 1980's. 'This was the original and only health food store where you could get organic groceries. It's very sad.' On a Monday in the last week of January, the store along Roswell Rd. between the Big Chicken and the 120 Loop was busy. Busier than normal. A good bet that had lots to do with deep discounts at Life Grocery, as the store was closing its doors by the end of January. 'People are coming in, wanting to say goodbye. It's the end of an era,' store general manager Ronnie Hudson tells WSB Radio. It's been emotional for her too. She's been with the co-op business since the mid 90's and admits there will be a void as the doors close for good. Life Grocery was founded by Life University students when Gerald Ford was president - back in 1976. Hudson says the business was one of the pioneers in the natural, organic food market, 'there weren't options back then...we were the template.' Stores like Life and some other early ones set the stage for what came years later - an explosion in the organic/natural food space, now dominated by major players like Whole Foods, Sprouts, and others. Life Grocery's reasons for closing are many says Hudson. 'The main distributor that we use, Whole Foods is their priority. So sometimes we can't even get our whole orders full.' Not only competition though. Aging equipment has also been an issue, rising costs, and location has played a part Hudson says. Life Grocery sits in an aging strip mall. Whole Foods used to be across the street. But when it left for a better location, Hudson says some of her customers told her, they'd forgotten about Life. Still, in the store's final hours of existence Monday, longtime customers were stopping in for their last purchases. Hudson was exchanging hugs with many of them. 'The emotions at this point, even from our customers, has been so touching, heartbreaking, heartwarming. It feels good to know that people have appreciated what we have.'
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told senators privately Tuesday he does not yet have the votes to block new witnesses in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. McConnell convened a closed-door meeting of GOP senators shortly after Trump's legal team made its closing arguments in the trial, the third and final day of defense proceedings punctuated by revelations from John Bolton, the former national security adviser. A Republican familiar with the meeting was not authorized to describe it by name and requested anonymity. The GOP leader faced a handful of potential defections, but several days remained before any potential witness vote would be taken. A decision to call more witnesses would need 51 votes to pass. With a 53-seat majority, Republicans can only afford to lose three Republicans to prevent more debate over witnesses. McConnell has been trying to prevent a prolonged trial. Republicans were warned that subpoenaing testimony from Bolton or other witnesses could run quickly into legal challenges that could drag out for weeks. But Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has said he wants to hear what Bolton has to say. Two other Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, also want to hear from more witness. The White House has blocked its aides from appearing in the impeachment proceedings and would almost certainly claim some sort of executive privilege or national security objections over Bolton testifying. One closely watched Republican, retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, told reporters as he exited the private meeting he would wait for the next few days of the trial and make his decision. Some senators have discussed trying to reach a deal with Democrats in which each side would call a witness — for example, Bolton and Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden whose work in Ukraine has been referenced by Trump's team in the impeachment proceedings. Such a deal, so far, has had few takers as most Republicans don't want to hear from Bolton and few Democrats want to draw the Bidens into the impeachment proceedings.