Over the years, the way in which the traffic information was gathered by the staffers of the news services changed very little; for instance, staffers mostly contacted police agencies by telephone. The way in which the information was put together into reports changed slightly, too; in the 1960s, 1970s, and most of the 1980s, traffic reports were typed up on typewriters, and, in the very late 1980s and through the 1990s to 2000, reports were typed up on computers, such as on Data/General terminals connected to a mainframe computer or on personal computers tied together through a LAN system. This section shows some changes that took place at the Auto Club or AAA Michigan over the years.
A-Line -- On February 17, 1989, AAA Michigan fired up the seven-day-a-week and 24-hour-a-day "A-Line." It was an in-house information telephone service. It had six features or channels of information. Pressing "1" on a touch-tone telephone gave a listener access to Employee Services and other Employee Services information; pressing "2," personnel news; pressing "3," AAA Michigan products and services; pressing "4," external affairs and industry trends; pressing "5," Sales and Claims news; and pressing "6," questions about and employee responses to the "Ten Second Survey." Not long after the start-up date, Channel Six was given a "Payday Playoff" game. The telephone number was 336-2600 (in Metropolitan Detroit) and 1-800-284-4999 (in outstate areas).
Three channels were added to "A-Line" on January 5, 1990. The channels were "On Location" (which was news from Metro and Outstate offices and was on "4"), "Weather" (which was National Weather Service information for the Detroit area and was on "8"), and "Traffic & Road Conditions (which was "7" and had, depending on the day and time of day, traffic reports from the AAA Safety Copter, ski reports, or reports from The Icicle News Service, The Weekend News Service, or The Holiday News Services). And Channel "1" became known as "News on First" and offered AAA Michigan news and insurance industry news.
Computers -- By mid-1965, twenty years before most employees of AAA Michigan would regularly have a computer at their desks, computers were already being used by the Auto Club in the Data Processing department. On the 8th floor of the Auto Club headquarters at 139 Bagley, Detroit, there was a 1410 IBM in mid-1965. The Data Processing department began using an IBM Optical Reader (or IBM 1418) in mid-January 1967, and, by June 1968, the department had three IBM 360 computers (models that IBM had introduced commercially in April 1964), two Model 40s, one Model 30, an Optical Scanner, 14 tape drives, six disc units, and two teleprocessing units.
An article in the July/August 1969 edition of "Wheels" noted some information from the System and Processing department:
"A large percentage of Main Office personnel is probably aware of the prototype teleprocessing system which has been in effect for the last two months.
"Teleprocessing (TP) information is currently available through television-like terminals called cathode ray tubes (CRT's). When first implemented TP information was somewhat basic, containing member name, address and membership number. The terminals were located in Central Records with an auxiliary in the Computer Room....
"Expansion of service will begin extensively in January, 1970, with an expected implementation rate of two terminals a month for 10 months. Many divisions will receive terminals; presently it is not economically feasible, however, to place a terminal in every divisional office. The terminals will be IBM 2740s which closely resemble a typewriter. The 2740 gives a paper 'hard copy' output unlike the IBM 2260 CRT 'soft copy' output. The present Teleprocessing-Inquiry system, originated in July of 1968, is a tremendous step ahead in telecommunications.... "
The next step ahead came in May 1982, when a $4-million-dollar IBM 3081 was installed at the headquarters building at One Auto Club Drive. The response time for this computer, which was to serve about a 1,500-terminal network, was from six-to-eight seconds, an improvement of about two-to-four seconds over the previous 10-year-old technology. AAA Michigan had 204 terminals at the time. Besides the IBM 3081, Computer Operations employees also installed a companion computer, an IBM 3082.
Another IBM 3081, which was being leased, was installed about six months later in the Computer Room at the headquarters building at One Auto Club Drive.
It was not till late 1983 that the computer-in-every office concept at AAA Michigan was announced to all employees, such as in the December 1983 edition of "Wheels." A pilot program, using Data General's Comprehensive Electronic Office, was scheduled to begin in early 1984--in the Marketing department. The December 1983 edition of Wheels--in the article "Office Automation: Taking a Giant Step into the Computer Age"--noted:
"...After analyzing thirteen vendors, Data General was selected, not only for its capability in addressing the applications of the Marketing Department, but also for its ability to blend well with the IBM mainframe and environment which is already in place. It was established at the beginning of the vendor selection that the selected product must co-exist and comfortably blend with the systems already in use at the Auto Club...."
The Data General system--or DG system--allowed for electronic mail, a calendar, and extensive word processing. The system also offered a graphic package, which meant, for instance, that bar charts and pie charts could be created. The arrival of the Data General system finally brought a monitor and a keyboard to the desks of many employees within the company over the next few years.
The next big change for the "computer people" at AAA Michigan took place during the Thanksgiving Day Holiday of 1996. During that holiday, staffers of Computer Services and hired vendors moved the big computers of AAA Michigan from the second floor of the headquarters building in Dearborn to the basement (that is, about the middle of the basement area of the original structure). The November 27, 1996 edition of "AAA Today" reported: "Equipment being moved includes the company's mainframe computers, tape drives, servers and net frames, and 48,000 computer tapes."
Early in 1997, staffers of the Broadcast and Administration department were told that they would soon be getting a new computer system--officially personal computers linked through a LAN system (though yet connected to the Data General system). Staffers took classes related to Microsoft Windows 3.1 and Microsoft Word 6.0, and, on May 27, 1997, staffers discovered something new at their desks--personal computers. It could be said that the machines were already outdated--since Intel had introduced the Pentium II microprocessor on May 7, 1997--but everyone seemed excited to have a computer containing a Pentium microprocessor from Intel and a color VGA monitor. A wonderful Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 5si printer arrived during the week of Monday, July 14, 1997. It was not till Friday, May 8, 1998, that the DG system was finally shut down to the staffers of Broadcast and Administration; that is, the DG system could no longer be accessed through the PC system. During the week of Monday, August 10, 1998, more PCs arrived, showing up on desks of those staffers who had not yet received PCs; these PCs had a version of Windows NT, instead of Windows 3.1. And then on Thursday, August 26, 1999, the computers that had Windows 3.1 (and Word 95) were updated with Windows NT (Version 4.0) and Word 97. More updating came on August 24, 2000; on that date, the personal computers of the department were given 500 megahertz Pentium III processors (the system units were Dell OptiPlex GX1s), new Dell E770p monitors (actually, used monitors it seems, since one had deep scratches on the face), Altec Lansing ACS95s speakers, and Dell AT101W keyboards, and the machines had Microsoft Windows NT Version 4.0 (operating system) and Microsoft Word 2000, and the system units now had CD-ROM drives.
Fax machines -- These are formally known as facsimile machines, some of the earliest of which appeared in offices of America in the 1920s. Today, there are fax machines and computers with fax cards. They are in offices almost everywhere.
"At AAA Michigan, claim centers were the first to acquire the machines as early as the 1970s and those machines have since become obsolete. 'The demand has been steadily increasing, ' said Communications' Fax Coordinator Betty Balbo. 'The real push to get faxes in most areas and offices began the first of this year .' There are approximately 60 fax machines throughout AAA Michigan."
Teletype -- This part simply notes an old form of communication used at the Auto Club. Teletype communication was introduced around 1950, serving primarily as a way of (as noted in the January 1966 "Wheels") "exchanging weather reports and road conditions" among the eastern automotive clubs of the U.S.A. This part is unable to note when the teletype system became obsolete at AAA Michigan.
Voice mail -- "Voice mail" arrived on June 19, 1989. The voice-mail program on this stated date was a pilot program involving about 300 employees, such as in Systems and Data Processing and in Sales and Marketing. The pilot program was originally scheduled to run three months. Now, everybody has voice mail!
WWW -- "WWW" stands for the World Wide Web, which is a service or special feature of the Internet; the feature is available to people with computers containing and running Web-browser application software, which can access a computer connected to the Internet that has Web pages, created with Web-page-making software. Generally speaking, the backbone of the Internet can be traced to the ARPANET network (or ARPAnet) of the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S.A. government) of 1969 and the possibility of a World-Wide Web feature to 1991, when the first software for creating "Web Pages" was created.
On Friday, March 1, 1996, AAA Michigan opened a World Wide Web site on the Internet (the address of which was and still is http://www.aaamich.com). The Web site allowed people with computers to access information about maps, tour books, "Triptiks," "Show Your Card & Save" retailers, annuities and insurance (such as term insurance and universal-life insurance), traffic conditions, 24-hour claim service, features for children in "For Kids Only" (such as coloring-book pages), "Michigan Living," AAA Michigan, and events and festivals scheduled in Michigan in upcoming days. In late 1996, a flight-reservation service was added, and it allowed computer users to set reservations and check on flights, and a feature called "How to Get There," allowing members to get information about how to get to places or between places, was set up, and "How to Get There" also offered some help in finding the nearest hotel or ATM machine within the area of a destination.
And on March 30, 2001, The Auto Club Group (one unit of which was AAA Michigan and another of which was AAA Wisconsin) publicly announced that it had a new Web site, and the address for this site, which was considered a "SuperSite" by The Auto Club Group, was www.autoclubgroup.com; a new version of aaamich.com, described by AAA Michigan as a "SuperSite," had been opened up in early February 2001.
DETROIT TRAFFIC HISTORY AND SERVICES
The business of providing traffic information to the public has become big business since 1965, when the Automobile Club of Michigan created the concept of The Holiday News Service; reporting road conditions to the public had begun before 1965 for the Auto Club--for instance, the Auto Club had been involved with a teletype network providing road conditions to AAA branches and the media in the late 1940s, and Motor News staffers had been involved with providing information about road conditions to the public--through the newspapers and some radio stations in the Detroit area--in the first half of the 1960s. Besides the Auto Club or AAA Michigan, there have been a number of services that have provided traffic information to motorists in the Detroit area, and there have been a number of individuals who have made history by being traffic reporters in the area. This section highlights some of the history of traffic reporting in the Detroit area, mostly by those not involved with the Auto Club or AAA Michigan.
The idea of providing radio stations and the public with traffic information about the freeways and main roads of the Detroit area began in the early late-1960s, beginning with the efforts of volunteers working for the Michigan Emergency Patrol (or MEP). Starting in the summer of 1967, staffers at MEP, based in the Fisher Building in Detroit, gathered information by sight and through citizens (such as those with CBs) and passed the information along to the media, such as WJR-AM. MEP was the lone provider of traffic information till Labor Day 1974.
Consider some information about MEP that appeared in an article in "Broadcasting" (May 10, 1976):
"At both WJR(AM) Detroit and WMAL(AM) Washington, volunteers are manning citizens band base stations and providing news departments, as well as police, fire and other officials, with traffic and emergency information.
"...The Michigan Emergency Patrol, another REACT team, has been at WJR for more than five years and...15,000 of 100,000 calls a year are turned into WJR traffic advisories.
"...Dale Berry, president of the Michigan group, estimated that the base station at WJR costs about $20,000 a year, including such expenses as space, telephone bills, and annual dinner for volunteers and even scholarships for young CB users. Mr. Berry added that WJR picks up about 75% of the tab and three Detroit FM's also participating--WMC [WOMC], WDRQ, and WBFG--pay the rest. The key to a successful station base, Mr. Berry observed, is volunteer time.
"...WJR's center operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week...."
On September 9, 1974, CKLW-AM (800)/CKLW-FM (93.9), Windsor, launched a traffic reporting service; in truth, the management at CKLW-AM/FM sent Jo-Jo Shutty up into the air in a helicopter as a traffic reporter, making her the first regular female traffic reporter flying above the skies of Detroit (but not the first "female" flying in a helicopter as a traffic reporter in the country).* The service had come about because of the work of Byron MacGregor, who was the news director at CKLW-AM/FM; MacGregor had convinced the owners of the station, Baton Broadcasting, Toronto, that a traffic-reporting operation was viable, considering the station was servicing the Motor City, which had the second-largest freeway system in the U.S.A. At first, Jo-Jo Shutty was flown in a helicopter run by Northland Helicopters of Howell. The association between Northland Helicopters and CKLW-AM/FM was short--lasting only about a half year--because Northland Helicopters had a base of operations or landing site that was far from downtown Detroit and Windsor. In 1975, Jo-Jo Shutty became a passenger and reporter on helicopters operated by Hi Lift Helicopters, which was based at Mettetal Airport, the Plymouth area; the owner of Hi Lift Helicopters was Barney Stutesman, who sometimes was the pilot for what was popularly known as "the CKLW Big 8 Traffic Copter." One of the regular pilots for the CKLW helicopter was Rich Jackson, who, at one time during the period while flying, was hijacked by people taking part in a plot to aide the escape of Dale Rembling from Jackson Prison. Jo-Jo Shutty became Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor on February 28, 1976, when Byron MacGregor and she were married. And "The Big 8" helicopter remained in the air till the 1977 Labor Day Holiday Weekend, and, on Labor Day September 4, 1977, Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor did her last traffic reporting from the air, providing traffic information to WJBK-TV Channel 2 (which was then the CBS television network affiliate in the Detroit area). When Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor stopped doing traffic reports for CKLW, she began to do weather anchoring and news reporting for WJBK, and CKLW discontinued having traffic reporters in a helicopter or in the air; although CKLW no longer had reporters in the air, the station still did provide traffic information to listeners. [*Note: Originally, this document noted that Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor (or Jo-Jo Shutty) was the first female traffic reporter in a helicopter in the country, and then I found other information many years later that showed that she was not, and she was not even the first person in a helicopter doing traffic reports in the Detroit area. To learn more about helicopter traffic reporting and helicopter traffic reporters in the Detroit area, see my document entitled T.H.A.T. Special Edition--The First Helicopter-based Traffic Reporters on Radio for the Detroit area of Michigan, which can be reached through this Helicopter Traffic link. Here I will note that the first traffic reporting by helicopter goes back to the late 1950s and the first traffic reporting on radio on a regular bases goes back to at least early 1949.]
