Two years ago, after six years of commuting from Chelsea to downtown Birmingham, Adam Pate found an outlet for his frustrations about traffic, inconsiderate drivers and “general stupidity” – an @ihate280 Twitter account. Since then he has gained about 900 followers and added traffic reports in addition to his commentary on what he sees on Highway 280. 280 Living asked him about how he has built the account to be a community forum and why, of course, he hates 280.
How did your following grow?
The following was slow to grow, a few followers and retweets every week or so. When I started reporting on traffic events, like wrecks, stalled cars, lane closures and such, I started gaining some additional followers. Some people appreciate my sense of humor. Other just get a kick out of the fact that @ihate280 simply exists.
One day, a thought occurred to me, “Who in the area is considered a celebrity with a huge following on Twitter? Of course, James Spann!” I have to admit, I was thrilled the first time he retweeted one of my traffic reports. This first retweet earned me double-digit followers. The lesson I learned: never doubt @Spann’s sphere of influence. Every time he retweets @ihate280, I get several followers. Mr. Spann, if you are reading this, thanks so much!
Additionally, I have recently been invited to be a Fox 6 Traffic Tracker. This will get @ihate280 exposure to a television audience, which is an exciting turn of events.
With a current following of 730 people, I hope to have stronger interactions with the community. I have many regulars now who I have begun to expect tweets from: @bamagrad2004, @MLONF, @jthart, @titlelawyerjoe, @finance_ninja and @lynzeHardaway, to name a few. I look forward to an even stronger community.
How has @ihate280 become a source of news on 280 traffic and other happenings?
Once I had more than 100 followers, the word-of-mouth support spread. People started considering @ihate280 a legitimate source of traffic news. I would get tips and reports and would retweet them. I try to keep the tweets interesting, funny or relevant — hopefully a combination of the three. Most of all, if I can help people avoid unnecessary frustration during the day or allow them a place to vent, then I consider @ihate280 a success.
What are some of the most entertaining tweets you have written or retweeted?
Most of the entertaining tweets revolve around the general frustrations we all experience on 280. I’d say the most common complaint is people not knowing the posted speed limit is 55 mph in most places. I’ll give you a surprising fact: Most people appear to not know what a turn signal is. Another surprising source of confusion appears to be “merge lanes.”
One of my favorite tweets that makes me laugh to this day: “@ill_legible: Hwy 280. Getting you the traffic you crave without the explanation you deserve.”
How has @ihate280 created a community amidst traffic madness?
@ihate280 allows me a way to say what most people think while travelling along 280. Honestly, the community is centered in the Birmingham metro area. It’s not that I’m ignoring the stretch southeast of Chelsea; I just don’t travel that way. I’d love some field reporters out that way.
What has surprised you about running the account?
Honestly, the most surprising thing is the amount of followers. I thought I’d cap out around 100 people. I am just taken aback whenever people engage with me. It’s fun!
What do you think of the plan addressing Highway 280 traffic ALDOT recently announced?
The plan seems ambitious, and I don’t have a lot of faith that it’ll work. It’s a noble goal to reduce a typical commute by three to five minutes. The construction and general disruption this will cause until it is complete just warms my heart. At least I’ll have plenty to gripe about through November 2013.
What do you think the solution for 280 should be?
It’s hard to say. I’ve had plenty of time to think about it. There are just so many people that live along the 280 corridor and so little additional real estate. You can re-time the lights, and that’ll help some.
There’s the dreaded “elevated highway,” which would cause way more trouble than it’s worth, plus the eyesore factor and such. The idea of an expressway is attractive, but I have little faith that ALDOT could actually make it work.
We need more options to get into the metro area. However, there is no way to do that. Highway 11 will take you down a two-lane road towards Pelham along I-65. That’s way out of the way. You can work your way up to 119 and go along Grants Mill Road, but that’ll only take you so far and it gets congested too. Unfortunately, 280 is the best option for many to get to Birmingham and Hoover metro areas.
I had a thought, and it’s incredibly unpopular and would never happen. Oak Mountain State Park takes up a lot of acreage and we can only travel around it. What would happen if there was a roadway through it? I’m no civil engineer and it’s easy to be a critic, but it seems like an option to explore.
Why, in 140 characters or less, do you hate 280?
I hate stupid, inconsiderate drivers. One small mistake, and the entire system breaks down.
We know you hate 280, but is there anything you like about 280?
As much as I complain, 280 has everything I need within a several mile stretch: plenty of great shopping, restaurants and entertainment options. In fact, several of my favorite places in Birmingham are here: Starz Karaoke, The Pita Hut and the new disc golf course in Inverness.
What do you see at the future for the @ihate280 account?
It’s hard to say. It’s taken two years to get this far. I’ll keep the feed going and try to keep it entertaining, and hopefully the community will continue to grow. Maybe one day, I’ll even have my own bumper sticker.
Anything else you want to say?
I’d like to thank 280Living.com for reaching out to me to discuss @ihate280. As long as traffic is awful and drivers forget how to drive in the rain, @ihate280 will be there trying to be funny.