On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

heavy-rain-night
64°
Chance of Rain
H 70° L 63°
  • heavy-rain-night
    64°
    Current Conditions
    Chance of Rain. H 70° L 63°
  • heavy-rain-day
    70°
    Today
    Chance of Rain. H 70° L 63°
  • cloudy-day
    78°
    Tomorrow
    Partly Cloudy. H 78° L 57°
Listen
Pause
Error

News on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Local
Gridlock Guy: Human behavior often unaccounted for in traffic-easing ideas
Close

Gridlock Guy: Human behavior often unaccounted for in traffic-easing ideas

Have you ever wondered how much time on average you spend in traffic a year? Do you think your commute is bad? Check out the worst in the country.

Gridlock Guy: Human behavior often unaccounted for in traffic-easing ideas

Sit with the hypothetical idealist. A leading thinker from one sphere could leave one walking away convinced that autonomous vehicles are the savior of Atlanta’s traffic woes and will be ubiquitous in five years. Another industry innovator could make the convincing case that mass transit is the key to releasing the gridlock in this town. And yet another could show the stats on the cost savings with electric vehicles. Minds could be blown. 

» RELATED: Georgia gov is revved up about self-driving shuttles

But the x-factor in traffic innovation, gridlock solvency, pollution-fighting, and commuting efficiency is the prediction of human behavior. And while we have seen society take like ducks to water on certain things, these vehicular behavior progressions are costly. Buying a completely new car costs quite a bit more than a smartphone. Building a mile of heavy rail costs about a billion dollars; building roads is cheaper. 

The opportunity cost of switching modes of travel is also a major factor in seeing some of these innovations take flight. Take mass transit: a rider on a MARTA train or bus is at the mercy of the scheduling and routes of that system. People (including this writer, who lives right next to the Chamblee MARTA station) often do not want to sacrifice time and autonomy just to gain the cost and potential time savings of riding the train. Sure, the train frees up time to read or check emails, things that a car driver cannot do. But if that train doesn’t drop the commuter right next to their destination, they have to add in time to walk or ride the bus. That makes mass transit less attractive. 

Likewise, MARTA and the new umbrella ATL mass transit agency cannot expand too far beyond demand. In fact, outside of the line that will eventually run from Downtown Atlanta to Emory, MARTA does not have any concrete plans to expand rail. Gwinnett residents voted down MARTA rail expansion in March. A big part of that proposal and other, more firm plans is to have more bus routes, including bus rapid transit. B.R.T. is an express bus system that advocates call a “train on wheels.” That sounds more attractive than regular buses and much more cost effective and attainable than heavy rail, but will people use it? That is far from a guarantee. 

Autonomous vehicle technology is mind blowing. The idea of computer-operated cars taking the wheel and driving more safely and efficiently than humans is closer to reality than some realize. Aside from the lack of human judgment aspect, however, there are other big obstacles to driverless cars making a dent in our traffic woes. The more advanced forms of this technology, say, Teslas, are cost prohibitive for many. But even if people started saving their money and buying these fancier cars, the vehicular turnover will not be significant enough anytime soon. For this technology to really make the impact that innovators project, there need to be virtually zero human drivers. Newer cars now are made better and last longer, so therefore people will take longer to upgrade. 

But even if every driver needed to buy a new car, the fear of change will also stymie this progression to driverless vehicles. Just the idea of a computer taking the wheel is intimidating. And some people enjoy driving. These factors are glossed over oftentimes when idea people ideate. Human behavior: the x-factor. 

Security or certainty is also a speed bump for the proliferation of electric vehicles. EVs, or at least hybrids, have been around for years. But one has to make quite a few concessions to switch over from the combustion engine. Ian Bogost, an Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies at Georgia Tech, wrote about this predicament recently in The AtlanticHe has been looking to upgrade from his rundown Jeep, but electric vehicles just don’t have the mileage range of a tank of gas. He also noted that a traditional 110V outlet takes about a day to charge the average electric car and that most homes would need a modification to allow the faster-charging 240V circuit. Since our society uses mostly gas-powered cars, gas stations are everywhere. Charging stations are in more and more places, but there are far less of those. A practical person may cringe at the idea of uncertainty or a more limited distance on a trip, even if choosing that EV is more cost-effective and eco-friendly. 

Making bold statements about the future of commuting and how behind our society or just Atlanta by itself is easy. When I write about traffic, I often receive social media comments or emails about how lacking MARTA is. But even unlimited funds can’t assuage the unpredictability of human behavior. They also cannot pave over the fear of uncertainty. Undoubtedly, better public transportation, more driverless cars, and an increase in electric vehicles will help our commutes. But pushing these inert ideals out of the friend zone will take time, persistence, and patience. 

» RELATED: Gridlock Guy: My ultimate pet peeve behind the wheel

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 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@coxinc.com.