And, so, for a short while onward, MEP was the main provider of traffic information to the media and public in the Detroit area (if, of course, the news services of the Auto Club are not being considered); that is, MEP was the main non-police entity providing traffic information to the public through the media. Of course, police officers--such as state police and city police--were providing information to the media and the public, as they had been for a long time. By the way, such as in the mid-1970s, CKLW was also using traffic information provided by the Police Traffic Center of the Traffic Safety Association (or TSA), as were other radio stations and as were some television stations.
In 1978, WWJ-AM began to lease a helicopter so that it could put reporters, such as Dick Haefner, in the sky to cover traffic conditions in the Detroit area during the rush hours (when the weather was good enough for flying). The helicopter was leased from and piloted by Pat Monks of Metro Copters, who had been a military pilot; Pat Monks, who would later be regularly known as "Captain Pat," had founded Metro Copters, Inc., with his wife so that he could bid on a contract to fly for WWJ-AM reporters. In 1979, Pat Monks became the flyer and reporter for WWJ-AM; staffers at WWJ-AM had not been eager to fly as traffic reporters. By December 1981, Pat Monks, now flying in a yellow Enstrom F-28 Shark, was well established as a traffic reporter in the skies over the Detroit area.
WJR-AM decided to have a traffic reporter in a helicopter above the skies of Detroit in 1981, and it was on December 7, 1981, that Joel Alexander took to the skies as a traffic reporter for WJR-AM. At first, Joel Alexander, who had piloted airplanes, was a passenger in a helicopter piloted by Dean Pode of PDQ Executive Air Services; the helicopter was a blue-and-white Enstrom. After Joel Alexander had received enough training and had been certified to fly helicopters, he became the pilot and traffic reporter in the sky for WJR-AM. Joel Alexander remained the regular rush-hour traffic reporter for WJR-AM till March 1983, when he was moved by WJR-AM management to afternoon air personality. Joel Alexander's position as traffic reporter was taken over by Dennis Neubacher.
The helicopter that Pat Monks was flying became known as the "AAA Safety Copter" on June 19, 1986; AAA Michigan was now sponsoring the copter and the traffic reports on WWJ-AM. Not long thereafter, AAA Michigan put other reporters--such as Glenn Oswald and Curt MacDougall--on the helicopter with Pat Monks so that reports could be given to other stations. The association between AAA Michigan and Pat Monks (and his Metro Copters, Inc.) ended on June 1, 1991.
At the end of 1995, the management at WJR-AM made a change with the on-air staff; Joel Alexander who had been co-hosting the afternoon drive-time program was removed from his duties. The change made at WJR-AM affected a number of persons; the action put Mitch Albom on the air on the weekday afternoons at WJR-AM, put Joel Alexander back in the helicopter for WJR-AM, and put Dennis Neubacher, who had become a helicopter pilot, out of work. Soon, though, on April 1, 1996, AAA/MEP (a AAA Michigan-sponsored entity) became associated with a helicopter again--in conjunction with WXYZ-TV Channel 7--and the pilot and reporter for the helicopter, who also would provide drive-time reports to WXYZ-TV, was Dennis Neubacher.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, traffic reporting services as national entities grew; that is, companies operating separate systems all over the country grew. By the mid-1990s, there were two main companies involved in running traffic-reporting services in metropolitan areas around the country; they were Metro Networks (informally known as "Metro Traffic") of Houston, Texas, and Shadow Broadcast Services of Rutherford, New Jersey. Metro Traffic, which had started out by providing reports to a radio station in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1978, became big competition for the established traffic reporters of the Detroit area in the early 1990s; however, Metro Traffic had had an office in the Detroit area starting in 1981. Through the 1990s, Metro Traffic continued to expand so that it could provide more and more reports to the ever-increasing number of stations requesting the Metro Traffic service in the Detroit area (besides other areas of the country); when the company went public in 1996, it was serving about 1,280 radio stations and 100 television stations around the country. For a while in the 1990s, Shadow was offering service of sorts in the Detroit area, but Metro Traffic was the dominant player in providing traffic information to radio stations, getting that information by, for instance, having reporters flying over the Detroit area in airplanes and having reporters in vehicles on the roads. In very early 1998, though, Shadow (which had been partly acquired by Westwood One, Inc., on March 1996 and would be fully owned by Westwood One, Inc., in May 1998) set up operations in earnest in the Detroit area.
In 1998, the four main leaders in providing traffic reports about roads in the Detroit area to motorists were Metro Traffic, Shadow Traffic, the WJR-AM helicopter, and AAA/MEP, the latter of which also included Dennis Neubacher, who was flying a helicopter and providing reports specifically for WXYZ-TV Channel 7.
The next year, the traffic reporting business was shaken up! First, on Wednesday, June 2, 1999, Westwood One, Inc., which was the owner of Shadow Traffic (operating in 16 markets in the country), announced through a press release that it was going to acquire Metro Networks, Inc.; at the time, Metro Networks was heard in 81 markets across the country, and Infinity Broadcasting Corporation was managing Westwood One and owned 18 percent of Westwood One (a radio-network business); the acquisition would be completed on September 23, 1999. Second, SmartRoute Systems in June 1999 became the partner of MEP, and AAA Michigan and MEP severed ties, leaving AAA Michigan with, for one, no real-time traffic information on its Web site, which it had had for some time, and, in August 1999, SmartRoute Systems was officially operating in the Detroit area, such as by supplying traffic information to WXYZ-TV Channel 7.
AAA Michigan was essentially left out in the cold as far as the traffic-reporting business in Detroit was concerned by the end of 1999. On January 10, 2000, AAA Michigan launched a Web page on its Web site that offered real-time traffic information, and it was part of an overall product called the "AAA Traffic Network," and material was available through the Web page from early morning to early evening on weekdays. Then, on April 3, 2000, AAA Michigan began running a new traffic reporting service or broadcasting service under the product name "AAA Traffic Network ," and the new traffic broadcasting service offered traffic reports to stations around the state through two shifts every weekday--one shift in the morning and one in the afternoon.; AAA Michigan had cancelled the roughly thirty-year-old Weekend News Service, which had had a last day of broadcasts on April 2, 2000.
While AAA Michigan was getting its AAA Traffic Network going in early 2000, other people were getting more involved in traffic. In early January 2000 (maybe for the first time on January 10, 2000), WJBK-TV Channel 2 began to provide traffic information on the "twos" during some weekday newscasts; it was Metro Traffic that provided audio feeds to WJBK-TV, and one of the regular staffers for Metro Traffic who did afternoon reports was Diane Cross, who used the name "Diane Lynn" and who had worked for AAA Michigan for a while in the 1990s. WWJ-AM had been receiving traffic information about Detroit-area roads from Metro Traffic for a number of years, but it seemed WWJ-AM wanted more traffic reports; in late January 2000, WWJ-AM started giving "Jam-Cam Traffic Reports" in the morning and afternoon drive times, doing that by having some of its staffers located at the MITS center (or the Michigan Intelligent Transportation Systems center), watching over the roughly 150 cameras related to the MITS center; the staffers gave reports following some of the Metro Traffic Reports, which were continuing to be offered at the "eights" each hour, as they had always been since at least the very early 1990s.
In early 2000, the traffic suppliers in the Detroit area were mainly SmartRoute Systems, Westwood One (such as through Metro Traffic), and AAA Michigan. WJR-AM still had a traffic helicopter (usually piloted by Joel Alexander, who was the broadcaster from the helicopter, too), and WJR-AM also had traffic information coming from a person in the "WJR Traffic Center," which was really the "Metro Traffic" center, and WJR-AM was promoting to the radio audience that WJR was the "only place you get traffic reports every 15 minutes." MEP yet existed; what few staffers that the service had were usually answering questions from telephone callers--the few people who still knew MEP existed--about traffic-related matters, such as where I-75 had construction.
AAA SAFETY COPTER
On June 19, 1986, AAA Michigan acquired a helicopter--a leased helicopter from a company known as Metro Copters, Inc. For the most part, the helicopter was used to broadcast traffic reports--16 every weekday (divided up between mornings and afternoons)--to radio stations in the Detroit area. The first voice heard on radio from the AAA Safety Copter was Pat Monks, the pilot. Monks was heard several times regularly on WWJ-AM (950) on weekdays between 6:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. and between 3:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. As other stations were added to the line up, other people joined Pat Monks in the mostly blue helicopter. Another reporter in the AAA Safety Copter was Glenn Oswald; he was later joined by Curt MacDougall. Both Oswald and MacDougall used various other names besides their given names to report to stations. By 1989, Oswald was using his given name, and he was calling himself, for example, "Sam Thomas" for WXYZ-TV; Curt MacDougall was Curt MacDougall and Jay Andrews and Tom Mackey.
Monks, Oswald, and MacDougall were all flying together on Wednesday, August 12, 1987; Oswald was providing traffic reports for WCZY-FM, and MacDougall was reporting for WOMC-FM. They became involved in following--from the air--a man driving a yellow Firebird that had--it had been alleged--hit a 1986 Buick in Plymouth Township. The man had fled the scene of the accident, and the AAA crew in the air helped police track the man in the Firebird, who in the end abandoned the Firebird; the chase had started at about 8:40 a.m., had gone on through Detroit-area streets for about 18 miles, and had reached speeds near 100 miles an hour. State police troopers and police officers from Plymouth and Livonia did most of the chasing. It was a Detroit police officer, who had been unaware of the chase till nearly the end, who caught the man. This type of chase was the fourth for Monks, who already had ten years of doing traffic reports for radio from helicopters.
The AAA Safety Copter was based at Dixboro, where an engineer was always stationed, such as Jack Williams in 1989. Besides the engineer and other non-AAA employees, others worked at the base over the years. Cynthia Bryant was doing reports for radio stations from the base in 1989. And Dawn Moore was another broadcaster who worked at the base.
Besides being used for reporting on the traffic conditions of the freeways and streets of the Detroit area, the helicopter was used to cover special events, such as the National Cherry Festival at Traverse City in July, the Spirit of Detroit Gold Cup hydroplane races, parades and festivals around the state, and at least one PAL Great Detroit Riverboat Race (in 1987). The helicopter helped get information about parking conditions for the International Freedom Fireworks (a Detroit/Windsor event) and football games at the University of Michigan and the Pontiac Silverdome. It was even used during some of The Holiday News Service events in the late 1980s.
For five years, AAA Michigan had the blue-and-silver helicopter; the flying days for the AAA Safety Copter were over on June 1, 1991.
AAA/MEP and MEP
In the summer of 1967, a group of people formed a traffic-reporting service that would provide information about Detroit-area road conditions and traffic problems; it was around this time--the 1960s, especially the late 1960s--that the Detroit freeway system was becoming larger. The traffic service, based in the Fisher Building in Detroit, became well known as the Michigan Emergency Patrol (or MEP); it started out as a Citizens Band entity or a REACT entity (having radio station KBW-5826) that got reports from people and police, and it passed along reports through CB radio, and the service was an all-volunteer service. In the fall of 1970, the service became aligned with WJR-AM, having a studio on the 21st floor of the Fisher Building and mostly operating during the rush-hour times of the day and weekday nights. Later the service was expanded to include WJR-AM and other radio stations, who subscribed to the service; WJR-AM was the main station taking the reports [Note: Over the years, MEP was based on 21st floor of the Fisher Building, the 22nd floor of the Fisher Building, and the 17th floor of the Fisher Building. Some time in the 1980s, it seems, traffic information was sent by computer systems (and telephone lines) to monitors (like television screens) at radio stations and such. Generally speaking, for most of the history of MEP, MEP was a stand-alone operation, that is from 1967 to about 1986; however, much of the funding during the years came from WJR, and other radio stations paid a nominal monthly fee to MEP to receive traffic information.
