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Attacking a commuting scourge. (Photo: Richard Drew / AP)

You know the routine — wait at one red light, only to meet another at the next intersection, and another. In cities, we are spending 40% of our time idling, according to Stephen Smith, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. The time adds up: the average American spends 42 hours a year in traffic — almost two complete days, says Inrix, an analytics firm. New Yorkers spend more than twice as long — 89 hours.

Why it matters: Smith says our traffic systems have not changed in a half-century. Down the road, we will have self-driving cars. Before then, though, we can enjoy less road anxiety.

What is happening: In Pittsburgh and Atlanta, drivers are now more systematically moving along major streets, the result of the installation of intelligent traffic systems designed by Smith. Using cameras, radar and radios, the systems figure out on the spot which lights should be red, and which green.

Cities and companies are catching on to the chance to use new technologies to get people through lights faster. There are apps that tell you when a light will turn green. But Smith notes that none of them actually changes the lights according to what is going on in real-time. His systems cost about $20,000 per four-way intersection.

In the future, Beverly Hills, CA., Portland, Maine, and Dubai plan on installing Smith's system, he says. For now, writers are citing the traffic system as part of why Pittsburgh seems so cool these days. And last month, Atlanta launched "North Avenue Smart Corridor," including the technology. The 2.3 mile corridor, which has 18 intersections, includes Georgia Tech and Coca Cola's world headquarters. Speaking of the corridor in DC on Oct. 5, Mayor Kasim Reed said, "It's going to be a living lab for the city of Atlanta."

Go deeper

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Ipsos poll: COVID trick-or-treat

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note ±3.3% margin of error for the total sample size; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

About half of Americans are worried that trick-or-treating will spread coronavirus in their communities, according to this week's installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: This may seem like more evidence that the pandemic is curbing our nation's cherished pastimes. But a closer look reveals something more nuanced about Americans' increased acceptance for risk around activities in which they want to participate.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: The good and bad news about antibody therapies — Fauci: Hotspots have materialized across "the entire country."
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  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
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  5. Technology: The pandemic isn't slowing tech.
  6. Travel: CDC replaces COVID-19 cruise ban with less restrictive "conditional sailing order."
  7. Sports: High school football's pandemic struggles.
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Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Updated 10 hours ago - Economy & Business

Dunkin' Brands agrees to $11B Inspire Brands sale

Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Dunkin' Brands, operator of both Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, agreed on Friday to be taken private for nearly $11.3 billion, including debt, by Inspire Brands, a restaurant platform sponsored by private equity firm Roark Capital.

Why it matters: Buying Dunkin’ will more than double Inspire’s footprint, making it one of the biggest restaurant deals in the past 10 years. This could ultimately set up an IPO for Inspire, which already owns Arby's, Jimmy John's and Buffalo Wild Wings.