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Smartphone navigation apps could be causing more traffic backups, research suggests

If you use a navigation app on your smartphone to get to work quickly, you may be surprised to learn that new research suggests those apps can make traffic worse.

>> Watch the news report here

Residents of a popular Atlanta neighborhood told WSB-TV that they have seen more traffic as navigation apps have increased in popularity. 

>> Read more trending news 

“It’s a very confusing neighborhood, a very tough place to drive,” said Bill Bolen, vice president of the Ansley Park Civic Association. “There’s this disconnect between common sense and the app that can lead to a bad outcome when you felt like you were going to get a good outcome.”

None of this is a surprise to Alexandre Bayen, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkley.

“What we see over the years is that, with the increased app usage, as more and more people use these apps, we see traffic jams appearing where there was no traffic before,” Bayen said.

Bayen’s team discovered that, when selfish navigation app routing sends drivers away from main throughways onto small surface streets, they can turn one bottleneck into several as drivers leave freeways for surface streets. 

>> On WSBTV.com: What does Atlanta's record population growth mean for traffic?

“The way a traffic app works is it routes you selfishly towards your destination as fast as possible, but it does not take into account the effect you have on the system,” Bayen said. 

Researchers said that more traffic on roads not built to support it and drivers making longer trips to save time can increase noise and carbon pollution, but there are ways to curb the congestion. 

“Alternating the urban infrastructure, such as adding stop signs, changing the mirroring lights, changing the signal timing plans for traffic lights-- all things jurisdictions can do very easily,” Bayen said. 

Georgia Department of Transportation traffic engineer Matthew Glasser said he’s already seen how retiming lights on state routes has affected navigation apps users and interstate congestion. Crowdsourced information from apps means they can anticipate traffic patterns in real time. 

>> On WSBTV.com: Atlanta traffic among worst in the world, study finds

“It’s been huge for us to have that communication going back and forth,” Glasser said. “Think of it like bypass surgery. Now that we have a blockage here, we can get around it.”

Bolen said his neighborhood has spent millions of its own dollars adding traffic circles and speed tables and narrowing streets.

“I’m sure it annoys some cut-through drivers but at the same time, it’s really increased the safety and lowered speed on our streets,” Bolen said.

Bayen and his policy researchers said traffic-calming measures, like those Ansley Park uses, are a practical solution. 

“Long-term, we see a lot of resistance happening already, by changing their own traffic patterns, making it harder to drive through their neighborhood,” Bayen said. 

Bolen agrees that navigation apps are not going anywhere, so finding solutions to negative impacts is key. 

“It’s not about keeping people from cutting through, just about insuring that everyone does it safely,” Bolen said.

Hurricane Florence: These airlines will waive fees for flights impacted by storm

As the East Coast braces for Hurricane Florence to hit Thursday, several airlines have issued travel advisories

>> On WSOCTV.com: Tracking Hurricane Florence: Live updates from the Carolinas

Hurricane Florence is currently projected to hit the Carolinas as a Category 4 storm.

Here is the list of airlines that have waived fees as of Monday evening:

American Airlines

American Airlines will waive its change/cancellation fee if you are traveling through Sept. 16 at one of these airports:

  • Georgia: Augusta, Savannah
  • North Carolina: Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greensboro/High Point, Jacksonville, New Bern, Raleigh/Durham, Wilmington
  • South Carolina: Charleston, Columbia, Florence, Greenville/Spartansburg, Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach
  • Virginia: Charlottesville, Hampton / Newport News, Lynchburg, Norfolk, Roanoke

The waived fees are valid if you booked your ticket by Sept. 10.

Delta Air Lines

The Atlanta-based airline is waiving fees for flights scheduled from Sept. 13 to 16 to these airports: Charleston, South Carolina; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Greensboro, North Carolina; Jacksonville, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; New Bern, North Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; Newport News, Virginia; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; Savannah, Georgia; and Wilmington, North Carolina.

>> How dangerous is a hurricane? Understanding hurricane categories

The offer is valid for tickets booked by Sept. 10 and tickets must be reissued by Sept. 20. 

The airline said it is also capping air fares for flights from certain cities. The fare cap is $299 each way in coach class for flights to Atlanta from coastal cities in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia through Sept. 16. Some fares may be less.

The fare caps for flights from inland cities such as Raleigh-Durham are higher, up to $599 each way for coach class to the West Coast.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines said it has enacted guidelines through Sept. 16 at airports in Charleston, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; and Savannah, Georgia.