In early June 1989, AAA Michigan announced that it was now providing operational funding for the Michigan Emergency Patrol, which was still a nonprofit organization, and it was announced that AAA was installing new equipment at the MEP center and would install new terminals and modems at radio stations and television stations that wished to carry the Michigan Emergency Patrol service--and the cost of the terminal and modem would be $925, and the cost of a serial printer would be $300. MEP became officially promoted as "AAA/MEP." The staffers at the AAA/MEP center in the Fisher Building in Detroit began to work in conjunction with the people flying in the AAA Safety Copter and those on duty at the AAA Traffic Center (in Dixboro). A mostly complete list of radio stations and televisions stations receiving traffic reports from the collective efforts of those at the AAA/MEP center, the AAA Safety Copter, and the AAA Traffic Center around the time includes WHYT-FM, WQBH-FM, WJLB-FM, WHND-AM, WCSX-FM, WJR-AM, WWJ-AM, WJOI-FM, WDET-FM, WKQI-FM (formerly WCZY-FM), WJBK-TV CHANNEL 2, and WXYZ-TV CHANNEL 7. Also, AAA/MEP was providing information to the Michigan State Police and to SMART (or the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation), which had formally been known as SEMTA.
On April 1, 1996, AAA/MEP joined together with WXYZ-TV Channel 7, Detroit, to provide traffic reports during morning and evening news programs on the station. The reports began to be heard on weekdays between 5:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. and between 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. The reporter was Dennis Neubacher, who flew in a special helicopter, on which was a small television camera; Dennis Neubacher had recently been a helicopter traffic reporter for WJR-AM. Assisting on the ground--at the AAA-MEP headquarters in the Fisher Building--was Dave Frisco, a AAA Michigan employee; Dave Frisco's job was to give Dennis Neubacher information on traffic problems in the Detroit area that were telephoned to the AAA/MEP headquarters by citizens on the roads. Officially, the venture of having Dave Frisco work at the AAA/MEP base as an employee of AAA Michigan and provide information to WXYZ-TV ended on Friday, January 29, 1999, but WXYZ-TV still did use information provided by someone on duty at the AAA/MEP base after that date; Dave remained an employee of AAA Michigan, being a regular of the Weekend News Service and a member of The Icicle News Service for 1998-1999.
In the late 1990s, certainly after 1996, AAA/MEP was based in office space on the 24th floor of the Fisher Building. The regular hours of operation were from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. on the weekdays and on Saturdays. On Sundays, the hours varied; often, the service was unavailable on Sunday afternoons and early evenings, which was unlike the days of the 1970s and 1980s, when someone was usually on duty. To report problems to AAA/MEP, anyone could call 1-800-332-0233; for many years, people with Cellular One mobile telephones had been able dial *637 (also known as *MEP). Over the years, some people contacted MEP through its CB designation: KWB5826.
By the way, on Wednesday, November 26, 1997, a new console was installed at the AAA/MEP base; a MITS computer (or Michigan Intelligent Transportation Systems computer) had been installed a little before that.
Most of the people who were on staff at AAA/MEP in the late 1990s had been associated with MEP (or AAA/MEP) for many years or decades; for much of the 1990s, the staff had been getting smaller from year to year as people retired or died. What was needed for AAA/MEP by the very late 1990s was promotion. What came was not what the management of MEP proper might have hoped for.
During 1998-1999, negotiations were going on between AAA Michigan and MEP for MEP to receive continued funding or support from AAA Michigan. AAA Michigan was offering only another year of support; that is, AAA Michigan was offering one-year-at-a-time renewals. Because the managing board of MEP was hoping to get more than one year of funding at a time, the board was also involved in negotiations with a relatively new traffic service--or a soon-to-be traffic service--in the Detroit area, SmartRoute Systems, which had received a contract from the state of Michigan to operate the Michigan Intelligent Transportation Systems Center (or, less formally, the MITS center) in downtown Detroit . During the week of June 7, 1999, it was announced that MEP and SmartRoute Systems had come to an agreement--a three-year agreement--through which MEP would be funded by SmartRoute Systems. The three-page agreement left MEP as a service that could gather traffic information from travelers on the roads through telephone calls and provide traffic information (information that it gathered and information from SmartRoute Systems) to people who telephoned in, and some of the other things that MEP could do was provide information to SEMCOG/SMART and to a monitor in the lobby of the Fisher Building. Now, SmartRoute Systems controlled the MEP telephone number and was ready to package information for radio stations, television stations, and other entities that wished to be subscribers--for a fee.
By the way, SmartRoute Systems was supposed to pay MEP a sum of $44,000 each year (payable in monthly installments of $3,667).
From the time the contract was signed between SmartRoute Systems and MEP, AAA Michigan was expecting to soon lose service from the new MEP entity; one projected date was August 1. However, for several months, AAA Michigan continued to receive traffic reports from MEP proper for a short while; one reason for that was SmartRoute Systems kept delaying the start up of its SmartRoute service. During the last five months or so of 1999, each report from MEP was now identified as a "SmarTraveler/MEP TRAFFIC REPORT."
For the record, I provide the final official report received by AAA Michigan from the MEP entity, and it is presented in about the form it had on the monitor at AAA Michigan:
SmartTravel/MEP TRAFFIC REPORT ... December 31, 1999 .. 10:20 PM
OPERATOR: BOB BRAINARD #15
6:42 ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE REPORT: HIGHWAY 401, EASTBOUND IS CLOSED AT TILBURY DUE TO A SERIOUS CRASH INVOLVING AN OFFICER. THE DETOUR FOLLOWS QUEENSWAY (FORMER HIGHWAY 2) TO BLOOMFIELD, WHERE EASTBOUND TRAFFIC MAY REENTER THE FREEWAY JUST SOUTH OF CHATHAM.
THIS IS THE LAST TRANSMISSION THAT MEP IS PROVIDING TO ALL STATIONS ON OUR SYSTEM. IT HAS BEEN A PLEASURE TO PROVIDE THIS SERVICE TO YOU *******************************************************************
MEP WISHES EVERYONE A "SAFE" AND HAPPY NEW YEAR
DAILY CONSTRUCTION NOTES: (These are new items reported by the Mich Dept of Transportation, & other County/City Road Commissions.)
I-94 BETWEEN US-12 EXIT 185 AND US-23. MAY BE REDUCED TO A SINGLE LANE EACH DIRECTION DURING NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS UNTIL LATE FEBRUARY 2000.
M-102 (8 MILE ROAD), WESTBOUND AT EVERGREEN, IS REDUCED TO 2 LANES UNTIL Jan. 24th FOR UNDERGROUND WORK.
9 MILE RD, BETWEEN BERG RD AND TELEGRAPH RD, IS REDUCED TO A SINGLE LANE IN EACH DIRECTION UNTIL FEBRUARY.
M-59 AT SQUIRREL RD, SHOULDERS ARE CLOSED UNTIL APRIL, DURING BRIDGE WORK.
END OF REPORT
Use PgUp / PgDn keys to view report
This traffic report is provided as a public service by SmartRoute Systems and MEP Communications, Inc. The NO CHARGE *637 (*MEP) cellular phone number for traffic reporting & information is provided as a public service by Ameritech Mobile and AirTouch/CellularOne Communications.
COPYRIGHT December 31, 1999, MEP Communications, Inc., 313-875-0104
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
And that was it for the association between AAA Michigan and MEP. The presented report was not the final report that came over the traffic monitor related to MEP. Several times in January 2000, a few reports showed up on the screen during tests of the system; one report came down the line from MEP member Ruth Sparkman on January 7, 2000, for example. By the way, the "MEP equipment" (such as a WYSE-60 terminal and a "Brother M-1190" dot-matrix printer) was finally removed from Victor Swanson's cubical, where it had been for many years, on Thursday, July 20, 2000.
When MEP became associated with SmartRoute and when MEP became disassociated with AAA, MEP did not become revitalized. For example, Don Fournier (a member of MEP in 2000) reported in a couple conversations with Victor Swanson for this "portrait" about what took place at MEP between January 1, 2000, and mid-October 2000. His comments are presented as a collection of notes:
During the period (from January 1, 2000, to mid-October 2000), staffers of the "base" got almost no calls from the public about traffic conditions. One reason for that--Don believed--was that those people who had been regular callers from the roads were giving up on calling MEP, because they were rarely getting in touch with anyone at the "base." Often, the types of calls Don got from people on the roads were calls for directions, and police were becoming very less likely to send information about problems on the roads to MEP. Don noted that it seemed to him that people--in general--were not interested in donating time to be staffers of MEP; MEP was getting no new members to handle duties at the "base," and members who had been with MEP for some time--maybe many years--were doing less duty at the "base" or had quit. By October 2000, the "base" was usually only staffed on the weekday evenings and on Saturday and Sunday mornings; sometimes, people did not show up to do duty at the times the "base" was most likely to be staffed, and sometimes the "base" was in operation at other times. Don reported that SmartRoute Systems did not make support payments to MEP on a regular basis, as had been set down in the contract between MEP and SmartRoute Systems, but he did report that MEP got enough money to operate. From mid-2000 on (at least), MEP was mostly presenting only construction information to SmartRoute Systems, which could get construction information from other sources. Don stated that the last media entity to get service from MEP was WUFL-AM (a nonprofit radio station in Sterling Heights), and he could not remember when WUFL-AM dropped the service in 2000.
Additional AAA/MEP information:
The information that is provided within this part of the "AAA/MEP" section of the "portrait" gives names of some of the people who have worked at MEP (which was for a little while thought of as "AAA/MEP").
In the fall of 1994, Bill Appel was the coordinator (and he would be till his death in 1997). Most of the regular staffers at the control center at the time--it was officially AAA/MEP--were: Marilyn Appel, Tim Bannon, Jeff Bauer, Frank Boyd, Bob Brainard, Bill Butkovich, Grace Daniels, Janet Demming, John Diefenbaker, Steve Ernst, Don Fournier, Jack Greenblat, Bill Hanney, Tam Heise, Bill Henry, George Kushnir, Carol Lapp, John Lapp, Louis Levin, Ray Loeb, Ray McDonald, Barbara Marlow, Paul Math, Tim Mautz, John Morrison, Dave Moss, Roy Nuffer, Brian O'Brien, Kurt Pernick, Jeff Polny, Richard Pohr, Carol Quinn, Jerry Sark, Randy Shiemke, Earl Sparkman, Ruth Sparkman, Ed Taff, Joanne Tokatlian, and Ray Pacana.
For the record, this paragraph lists information about some of the people who have worked at MEP (or AAA/MEP) from 1967 to January 1, 2000; the information was provided by Don Fournier (in March 1998), and the information notes when people started working at the service and sometimes when they stopped. The staffers have been: William and Marilyn Appel (starting in 1974); Tim Bannon (from 1990 to 1996); Jeffery Bauer (starting in 1986); Gary Baumgarter; Frank Boyd (starting in 1981); Robert Brainard (starting in 1979); Ovid Brown (starting in 1977); Bill Butkovich (from 1992 to 1996); Kevin Byrne (who was the president in 1988); Frank Carter (from 1985 to 1996); William Craig (from 1978 to 1995); Goldie Cross (from 1977 to 1996); Jamie Cross (such as in the 1980s); Grace Daniel (from 1982 to circa 1993); Ron Dewey (starting in September 1999); John Diefenbaker (starting in 1973); Don Kovacs (who was instrumental in starting the service, when it started out as a Citizens Band entity and REACT entity); Dorothy "Grandma" Duncan (from 1971 to about 1991); Steve Ernst (starting in 1980); Don Fournier (starting in 1979); Jack Greenblatt (from 1979 to 1996); Mark Hahn (from 1990 to 1996); Bill Hanney (starting in 1986); Tamarra (Heise) Neznek (starting in 1980); William Henry (starting in 1994); Patrick and Lorene Horton (from 1987 to 1996); Brian Kastner (from 1981 to 1995); George Kushnir (starting in 1982); Carol Lapp (starting in 1987); John Lapp (starting in 1988); Louis Levin (starting in 1991); Ray Loeb (starting in 1991); Rose Loeb (from 1971 to 1996); Chuch Logie (such as around 1989); Ray McDonald (starting in 1983); Barbara Marlow (starting in 1990); Paul Math (starting in 1978); Marsha Math (from 1979 to 1992); John Morrison (from 1993 to 1996); Dave Moss (from 1985 to 1995); Roy Nuffer (from 1979 to 1996); Brian O'Brien (starting in 1997); Ray Pacana (starting in 1974); Michael Pentsil (starting in 1983); Kurt Pernick (from 1993 to 1996); Jeff Polny (starting in 1990); Milton Portman (at least from the late 1970s to 1992) ; Kenneth Preiss (from 1992 to 1996); Richard Puhr (starting in 1987); Carl Quinn (starting in 1984); Albert Remington (from 1971 to 1995); Jerry Sark (from 1971 to about 1993); Randy Shiemke (starting in 1990); Richard Silverman (starting in 1995); Earl Sparkman (starting in 1978); Ruth Sparkman (starting in 1982); Ed Taff (from 1977 to 1995); Joanne Tokatlian (starting in 1985); and Chris Xiromeritis (from 1989 to 1996).