Read More

News

  • A black woman was watching her 8-year-old nephew when she was fatally shot by a white police officer inside her Texas home. >> Read more trending news  A Fort Worth police officer did not announce that he was an officer before firing a single shot striking Atatiana Jefferson, who was inside the room with the boy, Fort Worth police Lt. Brandon O’Neil said at a news conference Sunday.  “What the officer observed and why he did not announce ‘police’ will be addressed as the investigation continues,” O’Neil said in a statement. “The members of the Fort Worth Police Department share your very real and valid concerns, as do the members of this city and people across the country. This tragic loss of life has major ramifications for all involved, especially the family of Ms. Atatiana Jefferson.” O’Neil declined to answer reporters’ questions and said Fort Worth police Chief Ed Kraus plans to conduct a more in-depth news conference Monday. The family also confirmed Jefferson was watching her nephew at the time. The two typically lived with an older woman who’s been in the hospital. Jefferson’s family is seeking answers. “It’s another one of those situations where the people that are supposed to protect us are actually not here to protect us,” said Jefferson’s sister, Amber Carr. “You know, you want to see justice, but justice don’t bring my sister back.” Lee Merritt, an attorney for the family, said the officer never had time to perceive a threat.  “You didn’t hear the officer shout, ‘Gun, gun, gun,’” Merritt said. “He didn’t have time to perceive a threat. That’s murder.” Neighbor James Smith called a nonemergency line Saturday for a welfare check after noticing the lights were on and a door was open. Fort Worth police released bodycam footage soon after the incident Saturday.  Video shows officers with flashlights and guns drawn scanning the perimeter of the home. The front door appears to be open although the screen door is closed. As officers continue to walk through the property, one of them sees a person standing at a dark window and yells: “Put your hands up. Show me your hands,” before firing a single shot.  Police located a gun in a bedroom when they entered the house. Investigators did not indicate if Jefferson was holding the firearm. The officer, who has not been identified, has been placed on administrative leave. He has been with the department since April 2018. He is scheduled to be interviewed by investigators Monday.  The shooting comes less than two weeks after a white former Dallas police officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of murder in the fatal shooting of her black neighbor inside his own apartment. Amber Guyger, 31, said during her trial that mistook Botham Jean’s apartment for her own, which was one floor below Jean’s. Merritt also represents Jean’s family. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Kenny Dixon, the longtime drummer for Georgia-raised country music star Kane Brown was killed in a car accident, the band confirmed Sunday. >> Read more trending news  Dixon was from Dalton, Georgia. It's unclear where the crash happened but his bandmates say he died Saturday. 'It is with profound sadness and disbelief that we confirm we lost our drummer Kenny this weekend in a tragic car accident,' the band wrote in a statement. 'Kenny was a member of our family from the very beginning, and our hearts are with his fiancée Sarah, his son and everyone who knew and loved him. He was truly one of the greatest and kindest people on and off stage we’ve ever known.” Dixon's fiance, Sarah Hendrick, also confirmed the musician's death in an Instagram post on Sunday. 'I’m at a loss of words. I don’t even know how to write this or ever thought I would have to. Kenny passed away last night in a car accident. I know I have to be strong for Levi and God is gonna pull us through this. We have a forever guardian angel watching above us now. Please keep Levi, my family, and Kenny’s family in your prayers,' she wrote. Dixon and Hendrick were set to wed Nov. 30 in Dalton, according to the couple’s wedding website on The Knot. They were parents to a son, Levi. Brown also commented on the drummer’s death on social media.
  • A former University of Georgia student pleaded guilty Friday to running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors, including fellow students and their families, from his Athens fraternity house. >> Read more trending news  Syed Arham Arbab, 22, of Augusta, admitted to defrauding 117 people in a scheme that attracted about $1 million from investors, prosecutors said. A news release said Arbab spent funds on clothes, shoes, adult entertainment and gambling trips to Las Vegas. “The defendant engaged in a pattern of deceit to gain the trust of unwitting investors who gave him their hard-earned money for what they believed was a sound investment,” Charlie Peeler, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, said in the release. From May 2018 to May of this year, Arbab sought investors for Artis Proficio Capital Management and Artis Proficio Capital Investments. Prosecutors said Arbab issued false account statements and misrepresented the size of the funds and returns. Among his false claims, prosecutors said, Arbab said a former UGA athlete and NFL star was among his investors. Arbab pleaded to a single count of securities fraud. He is scheduled for sentencing in January. In late May, the Securities and Exchange Commission initiated a civil complaint against Arbab, which is pending. In June, a federal judge froze Arbab’s assets and those of his investment funds. At the time, the SEC alleged Arbab defrauded at least eight investors of $269,000, but warned that the size of the scheme could be larger. In text messages, Arbab allegedly told investors his firm was “different because we target young investors/college kids,” and he charged lower commissions, the SEC complaint said. Arbab allegedly told investors he guaranteed investments of up to $15,000. The SEC said Arbab also sold “bond agreements,” which were like loans. Instead, Arbab allegedly deposited funds in his bank account and used new proceeds to pay off previous investors who sought money. A bio on the website for Artis Proficio stated that Arbab graduated cum laude from UGA with a degree in cellular biology, and that at the time, he working on a masters of business administration at UGA’s business school. Prosecutors said Arbab had in fact been rejected from the MBA program at UGA’s Terry College of Business.