>> Hurricane, tropical storm and tropical depression: What’s the difference?

The airline has not specifically outlined what the guidelines are or if it is waiving fees. 

JetBlue

JetBlue will waive fees and fare differences for flights that are traveling in Charleston, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia.

>> 9 weather terms you should know when preparing for a hurricane

Their customers have until Sept. 20 to reschedule if they originally booked flights before Sept. 10. You can rebook online at jetblue.com or call 1-800-JETBLUE.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines said flights for Charleston, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina; Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Virginia; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia, could be impacted.

>> What is a storm surge and why is it dangerous?

Anyone with flights into or out of those airports from Sept. 11 to 17 can rebook without paying an additional charge. Customers can reschedule their flights online or by calling 1-800-435-9792. 

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines said it is waiving the fees for flights at Asheville, North Carolina; Greensboro, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia. The original travel dates must be from Sept. 12 to 16.

>> Read more trending news 

Customers must rebook their flight by Sept. 20 or a fare difference may apply. 

– Information from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was used in this report.

Parents say airline never notified them about unaccompanied children's diverted flight

Two parents in Orlando are upset after they say their children were stranded in Atlanta without their knowledge while the children were flying as unaccompanied minors on a Frontier Airlines flight from Iowa.

They say no one contacted them after the plane carrying their children was diverted to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport due to weather and that Denver-based Frontier should have called them to ask if it was okay to drive the children to a hotel before they decided to make that move.

>> Read more trending news

Etta, age 7, and Carter, age 9, were flying July 22 from a visit to see their grandparents in Des Moines, Iowa, back home to Orlando, scheduled to arrive at 10:46 p.m. 

But storms in Orlando caused a ground stop, and the flight diverted to Atlanta late at night.

The children stayed at a hotel with an airline worker and shared a room with four other children. It was the children’s first flight without their parents.

The incident highlights what can go wrong when children fly unaccompanied -- even on a nonstop route -- if a flight is diverted to an unfamiliar city.

While the Frontier flight diverted to Atlanta, sometimes flights get diverted to an airport in a small town where the airline may not even have staff.

“This was the first year I said okay, they’re old enough to fly on their own, they know their phone number, they know their address,” said Etta and Carter’s mother Jennifer Ignash. But when the flight got diverted, “it was like, okay, panic.”

Frontier charges a $110 unaccompanied minor fee per child and does not allow unaccompanied minors on connecting flights.

The airline said in keeping with its policy, “the children were attended to at all times by a Frontier supervisor, placed in a hotel room overnight, and provided with food. Our records show that the children were in contact with their mother before being transported to the hotel and with their father the following morning before leaving on the continued flight. We understand how an unexpected delay caused by weather can be stressful for a parent and our goal is to help passengers get to their destinations as quickly and safely as possible.”

Ignash, who was waiting at the Orlando airport for her children that night, said multiple flights were diverted from Orlando, and “when that happens, it’s just a madhouse.” She got word that the children’s flight was diverted, and tried calling Frontier’s customer service line but says they couldn’t get her information about her children.

Ignash says she didn’t get a call from a Frontier employee until the next morning.

But an older unaccompanied minor on the flight let the children use his cell phone to call and text their parents.

“Without that child, we would have had zero idea where our kids were,” Ignash said.

Ignash says an employee using a personal vehicle took the children to a hotel, where six kids from the flight stayed in adjoining hotel rooms. The parents say they do not know who the employee was who drove the children or stayed with them in the hotel room.

“We never gave approval for that to happen,” Etta and Carter’s father, Chad Gray, said.

Alan Armstrong, an Atlanta aviation attorney Gray contacted, said he thinks there should be procedures and personnel at the airport to handle the problem.

“They just make it up as they go along,” Armstrong said.

Ignash said if parents decide to let their children fly as an unaccompanied minor, they should “understand what the airline’s policy and procedure is and get a direct contact.”

Gray said the worst part was not knowing what was happening.

“It was a bunch of circumstances that came into play all at the same time. I just don’t think Frontier is prepared to handle all those at once,” Gray said. “You like to minimize the risk that your kids have and you want to protect them. And not having any control over the process whatsoever, I think, is really, really frustrating.”

WSBTV.com contributed to this report.

Southwest Airlines employee accused of putting camera in bathroom, charged with voyeurism

A Southwest Airlines employee was arrested and charged with voyeurism Sunday morning at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle.

>> Watch the news report here

A witness told KIRO-TV that he saw Port of Seattle police officers surround the suspect and put him in handcuffs near gate B-9 about 11:30 a.m.

>> Man arrested after allegedly working out nude at New Hampshire gym

The suspect, Nicholas Williams, 25, who works for Southwest, was arrested on suspicion of voyeurism.

He was booked in to the King County Jail and appeared before a judge Monday afternoon.

Prosecutors say Williams put a camera in a bathroom at the gates that children sometimes use on their own. 

Investigators say Williams admitted he had done it four or five times before.

>> Read more trending news 

Southwest Airlines released the following statement:

"We will work with the appropriate authorities as they investigate an accusation that involves one of our Seattle employees. We do not have additional details to provide."

Besides working for Southwest Airlines, Williams also volunteers at the Chehalis Centralia Railroad and Museum. He posted pictures on his Facebook page last Friday.

The judge set his bail at $90,000. If he gets out of jail, he is not allowed to have contact with children.

Boy Scout's toy grenade prompts evacuation, delays at Houston’s Hobby Airport 

A Boy Scout’s toy grenade was the “suspicious device” behind the evacuation of the security checkpoint at Houston’s Hobby Airport early Thursday, KPRC reports.

Here are the latest updates:

Update 7:01 a.m. EDT June 7: A Boy Scout’s toy grenade prompted the evacuation of Hobby Airport’s TSA checkpoint, Houston police said Thursday morning.

According to KPRC, the 17-year-old was detained after security screeners found the toy in his bag. 

“No word on any penalties,” KPRC tweeted.

The airport has reopened the checkpoint and allowed travelers back into the area.

“Now might be a good time for a gentle reminder that there are items you CANNOT bring through security checkpoints,” the airport tweeted, along with a list of TSA-approved items.

Update 6:43 a.m. EDT June 7: The suspicious device has been removed, the airport tweeted just after 6:30 a.m. EDT Thursday.

“Device has been removed, and TSA is re-opening the checkpoint and working to resume passenger screening,” Hobby Airport tweeted. “Expect some delays through security, and as always check with your carrier to see if your flight has been impacted.”

Passenger Michael Oder tweeted a photo from the scene.

“Looks like things are clearing,” he wrote.

Update 6:26 a.m. EDT June 7: The airport confirmed the news in a tweet just after 6 a.m. EDT Thursday.

“The TSA security line has been closed due to a suspicious device being found during screening,” the airport tweeted. “Please check with your carrier to see if your flight is being impacted by this delay. We will post updates as they become available.”

One traveler tweeted that passengers had to evacuate the airport but were let back in:

>> Read more trending news 

Delta plane evacuated in Denver after smoke fills cabin

Passengers were evacuated from a Delta Air Lines plane Tuesday night after smoke was reported in the cabin.

>> RELATED STORY: Southwest Airlines plane, pickup truck collide at Baltimore's BWI Airport

According to KDVR, 146 passengers were on board the MD-90, which was traveling from Detroit to Denver, the Atlanta-based airline said. The evacuations occurred after the MD-90 landed at Denver International Airport just after 8 p.m. local time, the airline said.

>> RELATED STORY: Passenger killed in Southwest Airlines emergency landing identified

"After arrival in Denver and during taxi to the gate, Delta Flight 1854 from Detroit to Denver stopped on a taxiway where customers deplaned via slides and over-wing exits due to an observance of smoke in the cabin," Delta said in a statement, KDVR reported. "Airport response vehicles met the aircraft out of an abundance of caution and customers were transported to the terminal via buses. The safety of Delta's customers and crew is our top priority and we apologize for the concern this situation has caused."

>> Read more trending news 

At least one person was injured and taken to the hospital, officials told KUSA.

Read more here or here.

Southwest Airlines plane, pickup truck collide at Baltimore's BWI Airport

A truck struck a Southwest Airlines plane Monday morning at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, multiple news outlets are reporting.

>> RELATED STORY: Southwest Airlines cancels dozens of flights amid inspections after deadly engine failure

According to WJLA, none of the 172 passengers on Southwest Flight 6263 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were hurt when the pickup hit the plane, which was heading to its gate about 1:30 a.m. EDT. Those on board "were being assisted off the plane," WJLA reported.

Officials did not say whether the truck driver was hurt, WTOP reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The airline apologized to passengers who took to social media to complain when the incident put a snag in their travel plans.

"We're so sorry for the trouble tonight in Baltimore," the airline responded to one user who tweeted that it had been a "crazy couple of weeks" for Southwest. "We appreciate your patience, and our Team will do everything they can to get you all on your way as soon as possible."

>> RELATED STORY: Passenger killed in Southwest Airlines emergency landing identified

The incident comes less than one month after a Southwest passenger died when a plane with a damaged engine and broken window made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

Read more here or here.

Railroads offering new hires up to $25K in signing bonuses, report says

Want to work on the railroad? If so, you could get your bank account on the right track with a massive bonus.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Texas-based BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) Railway and Nebraska-based Union Pacific Corp. are trying to attract new employees by offering as much as $25,000 in signing bonuses.

>> Read more trending news 

The news comes "as the freight railroads struggle to fill jobs in a historically tight labor market," the Journal reported.

"Freight volumes are rising on strong economic growth and industrial expansion, and a shortage of available truck capacity is pushing more shipments onto rails," the report continued.

Check out the railroads' job listings here or here.

Read the complete Wall Street Journal story here.

Delta passenger with multiple sclerosis says airline employees tied her to wheelchair

A woman with multiple sclerosis says Delta Air Lines employees tied her to her wheelchair because she can’t sit up on her own and they didn’t have the chair she needed.

>> Watch the news report here

Maria Saliagas travels to Europe with her husband every year. When she was diagnosed with MS five years ago, she didn’t want to break her tradition of traveling with her husband.

>> Southwest Airlines cancels dozens of flights amid inspections after deadly engine failure

She said Delta normally accommodates her by making sure staff members have a proper wheelchair that has straps to help her sit up straight.

When she flew out of Atlanta on April 1 and arrived in Amsterdam, Delta didn’t have a chair with straps, so employees tied her to a regular wheelchair with someone else’s blanket, said her son, Nathan Saliagas.

>> Memorial service held for woman killed during Southwest Airlines flight

“They took a dirty blanket and tied her forcefully with it, and she has bruise marks on part of her arm because it was so tight and she started crying. That’s when that picture was taken,” Saliagas said.

A Delta representative sent WSB-TV a statement about the incident, saying: 

“We regret the perception our service has left on these customers. We have reached out to them, not only to resolve their concerns, but also ensure that their return flight exceeds expectations.”

>> Read more trending news 

The family returns to Atlanta on April 30.

When the family complained to Delta, they said the airline offered them 20,000 free SkyMiles, but they said that's not enough. 

They want to see a policy change regarding how Delta handles passengers with disabilities.

Southwest Airlines cancels dozens of flights amid inspections after deadly engine failure

Southwest Airlines said it canceled about 40 flights Sunday as it inspects engine fan blades in the wake of an engine failure last week that led to one passenger’s death.

>> Memorial service held for woman killed during Southwest Airlines flight

That’s about 1 percent of Dallas-based Southwest’s daily schedule of nearly 4,000 flights. The airline encouraged passengers to check their flight status. “We anticipate minimal delays or cancellations each day due to the inspections,” Southwest said in a written statement.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines has the same type of engines on the Boeing 737s in its fleet and is also adding ultrasonic inspections of the engines, but said it doesn’t expect any operational impact to customers.

>> Who was Jennifer Riordan, the passenger killed on a Southwest Airlines flight?

Both airlines last week, in advance of the Federal Aviation Administration’s official release of an emergency airworthiness directive, said they would accelerate the inspections.

The FAA on Friday issued the anticipated directive requiring airlines to inspect fan blades on certain engines within 20 days. The directive draws from information gathered in the investigation of Southwest’s engine failure last Tuesday. The FAA said the inspection requirement is estimated to affect 352 engines in the United States and 681 engines worldwide.

>> Passenger killed in Southwest Airlines emergency landing identified

The CFM56-7B engine that blew on the Southwest flight showed evidence of “metal fatigue,” according to the National Transportation Safety Board. That engine model is on all of Southwest’s 737-700s and 737-800s, which make up the vast majority of Southwest’s fleet.

>> Read more trending news 

Delta has a fleet of about 185 Boeing 737s with the engines, out of a fleet of more than 800 planes of various types.

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