I close this section by again noting that a Dale Berry was president of MEP around early 1976, as has been noted under "Detroit Traffic History and Services."
AAA TRAFFIC NETWORK
The AAA Traffic Network was the last live traffic-reporting services of AAA Michigan. It was two main parts--a Traffic Control Center service and a broadcasting service. The broadcasting service of the AAA Traffic Network evolved out of the closing down of two existing broadcast services, The Icicle News Service (of 1999-2000) and The Weekend News Service. Generally speaking, the Traffic Control Center service was created as something new, though it was sort of based on what AAA had been doing with MEP since the starting up of the Web site of AAA Michigan (providing MEP real-time traffic to people using the World Wide Web feature of the Internet).
The Traffic Control Center was set up in what had been a conference room for the Broadcast and Administration unit. Workers constructed the "center" during the week of Monday, December 20, 1999. On a oval table within the room, workers set up two little work stations of sorts. Each work station had a personal computer (with a monitor and a keyboard), an AM-FM radio (which had been used by people at AAA Michigan, either under Motor News, Publication Relations, or Broadcast and Administration, since the late 1970s), and a telephone. One television set that had been in the room for some time and had limited cable access was put into service. (By the way, the television set had access to Intellicast or "Weather by Intellicast," which was a satellite weather channel of MSNBC). During the weekend on Monday, December 27, 1999, a second television set was set up in the control center; now there was a television set at each end of the oval table. And shortly after the Traffic Control Center was in operation, the Traffic Control Center was given a police scanner--a "Bearcat," which was specifically a "Truck Tracker 300 Channel Base Scanner (model BC 895XLT) of Uniden America Corporation.
The Traffic Control Center of the AAA Traffic Network was fired up on Monday, January 10, 2000, at 9:00 a.m., and it was designed to be manned in two shifts on weekdays. Generally speaking, the shifts were from 4:00 a.m. to noon and from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (or 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., if the person working on the afternoon shift took a lunch break for a half-hour); for the first week or so, the afternoon shift ran to 8:00 p.m. In the beginning, the morning staffers were Nick Craig and Sheryl Orndorf, and the afternoon staff was Brian Lankford alone till on April 3, 2000, when Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor was also added to the shift. The staffers of The Icicle News Service (on Monday, January 10, 2000) and The Weekend News Service (on Friday, January 14, 2000) began using special tags in traffic reports to radio stations to promote a new call-in number for motorists to provide information about problems on the roads. There were five tags. For the record, the tags are given here:
"Pick up your cell phone and let us know what the conditions are like in your part of the state. Call the Triple-A Traffic Network hotline at 1-877-TIP-ROAD, that's 1-877-847-7623."
"Become a member of our team, call the Triple-A Traffic Network Hotline at 1-877-TIP-ROAD, that's 877-847-7623."
"If you spot a traffic tie-up or accident, be a Triple-A tipster by calling the Triple-A Traffic Network Hotline at 1-877-TIP-ROAD, that's 877-847-7623."
"When conditions change in your neck of the woods, call the Triple-A Traffic Network Hotline at 1-877-TIP-ROAD, that -877-847-7623."
"Be a tipster! Call Triple-A at 1-877-TIP-ROAD, that's 877-847-7623."
In addition to being able to get traffic information from the Web site of AAA Michigan through personal computers, people were able to hear traffic reports through wireless communications related to "Palm VII." In order to use the service, it was necessary to have a software program, a "PQA" (or "palm query application"), which was available at the AAA Michigan Web site. The traffic information was right from the AAA Traffic Network control room.
By the way, in the early 1990s, people were using "personal digital assistants" (or "PDAs"), which were small computer devices that were used as, for example, electronic address and calendar books. It was not till a company called Palm Computing (which had become a unit of U.S. Robotics, which would be bought by 3Com in 1997) released "The Pilot" in April 1996 that there was a practical small PDA on the market; The Pilot, which could be held easily in the hand, weighed about six ounces. It was a time when the pocket-sized personal telephone (such as digital cellular phone) was in the fad phase. In early 1999, a company called Qualcomm offered a small pocket-sized personal telephone for sale in the marketplace, and the product was the Palm Pilotphone or "pdQ model" telephone, and the phone had a calendar, an address book, a calculator, and a note pad, and it had e-mail and Web browser features; in addition, it could recognize handwriting and had a slot into which a "smart card" could by placed so that a person could buy merchandise over the Internet (by wireless telephone), and this unit was considered a "smart phone." Also in 1999, 3Com made a personal organizer called the "Palm VII" available for use in the New York area, and this unit--officially available on May 24, 1999--was only for data transmission by way of two-way radio systems; it offered limited access to the Internet and originally cost about $660, and people using a Palm VII paid a monthly use charge related to "kilobytes" of data. In October 1999, national service related to the Palm VII began in areas serviced by entities associated with BellSouth Wireless service, and the cost of a unit was now about $500, which included the price for 22 applications, some of which gave the user contact with "The Wall Street Journal" and "USA Today," the Weather Channel, E*Trade, Fodor's Travel Guides, ABC News, Ebay, and Amazon.com, and there was e-mail through "iMessenger."
On Monday, April 3, 2000, the broadcast group of the AAA Traffic Network began to provide traffic reports to radio stations in Lower Michigan and Upper Michigan and to a few voice-mail lines around the state (only in Lower Michigan). The broadcast group was set up in two shifts--from 4:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. on a Monday-through-Friday basis and from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on a Monday-through-Thursday basis and from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Robert Morosi, who had been a Broadcast Coordinator since June 28, 1999, was the head writer and broadcaster for the morning shift, and the first broadcasters (part-time employees) working with Mr. Morosi were Therese Comor, Keith Dunlap, James Hopper, and Ariana C. Krystoff. The afternoon shift had John Zadikian, who had received the status of Broadcast Coordinator on February 21, 2000, as the head writer/broadcaster (working as a rule from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. weekdays), and two other members doing broadcasting were Ron Edwards and Victor Swanson (who did the writing of the scripts about Upper Michigan). In addition, Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor worked on the afternoon shift as a broadcaster; actually, on April 3, 2000, Ms. Shutty-MacGregor became a full-time employee, working from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays as a broadcaster and a staffer in the Traffic Control Center. AAA Michigan was promoting the fact that it was offering road reports to or through radio stations between 5:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on weekdays.
The first day of broadcasting for the AAA Traffic Network had four main reports, two of which were written in the morning by Robert Morosi and two of which were written for the afternoon shift. In the afternoon, John Zadikian wrote the report about Lower Michigan, and Victor Swanson wrote the report about Upper Michigan. For the record, here are the four reports:
AAA Michigan Broadcasting
TRAFFIC NETWORK A.M. REPORT
Monday, April 3, 2000 5:30 a.m.
With the calendar turning to April, commuters should expect to see more orange barrels showing up on state highways. Across Michigan, the commute is shaping up to be a favorable one with only some damp pavement in the southeast region.
Commuters heading out for I-75 will encounter damp to dry conditions. Troopers patrolling the route say light drizzle is falling in Monroe and Wayne Counties, and that's leaving damp pavement. Further north, it's smooth sailing on a dry I-75 at Flint, Bridgeport, and Bay City. Construction is Saginaw County has a lane shift in effect for southbound I-75 commuters at the M-57 Bridge in Clio. Northbound motorists will find intermittent lane closures there. North of Bay City, I-75 is trouble free. Watch for construction on the northbound and southbound lanes on the bridges over Lewiston Road and the AuSable (Awe-sabb-ble) River in Crawford County.
No weather-related slowdowns are hindering the commute on I-94. Between Port Huron and St. Joseph, the freeway is mostly dry. Watch for wet pavement in sections of Macomb and Wayne Counties.
West of Detroit, posted speeds are attainable at Ann Arbor, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. In the southwest region, construction work may force reduced speeds in Van Buren County near M-51, and in Berrien County near Benton Harbor.
West of Detroit, dry conditions prevail on I-96. Troopers stationed at Brighton, Lansing and Grand Rapids say drivers are running at posted speeds. Beginning at 9 a.m., commuters should expect to find intermittent one and two lane closures on eastbound and westbound I-96 at the Chilson and Mason Road Bridges in Livingston County. In Kent County, eastbound I-96 is down to one lane a M-6 in the Kentwood area, while in Muskegon County, the ramp from westbound I-96 to northbound US-31 is closed with a posted detour.
Troopers based at Lapeer, Flint and Lansing check in with dry pavement on their sections of I-69. In Branch County, troopers at the Coldwater Post say patchy fog is hovering about their sections of I-69 and US-12. Keep in mind that construction work has southbound I-69 down to one lane between Dorance (door-rinse) Road and the Indiana line.
Mid-Michigan highways are posing no problems for morning commuters. Construction on US-127 will slow some drivers on the northbound and southbound lanes between Henry Road and M-36 in the Mason area. Further north, no weather-related slowdowns are hindering commuters on US-27 near Ithaca and Mt. Pleasant. In Clare County, sheriff's deputies say dry pavement and posted speeds are the rule on their sections of US-27, US-10 and M-115.
Deputies in Houghton Lake also report clear conditions on US-27 and M-55. Between Kalamazoo and Kalkaska, US-131 is dry. Troopers patrolling the freeway say posted speeds are the rule. Keep in mind US-131 remains closed in Grand Rapids for reconstruction of the S-Curve.
Dry conditions await commuters along the Lake Michigan shoreline. In Berrien County, troopers at Niles say US-31 motorists are moving as they should, while no weather-related slowdowns are hindering the commute on I-196. From Grand Haven to Grand Traverse County, motorists will find only dry pavement on US-31. Construction work will slow some drivers in Muskegon County on the northbound and southbound lanes of US-31 between the I-96 interchange and M-120.
Thumb area commuters will find the main roads in the region construction free. M-25 and M-53 are dry in Huron and Sanilac Counties, while patchy fog is reported throughout Tuscola County. Commuters may encounter some reduced visibilities at times on M-24 and M-46.
Staffers at the Mackinac Bridge are enjoying a quiet morning. The bridge deck is dry and there are no slowdowns due to windy conditions.
Remember: If you spot a traffic tie-up, call the Triple-A Michigan Traffic Network Hotline at 1-877-TIP-ROAD, that's 1-877-847-7623. From Triple-A Michigan, I'm....
AAA Michigan Broadcasting
Traffic Network -- Upper Peninsula
April 3, 2000 -- 5:50 a.m.
It's a rather typical start to the month of April in the Upper Peninsula. A few showers have already moved into the western portions of the U.P., and that rain is forecast to move to the east later today. Those April showers are also marking more than the return of May flowers, road construction gets underway this week in U.P.
Commuters will find clear and dry conditions on I-75 in Mackinac and Chippewa counties. The other main roads in the eastern U.P., such as M-48 and M-123, are also clear. However, the construction season is scheduled to get underway today, and crews will start reconstructing about a mile of I-75 between the Mackinac Bridge and US-2. At least one lane of traffic will be maintained in each direction at all times while the freeway is being reconstructed.
Posted speeds will be attainable on US-2 between St. Ignace, Gladstone and Iron River. Sheriff deputies in Gogebic County say rain has moved into the Bessemer and Wakefield areas leaving US-2 wet, but motorists are still moving fairly well despite the wet pavement.
You'll find some damp pavement on M-28 around Ironwood and Verona. Sheriff deputies in Baraga, Marquette, Alger and Luce counties say the highway is trouble free at this hour. M-28 is also dry in the Soo area.
No adverse weather or road conditions have been reported on US-41 and M-35 between Menominee, Escanaba and Negaunee. And US-41 remains clear from Baraga to Calumet. As for construction, motorists are reminded that the repairs to the Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock will continue this week. Crews are slated to begin demolishing the lift span for the bridge today. Left turns onto the bridge will continue to be prohibited at both ends of the bridge. And commuters should follow the posted detours during the reconstruction project.
Remember: If you spot a traffic tie-up or accident, call the Triple-A traffic hotline at 1-877-TIP-ROAD. From Triple-A Michigan, I'm ...
AAA Traffic Network Lower Peninsula Report
Monday, April 3, 2000 -- 3:30 PM JZ
The work week starts off cloudy and dry across most of Lower Michigan today. Commuters will have to deal with some lingering showers to the north as a passing front brings cooler weather.
The drive along I-75 is trouble free from Monroe to West Branch. The freeway carries medium traffic volumes on dry pavement in those areas. A few sprinkles are making the pavement damp for the light traffic in the Gaylord area. The cold front is pushing through the Mackinac Bridge area, leaving behind wet pavement, rain and a light breeze for drivers crossing peninsulas.
Not much variety along I-94 for the Monday ride home. The skies are cloudy, the freeway is dry and normal traffic volumes are running at posted speeds from Port Huron to St. Joseph.
State police troopers cruising I-96 report cloudy skies with no rain to hinder the commute at Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids and Grand Haven this afternoon.