  • When Stoneham firefighters arrived at a two-alarm fire around 12:30 p.m. Saturday, a woman living at the single-family home was on her roof overhang escaping the flames. >> Read more trending news   Stoneham police officers instructed her to jump from the overhang, and she was caught by Stoneham police officers Stephen Aprile and John Burton. She was the only person at the home at the time of the fire. 'Today marks the last day of Fire Prevention Week and the theme for this year covered how important it is for people to have an escape plan to get out of their home,' says Stoneham fire Chief Matthew Grafton. 'The resident who was at home at the time of (Saturday's) fire is an excellent example of someone who knew to find an available escape route and got herself safely out of the house as quickly as possible.' The fire was in the kitchen on the first floor and smoke was billowing from all windows. Crews from the Woburn, Melrose, Wakefield, Winchester and Reading fire departments helped on scene while Saugus, Medford and Malden firefighters helped with station coverage. Firefighters prevented the flames from spreading to the rest of the house, but the home sustained heavy damage from smoke and water, estimated at $150,000 to $200,000. The family of six who lived at the home is being helped by family and friends in the area. One dog was rescued and taken to a vet for evaluation. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
  • The final day of the Atlanta Air Show is canceled after a pilot ejected from a plane Sunday afternoon. The airshow began Saturday and was scheduled to continue Sunday afternoon at Tara Field near the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton.  >> Read more trending news  Capt. Kevin Domon-Grenier, a pilot with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, ejected from his aircraft shortly before the squadron was due to perform, the Snowbirds announced on Twitter on Sunday.  Domon-Grenier’s CT-114 Tutor crashed prior to the show’s opening, Airshow officials said. He made it safely to the ground and is OK, the CF Snowbirds said.  Nobody was injured when the plane crashed in an unpopulated area, according to the Snowbirds.
  • New Birth Missionary Baptist Church plans to redirect a donation it received from rap artist Kanye West to Atlanta’s Morris Brown College, officials said.  Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant on Sunday announced a financial contribution to the HBCU’s general scholarship fund, according to a New Birth spokesman.  The announcement came during the 9:30 a.m.  church service. Bryant, senior pastor of New Birth in Stonecrest, said the funds  will be used to make a financial contribution in honor of the Grammy Award-winning artist’s late mother Donda West, who previously served on the faculty at Morris Brown.  The size of the donation wasn’t immediately announced. Morris Brown College has struggled financially since losing its accreditation in 2002. Only a few dozen students attend the college, down from as many as 2,700 in the mid-1990s. Among Historically Black Colleges and Universities, it is the only one in Georgia founded by African Americans. Kevin James, the college’s interim president, told New Birth’s congregation Sunday that Morris Brown was approved Friday as a higher learning institution by the Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission. He called it a “major step” toward accreditation.  “When you lose your accreditation, you close,” James said during the Sunday service. “But for some reason, for the past 17 years, Morris Brown College has been able to survive. We will be the first historically black college in history ... since 1837 to actually come back and be fully accredited under these circumstances.”   Kanye West visited New Birth Sept. 15 for a popup Sunday performance as a part of his “Sunday Service” series. Lines waiting outside New Birth began forming several hours before the service. RELATED: Kanye West brings ‘Sunday Service’ to Atlanta West has been making such appearances on Sundays this year, including one in Dayton, Ohio, to help that community in the wake of a mass shooting and on Easter Sunday to bring a message of faith to those attending the music festival Coachella. The announcement from New Birth came a day after West brought his Sunday Service series to Howard University, a prestigious HBCU in Washington, D.C.  It also came weeks after West defended his endorsement of President Donald Trump, whose support of HBCUs has been mixed.  MORE: HBCUs and Trump: up and down relationship “I went into prayer, and it dawned in me in prayer that Dr. Donda West, who was the mother of Kanye West, is a former professor at Morris Brown College,” New Birth’s Bryant said during Sunday’s service.  Donda West started her teaching career at Morris Brown College as an English instructor in the 1970s, and later became the department chair, according to an obituary. “I know what Dr. Donda West represented while at Morris Brown, and her mind for African American literature, was to empower, equip and engage students to be something radical that can change community and change society,” Bryant said.  In other news: