ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
63°
Mostly Cloudy
H 64° L 47°
  • cloudy-day
    63°
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Cloudy. H 64° L 47°
  • cloudy-day
    64°
    Today
    Mostly Cloudy. H 64° L 47°
  • rain-day
    58°
    Tomorrow
    Rain. H 58° L 48°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Local
Gridlock Guy: MARTA survives emergency and is admirable in big Super Bowl test
Close

Gridlock Guy: MARTA survives emergency and is admirable in big Super Bowl test

Photo Credit: Mandi Albright/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Learn more about metro Atlanta's bus and rail transit system in the AJC's "5 things to know" series.

Gridlock Guy: MARTA survives emergency and is admirable in big Super Bowl test

In this space two weeks ago and in AJC transportation writer David Wickert’s late January column, we agreed that MARTA’s reputation was at least partially on the line by how it operated during Super Bowl 53. Super Bowl week was a complicated one for Atlanta’s bus and rail service, but judging by the traffic flow and the positive reviews of Atlanta from out-of-town visitors, MARTA seems to have performed very well on the world’s stage. And this is despite several big obstacles along the way.

» RELATED: MARTA was ready for its Super Bowl close-up

The biggest problem MARTA faced was completely out of its control. A fire near the tracks close to the busy Brookhaven Station caused big service interruptions Saturday evening. But it wasn’t just one brush fire on another property that forced MARTA to set up a bus bridge between the Lenox, Brookhaven, Chamblee, and Doraville rail stops.

“A Rail Supervisor had all trains use the track farthest away from the [initial] fire,” MARTA spokesperson Stephany Fisher told the AJC. So, the trains were still running at that point. “That Supervisor then reported a second fire, again, not on MARTA property, and ordered all rail service through that portion of the Gold Line suspended.”

Firefighters ran out of water fighting the fires, which then caused the conflagrations to rekindle as they searched for another water source. Fisher said this caused the bus bridge to last an hour and five minutes, with seven northbound trains stopped at Lenox and their passengers sent to buses.

MARTA was feeling the burden of not only its busiest travel day in decades — 270,000 riders, which MARTA said is more than double that of a normal Saturday — but also a shortage in bus drivers, some of which were still calling out sick in a union dispute. But MARTA was prepared for that also, Fisher said.

“MARTA experienced delays on some bus routes because of the bus operator sick-out. Supervisors were pulled in to operate buses to minimize the impact to customers. We were not anticipating a significant increase in bus ridership surrounding the Super Bowl since the majority of our customers accessed the event venues on the rail system. The sick-out did not have an impact on rail service,” Fisher said, adding that operators from other Metro Atlanta bus systems provided buses and workers to help with last Saturday’s emergency bus bridge.

» RELATED: Super Bowl 53 Wrap: How did Atlanta do?

While people were upset by the delays, the whole thing could have gone much worse. If MARTA had not staffed up, the rail system would not have been able to handle the crowds even without an emergency. If the agency hadn’t collaborated with CobbLinc, Gwinnett Transit, and SRTA — as they are doing in a broader way with the new ATL transit system — then they wouldn’t have been able to quickly implement a plan to move those commuters to alternate routes.

The Atlanta Streetcar, now run by MARTA, has often been lightly used. But Fisher said that was a different story last weekend: “The Streetcar saw heavy ridership the entire three-day Super Bowl weekend, with rail cars filled to capacity on almost every trip.” But it had its own difficulties. “On Saturday night, service was suspended when cars and overflow crowds turned away from Centennial Olympic Park filled the streets, making it impossible for the Streetcar to move safely through the downtown area,” Fisher said.

We saw those hordes on the WSB Jam Cams all weekend along Marietta St. and Centennial Olympic Park Dr. Driving down there was nearly impossible; moving a streetcar through there would seem unreasonable as well. Fisher said that service resumed by 8 a.m. Sunday.

MARTA actually saw significantly fewer riders on Super Bowl Sunday — an estimated 155,000 — than on Saturday. And Mass Exodus Monday saw 161,000 use the rail system. The security-line waits at the fully-staffed Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport saw many more delays than did MARTA.

Atlanta traffic and transit endured a million visitors, double the amount of MARTA riders, tens of thousands more air travelers, a winter weather scare, a bus driver sick-out, a fire near the tracks, and several big game-related road closures. Locals either stayed away or rode the rails. Atlanta traffic was light, considering the large crowds in town. And MARTA game-planned enough to zig and zag with the problems. Atlanta gets at least a solid B, if not better, for how it handled travelers on Super Bowl week. And MARTA was a big part of that. 

» RELATED: Opinion: MARTA: Playing hard outside M-B Stadium

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 passenger attempted to breach security at a TSA checkpoint at Orlando International Airport, an airport spokesperson said. >> Read more trending news  UPDATE 1:50 p.m. EST: Orlando police said a subject has been arrested after an attempted security breach at Orlando International Airport on Saturday.  The airport said security screening and shuttle services have resumed. UPDATE 1:40 p.m. EST: WFTV reporter Michael Lopardi sees long line for gates 1-59 stretches all the way down the corridor past the food court. Original report: A passenger attempted to breach security at a TSA checkpoint at Orlando International Airport, an airport spokesperson said. The incident caused a security scare at around noon Saturday, WFTV-TV reported. This attempted breach comes two weeks after a TSA worker died after jumping from a balcony inside the airport. Airport officials said the incident occurred at the checkpoint for gates 1-59. Law enforcement sources said the suspect was taken down with a stun gun. Officials said the screening process was paused and will resume. This is a breaking news story that will be updated as more information comes in.
  • A well-known Memphis rapper is facing drug, gun and theft charges in Shelby County, Tennessee. >> Read more trending news  Shelby County Sheriff's Office Deputies say James Baker, 22, better known as BlocBoy JB, is facing multiple charges. The rapper is wanted for possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, a convicted felon in possession of a handgun\ and theft of property, according to SCSO. BlocBoy JB is widely known for his hit song with Drake 'Look Alive.' He's expected to perform in Memphis in May.
  • A Springfield man is behind bars after he allegedly tried to rob a Hardee’s on Valentine’s Day. >> Read more trending news  Court records say 35-year-old Eric Dean walked into the restaurant just after 8 p.m. with a green and black bandanna covering on his face and threatened an employee with a butcher knife. When the employee declined to give him any money, Dean said he had a gun and would shoot employees if they didn’t do what he wanted, court records state. A different employee chased Dean out of the restaurant, and he fled the scene on his bike. Jamie Skaggs, an employee at Hardee’s said she wasn’t working at the the time of the incident, but was concerned about her co-workers who were. She said the employee who was threatened with the knife was a little shaken up, but seemed to be doing alright. “I wanted to make sure they were OK,” she said. “I’m glad he didn’t get anything.” She said she was surprised when her manager confirmed the news she had seen on Facebook, but she wasn’t surprised when she learned who the suspect was. She said she’s familiar with the man. “I was friends with him for years a while back,” Skaggs said. Records say Springfield police officers caught up with Dean in the 2200 block of Clifton Avenue shortly after the incident. Court records say Dean eventually confessed to the crime. “He advised he has been going through some tough times right now financially and was only trying to get enough money to pay his electric bill. He also said that his current girlfriend was pressuring him to come up with money soon or she was going to leave him,” an affidavit says. Officers found the knife that Dean allegedly used in the robbery in a nearby driveway, with a black backpack that was used to conceal the knife. Dean was jailed and appeared in Clark County Municipal Court on charges of aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence. Dean told visiting judge Thomas Hanna that he lost his job within the last week. Not guilty pleas were entered for him and his bond was set at $75,000.
  • On the same day Colin Kaepernick and the NFL agreed to end Kaepernick's collusion grievance against the league, a Hall of Famer suggested the former 49ers quarterback could be Tom Brady's replacement when Brady's time comes to an end. >> Read more trending news  Former wide receiver Cris Carter brought up the topic on “First Things First” on Friday morning, saying the Patriots may not need to look at the quarterback class in the 2019 NFL Draft as they begin to think about a future without Brady under center. 'I wouldn't be surprised if the Patriots looked at (Kaepernick),' Carter said. 'The Krafts are very, very fond of Colin Kaepernick. If someone will do it, it will be the people in New England.' In the past, Patriots owner Robert Kraft has shown his support for Kaepernick, telling the New York Times that he would 'very much like to see him in the league.' Kaepernick threw 72 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in five seasons as a starter, and also ran for 2,300 yards and 13 touchdowns to go with one Super Bowl appearance to his name.
  • A massive drug operation with ties to a Mexican drug cartel resulted in the arrest of six immigrants in the country illegally. >> Read more trending news  Six men are behind bars, accused of running an elaborate drug trafficking operation in Mecklenburg and Iredell counties. The man the suspects are tied to is the main rival of El Chapo's drug cartel. The operation was working under the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. The human rights group Justice in Mexico reported last year that the Jalisco New Generation Cartel started gaining power after El Chapo's arrest. Federal officials said more than 1,800 grams of meth were delivered from a luxury home in Statesville in August and October of 2018. The person who lived there, Oscar Rangel-Gutierrez, is an alleged high-level cartel member. Rangel-Gutierrez’s parents lived in a large home in Troutman, according to the indictment. Agents said a credible informant told the Troutman Police Department in 2014 that large amounts of cocaine were being stored at the address. Court documents indicated that Rangel-Gutierrez and the five other suspects were in the country illegally. Agents said Rangel-Gutierrez transported 30 kilograms of cocaine and an unspecified large quantity of methamphetamine in a one-month period from Texas to Georgia and North Carolina. An apartment in Hidden Valley, a home in Derita and another home in east Charlotte are tied to the investigation, according to court documents. Misty Joyner lives near the home in east Charlotte where agents said Rangel-Gutierrez stored drug proceeds while he and another suspect went to a nightclub. She can't believe her neighbors are potentially involved “Just devastating,” Joyner said. “They were good people.” Four of the suspects were in federal court uptown Thursday. They waived their preliminary hearings. Two other suspects were arrested in Florence, South Carolina and Cleveland. El Chapo was convicted of drug crimes earlier this week and will spend the rest of his life in maximum security prison. His cartel was once the biggest supplier of drugs to the U.S. Arrested: Rodolfo Martinez Oscar Rangel-Gutierrez Raul Rangel- Gutierrez Regulo Rangel-Gutierrez Francisco Garcia-Martinez Rigoberto Rangel-Gutierrez
  • The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of two women, both U.S. citizens, who say a border patrol agent unlawfully detained them outside a Montana convenience store because he heard them speaking Spanish. >> Read more trending news  Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez were at the convenience store when the border agent, identified as Paul O’Neal, approached them, according to the federal lawsuit filed Thursday. O’Neal allegedly commented on Hernandez’s accent and then asked the women where they were born. Hernandez was born in California and Suda was born in Texas, the ACLU said. The women showed O’Neal their valid Montana driver’s licenses. At that point, the lawsuit said O’Neal detained the women in the convenience store’s parking lot. The women then began taking video of O’Neal on their cellphones. 'Ma'am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here,' O'Neill said in the video. The two were detained for about 40 minutes, according to the lawsuit. The women’s ACLU lawyers said O’Neal should have let them go as soon as they identified themselves as U.S. citizens. In detaining them, the lawsuit argues that O’Neal violated the women’s Fourth Amendment rights barring unreasonable search and seizures. The lawsuit also argues the women were racially profiled, a violation of the Fifth Amendment right to due process. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Jason Givens declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said in an email to The New York Times, “lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations.” In May, CBP spokesman Andrew Meehan told ABC News that speaking Spanish alone 'is not enough' to pull someone over or ask for ID. However, he said it's possible O'Neal 'very well could have been following procedure.' According to a statement from the ACLU, the experience was “humiliating and traumatizing” for the women. It said the women have been “shunned and harassed” by other town residents. “This unjustified and discriminatory seizure is part of a longstanding pattern of abuse by local CBP agents. It is illegal and must stop,” said Caitlin Borgmann, executive director of the ACLU of Montana. Suda and Hernandez are asking for an unspecified amount of money in compensation, punitive damages and a judge's order barring border officials from stopping or detaining anyone based on race, accent or language, according to the lawsuit.