Moderate traffic is traveling on dry pavement from Monroe to the Tri-Cities on US-23. Tawas-area troopers report their section of the freeway has dried from earlier rain. Light traffic is using the freeway at Alpena, while a wet commute is in store in Cheboygan, where rain has fallen this afternoon.
In the mid-Michigan area, there are no adverse road or weather conditions to worry about on the drive from Hudson to Lansing along US-127. No tie-ups or accidents are found along a dry US-27 today, according to police from Ithaca to Houghton Lake.
Light to moderate traffic is moving well on a dry US-131 from White Pigeon to Reed City today. Some off-and-of showers are reported in the Cadillac area, but the freeway surface is mostly dry. A damp day in Traverse City and Petoskey, where rain and rain showers leave US-31 damp to wet for the Monday rush.
Closer to the Lake Michigan shore, troopers at Niles and South Haven check in with cloudy and dry conditions along US-31. Light traffic is buzzing along under sunny skies at Hart, while periodic rain leaves US-31 wet at Manistee. Thumb-area commuters can look forward to a quiet setting. It's overcast throughout the region, and all of the main roads are dry in Huron, Sanilac and Tuscola Counties this afternoon.
Secondary roads -- North, South, East, West and Central
US-10: Bay City (E): Dry Reed City (W): Dry
[This part of the report carried more listings about particular roads at particular places and the conditions at those places, and I have only listed one line, since no real writing of copy was done for the part.]
Remember to buckle that safety belt and call the Triple-A Traffic Network toll free with accident and tie-up information at 1-877=847-7623. From the AAA Michigan, I'm...
AAA Traffic Network; VES
U.P. No. 1 Afternoon; 4-3-2000; time: 3:00 p.m. --
Motorists in Upper Michigan have three types of weather today. There is rain in parts of the eastern third of the region. There is mostly dry weather in the mid-section of the region, where there are wet to dry roads. In the far western quarter of the region, AAA Michigan has found a few spots where it is snowing, or there is a mixture of rain and snow falling. Drivers are seeing snow in the Wakefield area, and state police say that the visibility is sometimes zero because of blowing snow. A short while ago, state police at Calumet had a mixture of rain and snow. At this hour, there are no unexpected problems with the main roads in Upper Michigan. However, you could be in one of the few areas with snow. And there is a new construction site at the intersection of I-75 and US-2 in the St. Ignace area; it was started up today. State police report that there are detours and stoplights, there, and that construction site is going to be, there, for a number of weeks. At the Mackinac Bridge, there are no backups at the toll plaza. A supervisor reports that moderate traffic is moving on wet pavement at the Mackinac Bridge. Remember: Be a tipster! Call Triple-A at 1-877-TIP-ROAD--that's 877-847-7623. And, remember, be alert for changing road conditions to bring 'em back alive. From AAA Michigan, I'm....
I now present--for the record--the stations that started out as customers of the AAA Traffic Network. It is a rough look, since it covers the stations of the first two weeks or so of the service. There are two parts--the morning part and the afternoon part.
Robert Morosi (of the morning staff) did: WLNS-TV 6 (Lansing), WWTV-TV (TV 9 and TV 10, Cadillac and Sault Ste. Marie), WCZY-FM (Mt. Pleasant), WJIM-AM (Lansing), WLEW-AM/WLEW-FM (Bad Axe), WSGW-AM (Saginaw), WTCM-AM/WTCM-FM (Traverse City), and WYUR-AM (Southfield). [By July 2000, WYUR-AM no longer existed, having been shut down on Saturday, April 29, 2000.]
Adriana C. Krystoff (of the morning staff) did: WATZ-FM (Alpena), WBMI-FM (West Branch), WCBY-AM (Cheboygan), WFUR-AM (Grand Rapids), WKPK-FM (Gaylord), WKPR-AM (Kalamazoo), WLCM-AM (Charlotte), WMLM-AM (Alma/St. Louis), and WTWR-AM (Monroe). Also she did the voice-mail report for "Ludington Info Plus." [By July 2000, she was no longer doing WKPK-FM, and WLCM-AM. And she began doing WNMU-FM, of Northern Michigan University at Marquette, in early August 2000, circa August 14, 2000.]
Keith Dunlap (of the morning staff) did: WEVS-FM (Holland), WHAK-FM (Rogers City), WHWL-FM (Marquette), WLJN-AM (Traverse City), WMPC-AM (Lapeer), WMPK-AM/WMRX-FM (Midland), WSAE-FM (Spring Arbor, which is near Jackson), and WUFN-FM (Albion/Jackson). Also he did the voice-mail work for the "Direct Connect" (of the "Huron Daily Tribune"), the "Grand Haven Tribune" Tribtalk Line, and the AAA Newsline.
James Hopper (of the morning staff) did: WABJ-AM (Adrian), WCFX-FM (Mt. Pleasant), WDBC-AM/WDBC-FM (Escanaba), WGDN-AM (Gladwin), WHCH-FM (Munising), WION-AM (Ionia), WJMS-AM (Ironwood), WKHM-AM (Jackson), WMIC-AM/WTVG-FM (Sandusky), WMOM-FM (Pentwater, though considered at Ludington), WPHN-FM (Gaylord)/WOLW-FM (Cadillac), WSNL-AM (Flint/Grand Blanc), and WUGN-FM (Midland). Also he did the voice-mail work for the Midland Daily News (of the "Midland Daily News") and "Info Source" (of "Muskegon Chronicle"). [By July 2000, he was no longer doing WION-AM and WSNL-AM, and he was giving a fishing report to WBNZ-FM (Frankfort) each week.]
Therese Comor (of the morning staff) did: WCUP-FM (L'Anse)/WUPY-FM (Ontonagon), WFDF-AM (Flint), WGNB-FM (Zeeland), WJPD-FM (Marquette, which was owned by the same entity that owned WDMJ-AM and WIAN-AM, both of which only got afternoon reports), WKNX-AM (Frankenmuth), WKYO-AM (Caro), WLEN-FM (Adrian), WFYC-AM/WQBX-FM (Alma), and WSOO-AM (Sault Ste. Marie). Also she did the voice-mail work for Noverr Publishing, Inc., and the Holland Sentineline. [By mid-August 2000, the only voice-mail line she was doing was the Holland Sentineline.]
Sheryl Orndorf (of the morning staff) did: WHTC-AM (Holland), and WQLB-FM (Tawas City). She also did the voice-mail work for the "1-800-AAA-Mich line" (also sometimes thought of as the "AAA Michigan Road Condition Hotline" or the "Hotline"). [By July 2000, Sheryl Orndorf was also doing WSNL-AM (Flint), and she was no longer doing WQLB-FM. By August 17, 2000, she was also doing WKJC-FM, WKJN-AM, and CFCO-AM (of Chatham, Ontario, Canada, which had begun to take the AAA Michigan service on April 14, 2000.]
And, by July 2000, Nick Craig (of the morning staff) was doing WJSZ-FM (Owosso), and he was doing WUFL-AM (Sterling Heights) every ten minutes or so from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Note: On Wednesday, May 17, 2000, WUFL-AM (Sterling Heights) became the first station to take reports on an every-ten-minute basis each weekday (from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.). Nick Craig did the work for the station in the morning, and Ron Edwards did the work for the station in the afternoon. The taking on of WUFL-AM made it necessary to shift some stations around amongst the staffers of both shifts.
John Zadikian (of the afternoon staff) did: WCUP-FM (L'Anse)/WUPY-FM (Ontonagon), WEVS-FM (Holland), WJMS-AM (Ironwood), WKHM-AM (Jackson), WKJC-FM (Tawas City), WKPR-AM (Kalamazoo), WLEW-AM/WLEW/FM (Bad Axe), WMJZ-FM (Gaylord), WQXO-AM/WHCH-FM (Munising), WSNL-AM (Flint), WTWR-FM (Monroe), WUGN-FM (Midland). Also he was doing the voice-mail work for "Grand Haven Tribtalk," "Muskegon Info Source," "Traverse City NPI (Noverr Publishing, Inc.), and the "AAA Info Line." [By July 2000, he was no longer doing the "AAA Info Line" and "Traverse City NPI" (or Noverr Publishing, Inc.), and he was doing the voice-mail work for the "AAA Newsline," the "'Grand Haven Tribune' Tribtalk Line," and "'Muskegon Chronicle' Info Source Line," and he was giving an events report to WPON-AM (Pontiac) at about 4:40 p.m. on Wednesdays. On August 17, 2000, he stopped doing the voice-mail work for the "AAA Newsline," "'Grand Haven Tribune' Tribtalk Line," and "'Muskegon Chronicle' Info Source Line."]
Victor Swanson (of the afternoon staff) did: WABJ-AM (Adrian), WCFX-FM (Mt. Pleasant), WDMJ-AM/WIAN-AM (Marquette), WFUR-AM (Grand Rapids), WHWL-FM (Marquette), WKNX-AM (Frankenmuth), WLEN-FM (Adrian), WLJN-AM (Traverse City), WMIC-AM/WTGV (Sandusky), WMPC-AM (Lapeer), WMPX-AM/WMRX-FM (Midland), WPHN-FM (Gaylord)/WOLW-FM (Cadillac), WSAE-FM (Spring Arbor, which is near Jackson), WTKA-AM (Ann Arbor), and WUPS-FM (Mt. Pleasant). Also he did the voice-mail work for "Ludington Info Plus," the "Midland Daily News," and the "Holland Sentineline." [By July 2000, he was also doing WBRN-AM (Big Rapids), WHLS-AM (Port Huron), and WILZ/WYLZ (Saginaw). On August 18, 2000, he began doing the voice-mail work for "Direct Connect" of "Huron Daily Tribune," "'Muskegon Chronicle' Info Source Line," "'Grand Haven Tribune' Tribtalk Line," the AAA Newsline (which the media could dial up to get reports), and the "1-800-AAA-Mich line" (also sometimes thought of as the "AAA Michigan Road Condition Hotline"). WILZ-WYLZ stopped taking the service after the Labor Day holiday of 2000, and he stopped doing the "AAA Michigan Road Condition Hotline" on September 12, 2000.]
Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor (of the afternoon staff) did: WJSZ-FM (Owosso), WMLM-AM (Alma/St. Louis), WSGW-AM (Saginaw), and WTCM-AM/WTCM-FM (Traverse City); she was doing about a 20-minute-long events report for WPHM-AM (Port Huron) on Friday afternoon. Also she was doing the voice-mail work for "Direct Connect" (of the "Huron Daily Tribune"). [By July 2000, she was also doing WDEE-FM (Reed City), WHSB-FM (Alpena), and she was doing WUFL-AM (at times when Ron Edwards was not yet in for the afternoon shift), and she was doing the voice-mail work for the "AAA Info Line." On August 14, 2000, she began doing three 20-second reports each afternoon for CFCO-AM (Chatham, Ontario, Canada). By August 18, 2000, she was no longer doing the voice-mail work for "AAA Info Line" and "Huron Daily Tribune."]
Ron Edwards (of the afternoon staff) did: WATZ-FM (Alpena), WBCH-AM (Hastings), WCEN-FM (Mt. Pleasant), WCSR-AM (Hillsdale), WHFR-FM (Dearborn), WHTC-AM (Holland), WJKN-AM (Jackson), WKLT-FM (Traverse City), WLDR-FM (Traverse City), WFYC-AM/WQBX-FM (Alma), WSOO-AM (Sault Ste. Marie), WUFN-FM (Albion), and WXOU-FM (Auburn Hills). Also he was doing the "AAA Newsline." [By July 2000, he was no longer doing WBRN-AM (Big Rapids), WDEE-FM (Reed City), WHLS-AM (Port Huron), and WHSB-AM (Alpena), and he was no longer doing the "AAA Newsline," and he was doing reports for WUFL-AM (Sterling Heights) about every time minutes between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.]
By July 2000, Brian Lankford was doing a report for WILZ-AM/WYLZ-FM (Saginaw) on Fridays (at first), and he was no longer doing the "AAA Newsline" on a regular basis (but some times he did the line). By mid-August, he was also giving one report each afternoon--Monday through Thursday--to WILZ-AM/WYLZ-FM, and he was doing no reports for the "AAA Newsline." WILZ-WYLZ stopped taking the service after the Labor Day holiday of 2000, and he began doing the "AAA Michigan Road Condition Hotline" on September 13, 2000.
Here is the actual record of the number of traffic reports that were read for a couple Fridays during the first six months or so of the service; Friday was the busiest day of the week, especially for the staff of the afternoon shift. I start with information about the morning staff. On Friday, April 7, 2000, Rob read 12 reports; Adriana, 12; Keith, 10; Jim, 23; Therese, 13; Sheryl, 11; and Nick, 0. Now, let us look at data about the afternoon staff. On Friday, April 7, 2000, John read 22; Jo-Jo, 20; and Victor, 22. It seems very likely that Ron read 17 reports on Friday, August 7, 2000, but I could not find his check sheet for the day, so I present information about Friday, April 14, 2000. On Friday, April 14, 2000, Rob read 12 reports; Adriana, 13; Keith, 9; Jim, 24; Therese, 12; Sheryl, 11; and Nick, 0. On Friday, April 14, 2000, John read 19 reports; Jo-Jo, 19; Ron, 17; and Victor, 23. On Friday, August 18, 2000, John read 21 (four of which were for vacationing Jo-Jo); Ron, 31; Victor, 34 (a number that was three below what could have been read, if one station had not had Detroit Lions football); and Brian, 9 (6 of which were for vacationing Jo-Jo), a number that could have been increased by two had one station not had Detroit Lions football and had another station not cancelled one report.
In 2000, AAA Michigan did some promoting of the "AAA Traffic Network." The company had a story about the service in the "AAA Today" issue of January 21, 2000, and it put an article (a few paragraphs about the new service) in the "AAA Michigan" issue of March 2000. News stories were done about the service in newspapers, such as the "Detroit Free Press" (January 11, 2000) and "The Detroit News" (January 12, 2000). On Monday, May 1, 2000, business cards" (having, for one, the "1-877-TIP-ROAD number on it) started to be handed out, such as to the staffers, and, on May 11, 2000, some business cards were sent out to the heads of 62 police centers in the state (such as commanders of state police posts).
Here was the story in the "AAA Michigan" edition for March 2000, which was entitled "Real-time Reports @ AAA Traffic Network":
"For real-time traffic reports and road condition advisories in Michigan, turn to the Auto Club's new AAA Traffic Network.
"Launched in January, AAA Michigan's new public service provides Web-based real-time reports on traffic incidents, long-term construction delays and other tie-ups on major highways around the state. The reports are listed by road name and time of day on AAA Michigan's Web site at www.aaamich.com.
"Other network features include:
"* Web-based weather and road condition advisories, statewide by region, and information on short-term construction projects.
"* A toll-free number--(800) AAA-MICH (222-6424)--to receive current traffic information.
"* A toll-free number--(877) TIP-ROAD (847-7623)--for members to call and report traffic information.
"* Live traffic reports broadcast on participating radio stations Monday through Friday during morning and afternoon rush hours (5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m to 6:30 p.m.).
"* Wireless traffic reports via the Palm VII via a live feed from AAA Traffic Network headquarters in Dearborn.
"AAA Traffic Network services for Michigan are available weekdays from 4:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., with the exception of the rush-hour radio broadcasts noted above.
"For wireless access, Palm VII users must download a special PQA (Palm Query Application) to their units. The download is available at www.aaamich.com."
By the way, I now show four tags for reports that staffers of the broadcast unit were encouraged to use in reports beginning October 5, 2000.
"From AAA Michigan, the states largest Travel Agency..."
"From AAA Michigan, the states largest insurer..."
"For Safety, Security and peace of mind, I'm ______ from AAA Michigan..."
"For AAA Michigan, someone you can count on, I'm ______ ..."
A big change in the broadcast service came on Thursday, October 26, 2000; it was a change that had been scheduled to take place the following Monday (October 30, 2000). On October 26, AAA Michigan began to provide traffic reports to one station in Kalamazoo every ten minutes between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. each weekday, and that station was WKZO-AM (590); the management of the station, owned by Fairfield Broadcasting Company, had recently dropped its association with Metro Traffic. On October 26, Sheryl Orndorf gave the station reports from 6:09 a.m. through 11:59 a.m., and Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor read reports to the station from 12:09 p.m. through 6:59 p.m.; the reports were live and had lengths between thirty seconds and sixty seconds. The following Monday, which was October 30, AAA Michigan began to offer reports to WQLR-FM (106.5), another station owned in Kalamazoo by Fairfield Broadcasting Company, between 5:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.; the reports were given between nineteen after the hour and twenty-one after the hour and between forty-nine after the hour and fifty-one after the hour, and the lengths of the reports werer between thirty seconds and sixty seconds.
Because WKZO-AM and WQLR-FM wanted numerous reports each day and because more people than Sheryl Orndorf and Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor were needed to do reports for WKZO-AM on a regular basis, other stations handled by the afternoon and morning staffers had to be shifted about; for instance, Ron Dewey (using the name "Rob Lewis") spent at least an hour each day subbing for Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor during the afternoon shift. Then on October 30, 2000, AAA Michigan began to supply reports to WMUZ-AM (Detroit); the reports were given at eight minutes after the hour and thirty-five minutes after the hour between 5:30 a.m. and 9:08 a.m. and between 3:00 p.m and 6:35 p.m., and, at first Sheryl Orndorf and Brian Lankford did the station, but it was Adriana C. Krystoff who mostly handled the station in the morning and in the afternoon for the first two weeks or so till Tracey McCaskill joined the afternoon staff and took over the station in the afternoon.
The next station to get reports numerous times an hour was WHMI-AM, Howell. It was on Tuesday, April 17, 2001, the AAA Traffic Network began to provide reports to the station, begining with the afternoon shift; the following day, the morning stiff was able to provide reports. The schedule set for the station was to give reports to a taping system at about the five, fifteen, thirty-five, and forty-five minute marks of each hour, and the reports were for the hours of five, six, seven, and eight in the morning and four, five, and six in the afternoon; the reports were designed to air at the eleven, twenty-two, forty-one, and fifty-two minute marks of each hour that had been set up for the service. On the first day, Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor did the work for the afternoon shift; on the first day that the morning shift provided reports, Sheryl Orndorf did the work for the station. For getting reports to WHMI-AM, a special ISDN line was set up between AAA Michigan and the station, and the stockroom for the Broadcasting & Administration unit was set up with a special workstation, and that was the place in which a AAA staffer sat to give reports to WHMI-AM.
Another ISDN line was installed on Tuesday, May 22, 2001, and it connected AAA Michigan with WOOD-FM, Grand Rapids, and on that Tuesday, AAA Michigan began to provide reports. The morning reports were given at 5:29, 5:40, 5:58, 6:10, 6:29, 6:40, 6:58, 7:11, 7:29, 7:40, and 7:55, and the afternoon reports were given at 4:15, 4:45, 5:15, and 5:45. The first reporters of AAA Michigan for this station were Nick Craig, who covered the morning shift, and Jim Hopper, who did the reporting in the afternoon.
A person should be wondering now where broadcasters got their information given in 2000. Most of the information broadcast by the broadcasters of AAA Michigan to stations not in the general Detroit area came from state police and county sheriff's officers around the state; that is, state police posts and county sheriff's departments were called by telephone to get information, as had been the rule for gathering traffic information for many decades at AAA Michigan. More specifically, it is said that the broadcasters surveyed police in most areas of the state on a regular basis, and the informartion was used in reports for most of the stations involved with the AAA Traffic Network, and sometimes pieces of information were used on stations based in the general Detrot area, and broadcasters did sometimes call the Detroit dispatch center for the Michigan State Police. Sometimes, broadcasters who were doing the outstate stations got information about accidents and such from the staffers who were supplying real-time traffic information to the Web site for AAA Michigan.
And now a person should be wondering where the staffers of the "Control Center" got traffic information and other information--at least in 2000. The staffers of the Control Center were not heavily engaged in calling police to get information about traffic problems and such; they did some calling. In 2000, information about the outstate roads--roads not in the general Detroit area--most often came from surveys done by the broadcasters. To get information about the road conditions in the Detroit area in 2000, it was the job of the staffers working in the Control Center to listen to traffic reports on WWJ-AM and WJR-AM, such as those produced by Metro Traffic, and put announced data on the Web site, and the staffers kept tuned to the newscasts of local television stations so that they might see or hear about traffic-related problems. Weather information provided on the AAA Michigan Web site often came from "intellicast.com" (a Web site), and another Web site used in 2000 was that belonging to the National Weather Service, specifically the office in Detroit/Pontiac, Michigan, at http://iwin.nws.noaa.gov/iwn/mi/, and the staffers looked at the color-radar information shown by, for example, the television stations during newscasts. And the crew of the Control Center did have a police scanner, which was rarely turned on.
In 2000, the Internet had several Web sites with traffic information about the roads in the Detroit area that was not gathered by AAA Michigan, and between April 3, 2000, and September 22, 2000, the time of which this paragraph covers, the staffers of the Control Center got some information from the Web sites of other entities. It seems that, for a while in the early days or in the first month or so of the AAA Traffic Network, the staffers got some information for the AAA Michigan Web site from a real-time traffic Web site related to "Etak" and Metro Traffic (or, of course, Metro Networks or Westwood One). And around September 2000, for instance, the staffers got some information from a site called MapQuest.com (at www.MapQuest.com). Brian Lankford (a staffer in the Control Center) reported on September 21, 2000, for this "portrait" that the Web sites of others were not used much, and he hinted, for example, that in September 2000, MapQuest.com was sort of used to see what others had and to sort of verify information about the road conditions in the Detroit area, and he noted that they had not used the Etak/Metro Traffic site for some time.
Now, consider what AAA Michigan was doing from October 2000 to April 2003. Once AAA Michigan became involved with providing traffic reports to WKZO-AM and WQLR-FM, the staffers doing those stations became involved in taking information from the Web site of Grand Rapids Skyview Traffic (at www.skyview.iserv.net). The staffers in the Control Center were somtimes calling police for information, and they were most often getting information about the road conditions in the Detroit area from reports done by Metro Traffic, usually taping the reports on a cassette machine, and they were receivng a few calls each week from motorists on the roads. And the broadcasters were surveying police in the outstate areas.
AAA Michigan never had any reporters in the air or on the roads.
On Friday, April 11, 2003, the AAA Traffic Network was about finished. On that day, several employees were fired, a move that was leading up to the starting of a smaller traffic service. Officially, the AAA Traffic Network closed down on Friday, May 2, 2003. On Monday, May 5, 2003, AAA Michigan had its new service in operation, and it provided traffic information in text form and in MP3-audio-file form through the Web site, and the name of the unit was changed from Broadcast and Administration to "AAA Traffic & Information Services."
AAA Traffic Network Personnel --
This part really has two main groups of people. The first group covers those who were mostly involved with the "Traffic Control Center," but people listed in this group soon after the broadcasting service of the AAA Traffic Network was started up were involved in doing some broadcasting. The other group mostly covers those involved in broadcasting.
The Traffic Control Center group was: Nick Craig (on the morning shift from January 10, 2000, to May 2, 2003*); James Hopper (who was a broadcaster on the morning shift from April 3, 2001, to February 23, 2001, and then became the Broadcast Coordinator in the Control Center--on a permanent basis--on the afternoon shift, working from February 26, 2001, to May 2, 2003*); Brian Lankford (on the afternoon shift from January 10, 2000, to February 7, 2001); and Sheryl Orndorf (on the morning shift from January 10, 2000, to Friday, January 26, 2001, when she took on the position of "Broadcast Coordinator" in the morning).
Those involved mostly in broadcasting were divided up among a morning shift and an afternoon shift. The morning shift had: Martin Butler (who had a first day of training on May 21, 2001, and worked other days, but did not become an official regular till July 2, 2001, and had his last day on February 4, 2002); Dana Cameron-Hannan (or Dana Hannan, from March 18, 2002, to August 16, 2002); Therese Comor (from April 3, 2000, to August 23, 2002); Keith Dunlap (from April 3, 2000, to April 13, 2001); Matt Gervais (from March 22, 2002, to April 11, 2003*); James Hopper (from April 3, 2000, to May 2, 2003); Domenica Ingles (whose air name was Monica Ingles, from February 5, 2001, though not starting as regular part-timer till March 21, 2001, to March 26, 2002); Kat Jenson (a woman, from August 21, 2002, to November 8, 2002); Adriana C. Krystoff (from April 3, 2000, to February 16, 2001); Matt Lefevre (who started out as a trainee through the afternoon shift on July 2, 2001, soon took up doing some work on the morning shift, became a regular part-timer on the morning shift on July 23, 2001, and had his last day on July 5, 2002); Robert Morosi (from April 3, 2000, to January 3, 2001, and a "Broadcast Coordinator"); Charles Myers (who started out as a trainer on April 20, 2001, then became a regular on the morning shift on April 23, 2001, and had his last day on February 28, 2003); David Niewolak (whose air name was Dave Andrews and who worked from August 19, 2002, to May 6, 2003*); Sheryl Orndorf (Monday, Janaury 29, 2001, when she became the "Broadcast Coordinator" in the morning, to May 2, 2003*); Craig Schuler (from January 21, 2001, to May 2, 2003*); and Jessica Thomas (did her first work on the morning shift on March 15, 2001, became an official employee working on the morning shift on April 16, 2001, and had her last day on December 11, 2001). The afternoon shift had: Heather Bopra (who became known as Heather Pascoe in 2002 through marriage, came aboard as the replacement for Jeff Laskowski, appearing as a trainee for the afternoon shift on March 22-23, 2001, and then worked regularly--mostly only Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the afternoons--from March 26, 2001 (though not officially listed as a regular employee till April 16, 2001), to April 14, 2001, and then worked the morning shift from December 17, 2001, to May 2, 2003*); Tim Cook (from February 6, 2001, to April 2, 2002); Ron Dewey (from October 2, 2000, to September 27, 2001); Ron Edwards (from April 3, 2000, to September 7, 2000); Anasia Hairston (from November 26, 2001, to February 15, 2002); Cortney Ladd (from June 10, 2002, to April 2, 2003); Jeff Laskowski (from January 22, 2001, as a part-time person, to March 15, 2001); Tracey McCaskill (November 20, 2000, to March 23, 2001, and, by the way, she had first showed up as a trainee for a couple days during the week before November 20, the first day of which was November 14, 2000); Nicole Miracle (who started as a trainee on June 1, 2001, on the afternoon shift, did days of work on the afternoon after that day, was made an official regular on the afternoon shift on June 25, 2001, had her last day, for the first time as a regular, on June 7, 2002, subbed for a few days near November 27, 2002 (a day she did work), and worked from February 10, 2003, to May 2, 2003*); Scott Ryan (who started out on the afternoon service on August 29, 2001, doing work on only Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and had his last day on November 8, 2002); Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor (from April 3, 2000, to May 2, 2003*, and also worked in the Traffic Control Center till she began to do WKZO-AM regularly); Tony Stidham (from March 19, 2002, to April 11, 2003); Victor Swanson (from April 3, 2000, to April 11, 2003, though final work was done on April 10, 2003); Kim Wells (from April 10, 2002, to June 12, 2002); and John Zadikian (from April 3, 2000, to May 2, 2003*, and a "Broadcast Coordinator").
This paragraph has additional information about people who worked on the service and about what work people did. On January 22, 2001, Jeff Laskowski began to work on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays as an extra person in the afternoons, getting ready to take over those days from Ron Dewey; starting on Monday, February 5, 2001, Ron Dewey was now only working Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon, and Jeff Laskowski was working the other days in the afternoon. The day after Jeff Leskowski left, Ron Dewey covered all the days through March 23, 2001, and he trained Heather Bopra on March 22-23, 2001, and then she took over Jeff Leskowski's position. Some people worked as on-call people or only for very short times (which was often for only one day or a few days), and those people were: Joe Adams (first worked a day on January 26, 2001); Diane Cross (who worked five straight days on the afternoon shift, starting Monday, July 23, 2001); SueEllen Keith (worked on the morning shift from December 27, 2000, to January 24, 2001, and also worked one day on the afternoon shift); John Kreger (who got his first training on May 23, 2001, in the afternoon); David Mitchell (who started out as a trainee on February 24, 2001, and who did almost no time on the service); Craig Schuler (who started on as a trainee on May 24, 2001); Jessica Shaw (first worked on the morning shift on February 7, 2001, and was gone after one day); Stephanie Striker (who had a first day as a trainee on June 5, 2001, in the afternoon); and Tim Timmerman (first worked on February 22, 2001, on the morning shift; worked in the Control Center on the afternoon shift on February 21, 22, and 23, 2001). James Hopper took on a new job and moved to the afternoon shift on Monday, February, 26, 2001; he became the "Broadcast Coordinator" in the Command Center. On Monday, February 26, 2001, Tracey McCaskill moved to the morning shift as a broadcaster; she was now a full-time employee; then she soon resigned and had her last day on March 23, 2001; she did fill-in work on the afternoon shift on September 4 and 5, 2002; she returned for another run on the morning shift on February 17, 2003. Heather Bopra (who became known as Heather Pascoe through marriage worked the morning shift, switching to it from the afternoon shift, beginning on December 17, 2001. April Moralee, who worked in the "Travel" department of AAA Michigan, was allowed to watch (and did do a bit of work, at least doing research) for a couple afternoon shifts--August 12, 13, 15, 19, 22, and 26, 2002. On December 9, 2002, Cortney Ladd replaced Matt Gervais on the morning shift, and Matt Gervais replaced Cortney Ladd on the afternoon shift. On January 21, 2003, and January 23, 2003, Mark Dolphin received training on the afternoon shift, and then he never returned.
And Debbie Pearson was the Broadcast Supervisor of Broadcasting and Administration unit. The Broadcast Coordinators were positions under the Broadcast Supervisor. And the broadcasters could be full-time employees, regular part-time employees, or what were considered "contractors."
* = This final paragraph notes what happened to the personnel of the unit between April 11, 2003, to May 2, 2003. Officially, Tony Stidham, Victor Swanson, and Matt Gervais were relieved of duties on Friday, April 11, 2003. The service ran till May 2, 2003, when Nicole Miracle had her last day of work. On Monday, May 5, 2003, the "AAA Traffic & Information Services" now existed. Dave Niewolak stayed with the new service through May 6, 2003. The new service had two shifts. The morning shift was manned by Nicholas Craig and Sheryl Orndorf, and they were the full-time employees, and the part-time employees working with them were Heather Pasco and Craig Schuler. The afternoon shift was Jim Hopper, Jo-Jo Schutty-MacGregor, and John Zadikian. By the way, officially, Scott Renas, who was the utility person of the Broadcast & Administration unit, had been moved to a different job and location on January 1, 2003, and, on that same day, Susan Morosi had taken a new job--the secretary to Mr. Jeff Gaydos (however, she had not moved her belongings to the new desk till March 24, 2003). Debbie Pearson was the supervisor of what started out as the AAA Traffic & Information Services unit.
OTHER AAA INFORMATION SERVICES
Telephone Services at AAA Michigan -- In the late 1980s, AAA Michigan began to offer reports to the media about such topics as traffic, fuel prices, fishing, and skiing through dial-up services; that is, the media could call AAA Michigan to get recorded reports about fuel prices, fishing, et cetera. For the Memorial Day Holiday of 1989, for instance, AAA Michigan had these telephone lines: campground and morel mushroom reports (at 1-800-621-9484), a fuel-price report (1-800-621-9486), a fishing report (1-800-621-9488), and a "Bring 'em Back Alive!" safety message (1-800-527-3999); in December 1990, AAA Michigan had telephone lines for winter-road-condition reports (1-800-527-3999), downhill ski reports (1-800-621-9484), fuel-price reports (1-800-621-9486), and fishing reports (1-800-621-9488). In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the reports were recorded on a digital machine based in the office area; in the mid-1990s, the reports were recorded on a voice-mail-type system of the telephone system. A new voice-mail-type service for the public was started on Friday, August 29, 1997, and it offered people a choice of six topics (through a six-option menu), one of which was a construction report put together in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Transportation, and this hotline number was 1-800-411-4823. Not long thereafter, change came to the system involving the construction report. On Wednesday, November 26, 1997, AAA Michigan established the "AAA Michigan Construction/Road Hotline," which the general public could call to get reports about construction projects or road conditions; people called 1-800-AAA-MICH; the "800-441-4823" number provided a voice-mail menu offering topics, such as the weekly construction report, while the "800-AAA-MICH" number allowed people to go right to the construction report (and avoid the voice-mail set up of the other number).
Voice-mail-like systems outside AAA Michigan -- Voice-mail-type systems were commonplace and popular with businesses by the mid-1990s. AAA Michigan first became involved with such voice-mail-type systems of other companies by providing ski information to them; that is, AAA Michigan broadcasters recorded reports on the services, which the general public could contact. In the mid-1990s, AAA Michigan supplied ski reports to such services as WJR-AM and Don Thomas Sportshaus (a ski shop); during the winter of 1996-1997, reports were given to WJR-AM (Detroit), "The Holland Sentinel," WNIC-FM (Dearborn), "The Ludington News," the Michigan Travel Bureau, and Don Thomas Sportshaus. The staffers of the news services also provided traffic reports and other reports to other voice-mail-type systems; "Talking Phone Book" of Noverr Publishing, Inc. (located in the Traverse City area and reached at 1-616-941-2255) began to take reports on March 28, 1997, and "The Huron Daily Tribune" started to receive reports on May 30, 1997, and "Info Plus" (located at Ludington and reached at 1-616-843-1122) began to take reports on, November 16, 1997. And, in late 1997, reports began to be given regularly to "The Midland Daily News", and, in early January 1999 (officially January 8, 1999, for staffers of The Weekend News Service), reports were started for the "Muskegon Chronicle" Info Source System.
Courtesy Patrols -- The Michigan Emergency Patrol should not be confused with the "ERS Freeway Courtesy Patrol" (or Emergency Road Service Freeway Courtesy Patrol or, simply, Freeway Courtesy Patrol). The ERS department of AAA Michigan began operating two special patrol vans on I-75 on September 13, 1994. Staffers on patrol in these vans--generally from 4:00 p.m. to midnight on the weekdays--assisted stranded motorists with minor problems, such as flat tires, and made minor temporary repairs. The pilot program was started by the Alliance for a Safer Greater Detroit in association with the Michigan Department of Transportation (or MDOT or M-DOT), the Michigan State Police, the Office of Highway Safety Planning, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), and some public and private contributors. By the way, at the start of 1996, four vans were patrolling portions of I-75, I-94, I-375, and M-10 (the Lodge Freeway), covering the Macomb-Oakland-Wayne-Counties area, and, by the end of the year, the Freeway Courtesy Patrol had five vans. On September, 2, 1997, the Freeway Courtesy Patrol, which was running four vans, began to run six vans, and the roads that were now covered were I-75, I-94, I-96, M-10, I-696, and M-39 (the latter two of which were added to the patrol routes), and, at this time, the vans were patrolling during the weekday morning and afternoon rush-hour commutes (between 6:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.), and the program was administered by a board of directors, who were representatives of AAA Michigan, the Michigan State Police, the Michigan Department of Transportation (or MDOT), the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (or SEMCOG), and the Alliance for a Safer, Greater Detroit. "AAA Today" (of September 14, 2001) in an article entitled "AAA's Courtesy Patrol: Angels on Wheels" noted that the service had 15 vehicles on the freeway system around September 2001; actually, the number of vans was increased around this time, and the format for the outside appearance of the vans was redesigned.
IVHS -- This term is an acronym for "Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems." This section--"TRAFFIC-RELATED TOPICS"--has three subsections that directly pertain to IVHS, and they are "SCANDI," "FAST-TRAC Project," and "Michigan Intelligent Transportation Systems" or "MITS," and the three subsections are related to the topic called "SmartRoute Systems," which is also part of the "TRAFFIC-RELATED TOPICS" section. The subsection entitled "Telephone call boxes" sort of relates to IVHS.
Telephone call boxes -- In early October 1980, a telephone-call-box system for motorists on I-94 in Detroit was made operational. The system cost about one-million dollars to install. What the system had was 70 telephone call boxes along a 15-mile stretch of I-94 in Detroit; there were 35 boxes on each side of the freeway. These boxes were direct links to the Detroit freeway post of the Michigan State Police. This system was part of a project called "SCANDI," which was an acronym for "Surveillance, Control and Driver Information." In early July 1991, the telephone system, which was subject to vandalism and was hard to get parts for, was shut down; in 1990, the system had been getting only about 25 callers a day.
SCANDI -- "SCANDI" stands for "Surveillance, Control and Driver Information." SCANDI was proposed around 1969-1970, and SCANDI was expected to be a system along several Detroit freeways providing such things as changeable message signs, telephone call boxes, television-monitoring cameras, and under-road traffic sensors (or "detector loops") that would be connected to a central computer that could control traffic signals at entrance ramps, which would make traffic flow better. MDOT began work on the system in the late 1970s. The project ran into delays and enormous cost overruns, even before only a portion of the program became workable. In October 1980, a system of telephone call boxes was made operational. Also, nine message signs along I-94--at a cost of about $900,000--were sort of made operational in late 1980. The signs were rarely turned on and were used by MDOT through at least March 1982 when MDOT finally had about 1,342 sensors in place under about 32 miles of the Detroit freeway system (under I-75, I-94, I-375, and US-10); in March 1982, the sensor system had yet to be activated, and, already, about 300 sensors needed to be replaced because of wear. In November 1982, a limited number of sensors along I-94 at Mt. Elliott, Van Dyke, Gratiot, French, Conner, and Outer Drive were finally being used in a test. Twenty entrances were operational by the beginning of February 1984, but there was trouble ahead, since repaving of I-94 in Detroit was set to begin in the summer, and that meant that currently installed sensors would have to be replaced with new sensors. By late July 1991, when people--the authorities at MDOT, for instance--were talking about a $75-million-dollar IVHS system encompassing 330 miles of the Detroit Metropolitan freeway system, SCANDI had not become fully operational (for instance, 49 sensors had never worked), and the telephone call-box system had already been shut down. SCANDI ended up way over budget, costing several tens of millions of dollars, but it had the first system of television-monitoring cameras (having ten cameras) along freeways in the Detroit Metropolitan area.
FAST-TRAC Project -- "FAST-TRAC" stands for "Faster and Safer Travel through Traffic Routing and Advanced Controls," and one purpose of FAST-TRAC, which involves computers and sensors (such as infrared-sensor systems), is to reduce congestion at intersections, such as main roads meet or where freeways meet with main roads (at exit ramps). The FAST-TRAC Project also involves changeable message signs, which can provide motorists with travel information, such as about construction sites and backups. The first FAST-TRAC system was set up in Troy in 1992, and the next system was completed in South Lyon in December 1995, and the third system was running in Milford in mid-September 1997. By late 1997, the full system in Oakland County was made up of five computers controlling about 300 intersections, and the communities involved were Auburn Hills, Farmington Hills, Milford, Novi, Pontiac, Rochester Hills, South Lyon, Troy, Walled Lake, West Bloomfield, and Wixom. The system was set up and designed by Siemens Automotive (Auburn Hills, Michigan), and the project was initially called the FAST-TRAC IVHS Project, and the project combined two main systems: ATMS (or Advanced Traffic Management System, which involved traffic sensors and SCATS advanced area-wide traffic-control software) and ATIS (or Advanced Traveler Information System, which involved the Siemens Automotive IVHS Ali-Scout technology, which had real-time traffic routing capability), and motorists could get Ali-Scout systems installed in their vehicles, systems that could provide navigation assistance and dynamic route guidance. In 1999, the Oakland County Road Commission opened up a Web site with traffic information, and, in December 2001, that site was improved, now having a "Real Time Traffic Map" service for Web surfers, who could get traffic information related to about 400 intersections monitored by FAST-TRAC, and the new version of the site (at www.rcocweb.org) was now updated every two minutes (increased from every ten minutes) and was funded by money from the federal government that was to be used for technology projects, which FAST-TRAC was.
Michigan Intelligent Transportation Systems or MITS -- MITS is a freeway traffic monitoring program. In downtown Detroit, there is a MITS headquarters or MITS center, and it is staffed by members of the Michigan Department of Transportation (or M-DOT). This program involves monitoring traffic-sensors along or under roads or cameras mounted above freeways and main roads and involves displaying messages on changeable-message signs; MITS uses the sensors of the SCANDI and FAST-TRAC systems. The original MITS center was put into operation in 1981 (in a leased building along Jefferson Avenue); the MITS center was moved to the Greyhound Bus Station in Detroit in 1991. In April 1997, the Greyhound Bus Station also became home to the Metro Dispatch Center of the Michigan State Police (which can be thought of as the Detroit State Police Dispatch Center).
SmartRoute Systems -- SmartRoute Systems, Inc., was a company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts (circa 1998), and during the late 1990s, it had set up and was running and operating traffic information centers in a number of big cities around the country; by late 1998, SmartRoute Systems had centers, which provided traffic information to the media for a fee, in cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Washington, D.C., and work was being done to set up systems in Detroit, Minneapolis, and New York City. In 1998, SmartRoute Systems was given a contract by the state of Michigan (ultimately through the signature of Governor John Engler) to run the MITS center in Detroit, and that meant SmartRoute Systems was given the authority to run the camera-systems, message signs, and computers that were part of the MITS center, and SmartRoute Systems could improve on what existed in relation to the MITS center. Today, SmartRoute Systems packages and sells traffic information. And SmartRoute Systems works with such companies as Ford and General Motors to provide information about traffic conditions to motorists in vehicles via satellite-delivered traffic-information systems; for example, information is used for the "OnStar" system of General Motors, which began to offer OnStar in DeVilles, Eldorados, and Sevilles of the Cadillac division in late 1996 (the start of the 1997-model year).
Roger Hoppe, who had worked some Holiday News Services of AAA Michigan in the 1990s, noted for this "portrait" that he was involved in a three-month test--in the summer of 1998--of the SmartRoute Systems operation in Detroit. One of the jobs that Roger Hoppe performed while on duty was to provide text information and visual information (through cameras) to state police, who were in the same building in Detroit as was the MITS center. Hoppe reported that a traffic service called Shadow Traffic was involved in providing audio traffic information, such as through the "Highway Advisory Radio" system (or "HAR" system), which is a system of low-power AM narrow-cast transmitters that broadcast recorded messages and which had been, generally speaking, under test (intermittently) from 1995 through the summer of 1998 (around 1998, for instance, 1630 AM was the frequency being used for the HAR system, such as at big freeway interchanges).
In early June 1999, SmartRoute signed a contract with MEP that stated that, for one, SmartRoute would fund MEP for three years, and this agreement, essentially, brought an end to the association between AAA Michigan and MEP.
SmartRoute System first became clearly known to the public on Monday, August 30, 1999, when it fired up a product in conjunction with WXYZ-TV Channel 7. The product was billed by Channel 7 as "SmartTraveler 7." And during newscasts, Channel 7 began to provide traffic information through sounds and pictures in association with SmartRoute Systems.
Then on Tuesday, December 21, 1999, SmartRoute Systems and M-DOT announced that "smartraveler.com" was launched. The Web site was a 24-hour-a-day (seven-days-a-week) Web site, and the main goal was to provide traffic and weather information. It also offered estimated travel times for certain stretches of roadway and data about construction sites.
A press release from M-DOT and SmartRoute Systems of December 21, 1999, noted:
"...SmartRoute System operates in the Detroit area out of the Michigan Department of Transportation's Intelligent Transportation Systems Center under a unique public-private partnership agreement. This high-tech Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS) collects and disseminates the region's most accurate travel information. Data collection resources include: 158 CCTV cameras, 2,600 mainline loop sensors, the Michigan State Police; 7 County Sheriffs; 250 local police agencies; MDOT; 9 County Road Commissions; numerous EMS companies, fire departments, emergency management agencies; over 440 mobile probes, the Michigan Emergency Patrol, various towing companies, trucking companies, and media partners.
"The coverage area for this system includes 180 miles of expressways in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne Counties...."
Grand Rapids Skyview Traffic -- Much of this "portrait" is concerned with the traffic reporting services that have existed in the Detroit-Metropolitan area or have been based in the area since the mid-1960s. Not all the traffic services that have existed in Michigan have been in the Detroit area, and not all that exist today are in the Detroit-Metropolitan area. A good example of one service that exists outside the Detroit-Metropolitan area is "Grand Rapids Skyview Traffic" (of Grand Rapids) or, simply, "Skyview Traffic" or "Skyview."
On the afternoon of Wednesday, December 20, 2000, Kevin Richards, who started Skyview, talked for a short while about traffic reporting history in the Grand Rapids area since the early 1980s. Mostly, he told the history of Skyview--a service that, in 2000, he billed as "West Michigan's original traffic reporting service, reporting from the junction of 131 and the Ford Freeway in Downtown Grand Rapids." Besides talking about Skyview, he talked about the short-lived "Traffax."
Kevin Richards began his career as a traffic reporter in 1983, and his work began as a reporter for WCUZ-AM/WCUZ-FM; actually, he started doing traffic on Monday, November 28, 1983 (which was the first Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend of 1983). In the 1980s, he did his reporting for WCUZ-AM-FM from the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, and he worked for WCUZ-AM/FM until 1991. On January 2, 1991, he began hosting the morning show on WOOD-FM; after a short while, he was also doing the morning show for WOOD-AM. A format change by the owners of WOOD-AM/WOOD-FM made him take up the job of again reporting traffic for WOOD-FM, which he would do from about August 1992 to December 1, 1996 (which was the day before Metro Traffic began offering traffic reports to radio stations in the Grand Rapids area). In 1992, he decided to start his own company that would provide traffic reports to stations (on a cash basis), and, in the fall of 1992, his "Skyview" was born, and it would become an incorporated company in 1995. Skyview was first located at the East Bank Waterfront Towers (from 1992 to 1996); it was in the Bridgewater Place from 1996 to October 2000; since October 2000, it has been on the second floor of an office building at 640 Scribner Avenue (near the junction of US-131 and the Ford Freeway). Generally speaking, Skyview has been in operation from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, and Kevin Richards has done most of the reporting; since 1992, Skyview has had some part-time employees, and here is a list of most of the part-time employees--Tony Chase (from 1992 to 1995), who was considered a fill-in employee, Marvin Matthews (from 1993 to 1997), Brian Thomas (from 1994 to 1997), who was a person who was "on call," Linda Rexford (from June 1999 to at least 2000), and Scott McCoy (starting in December 2000). Not only does Skyview provide information to radio stations either through live reports or through fax reports, but also it gives out information to anyone through a Web site (at www.skyview.iserv.net), which was started in October 1997; in late 2000, Skyview was supplying reports to such radio stations in the Grand Rapids/Muskegon/Holland area as WBCT-FM, WMUS-FM, WTRV-FM, WLHT-FM, WGNB-FM, WHTC-AM, WGVU-AM/WGVU-FM, WGRD-FM, and WCSG-FM, and another client of the service was WOOD-TV Channel 8 (which was not related to WOOD-AM/WOOD-FM), Grand Rapids.
By the way, while the big "S-curve" construction project on US-131 in Grand Rapids was underway in 1999 and 2000, it was Skyview that was supplying the M-DOT Web site with traffic information about the traffic conditions near the construction site. Kevin Richards noted that what people call the "S-curve" section of US-131 really does not look like an "S-curve." He said that the name "S-curve" sort of comes from what people say when they are about to drive through the curve (or at least the old version of the curve)--"Save me, Lord."
For this "portrait," Kevin Richards stated that one other commercial service involved in traffic reporting in the Grand Rapids area since 1983 was "Traffax." "Traffax" existed in the Grand Rapids area from February 1995 to February 1996, and the man most associated with Traffax in Grand Rapids was Darren Emery. It seems the service was an offshoot of a service that had been started in Pennsylvania in the mid-1990s.
CB radio or Citizens Band radio -- The time period from the early 1970s to the mid-1970s (around 1973 to 1977) may have been the "fad" days of the CB radio (or Citizens Band radio), but, before that time, the CB radio had already been used to help travelers in Michigan. For instance, in the 1960s, the Automobile Manufacturing Association in January 1965 had created "HELP" (or Highway Emergency Locating Plan). Also, between Detroit and Lansing, 10 CB monitor stations--each station having a receiving range of up to about 15 miles--had been set up along I-96 by September 1967.
An article in "The Detroit News" had the CB information provided in the previous paragraph on September 18, 1967. The article of that day also contained more, as provided in the following quotation. "Here the system is in use on the John C. Lodge Freeway. The monitoring station is located in Herman Kiefer branch of Detroit General Hospital. General Motors Corp. and the city have cars equipped with CB transceivers. They can report on traffic conditions, accidents, etc. There are about 1,500,000 cars properly equipped with transcievrs [transceivers] in the United States."
From 1978 to late 1980, the CB-radio program called "BEAR" (for Broad Emergency Assistance Radio) existed. The program involved having 10 CB relay stations along I-96 between Detroit and Grand Rapids. When a person had a problem or wanted to report a problem, the person could call out on channel 9 and contact state police. As part of the BEAR campaign, signs along I-96 displayed "CALL CB-9."
511 telephone number -- On July 21, 2002, the Federal Communications Commission made "511" the telephone number for traffic information. That is, the number was now to be used by traffic-information services as the telephone number at which traffic information could be made available to motorists. And this number was designed to be a national number, of course.
In the early 1970s, the Middle East oil embargo caused headaches for motorists in the United States of America; for instance, there were often long lines at gasoline stations because of gasoline shortages. In 1974, the federal government mandated a speed limit of 55 miles an hour on highways as part of an energy-saving plan. And at the Michigan AAA, the slogan "Drive 55 and save gas and lives" became popular.
On November 29, 1987, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill--which became a law, of course--that allowed states to raise speed limits to 65 miles an hour on federally designated highways. In December of 1987, Michigan allowed the speed limit to go up to 65 miles an hour on about 720 miles of highway. The federal and state laws of 1987 brought about an end to the familiar AAA safety slogans about 55 miles an hour.
On November 28, 1995, President Bill Clinton signed a federal bill removing the federal restrictions on speed limits on federally designated highways. The law did not allow states to increase speed limits till 12:01 a.m. on December 8, 1995; the law also removed the federal requirements that motorcyclists wear helmets, but states could still have state helmet laws. Michigan was not quick to change speed limits. Governor John Engler of Michigan did not sign a bill into law allowing for a change in speed limits till June 25, 1996. For one, this law increased the speed limit from 55 miles an hour to 65 on about 260 miles of roadway of the state (leaving about 170 miles marked at 55). Most important, the 1996 law initiated a test of 70 miles an hour on five main parts of freeway in the state, though the speed limit would not be increased for trucks (the top speed limit for which would remain at 55). On August 1, 1996, the speed limit became 70 miles an hour on I-75 between Standish and Sault Ste. Marie, on US-131 between Grand Rapids and Cadillac, on I-96 between Muskegon and Lansing, on I-94 between Mt. Clemens and Port Huron, and on I-69 between Indiana and Port Huron (except for a section of the freeway at Flint).
There have been no familiar slogans about driving "65 miles an hour" for AAA Michigan to throw away, and it is very unlikely that any slogans about 70 miles an hour will ever become familiar.
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