Ga. Tech to crunch data from high-tech traffic system to improve flow of commuters

By David Pendered

The demonstration project hasn’t even opened, and Atlanta already is expanding its deal with the Georgia Tech Research Alliance to crunch data in an effort to move commuters – whether by foot, bike or vehicle – more quickly and safely through the busy North Avenue corridor.

North Avenue, which passes The Varsity restaurant, is being equipped with smart technology to improve the flow of commuters traveling by multiple modes of transportation. Credit: oyster.com

The North Avenue demonstration project is to open Sept. 17. Atlanta has equipped the street with a cutting-edge traffic management system all the way from the Tech campus to Freedom Parkway.

The Atlanta City Council voted Monday to pay GTRA up to $350,000 to collect and analyze data for a year. The source of funding is the transportation sales tax voters in Atlanta approved last year.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office released a statement Thursday to draw attention to the project. The statement included a quote from Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson.

“I am proud to announce this expanded partnership between the City of Atlanta and the Georgia Institute of Technology,” Reed said. “Over the past two years, Atlanta has emerged as a national Smart City leader because of our collaboration. With this agreement, leading researchers and students at Georgia Tech will be able to study and analyze data coming from motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and transit on North Avenue. The City will then be able to use their insights to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies to manage congestion and promote safe, sustainable mobility options on this vital corridor.”

Bud Peterson

G.P. “Bud” Peterson

Peterson observed: “We’re very excited about Georgia Tech’s role in Atlanta’s Smart City initiative along the North Avenue corridor. By collecting and analyzing data and traffic patterns in the area immediately adjacent to our campus, our students, faculty, and staff can partner with the City of Atlanta to create a safer and more efficient place to live, work and play, while dramatically improving the overall quality of life in our community.”

The high-tech system proved its value earlier this summer, following a Juneteenth celebration at Philips Arena, according to Faye DiMassimo, general manager of the Renew Atlanta infrastructure bond program and the city’s sales-tax-funded projects.

A crowd of about 17,000 cleared parking structures and downtown streets in about half the time compared to last year, with about the same number of attendees. DiMassimo’s presentation to the Atlanta City Council’s Finance Committee July 26 included a slide with a quote from Jason Parker, vice president of parking and other customer services for the Atlanta Hawks and Phillips Arena:

  • “With almost 17,000 guests in attendance, we were able to empty our parking decks and have the streets around the arena clear in under 45 minutes. With the same number if guests last year, and the same number of staff and police officers, it took nearly 90 minutes.
  • “Signal management and the revised traffic plan supported by the technology had the single greatest positive impact on traffic I have witnessed for any event.”
internet of things

The internet of things enables traffic signals to communicate and adjust the timing of lighting sequences to smooth the flow of bicyclists, pedestrians and vehicles and increase safety. Credit: Atlanta

Along North Avenue, newly installed traffic signals are connected via fiber to other traffic lights that are computer operated. This network of traffic signals enables vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists to share the space and travel safely at optimum speeds.

Computers monitor the sensors and parses the data by traffic theory to direct the traffic signal to switch between red and yellow based on real-time traffic conditions. Today’s typical “smart” traffic signals change colors based computer codes that were based on peak and off-peak travel times of the day.

The sensors within the traffic signals are so advanced they can hear a bullet shot and triangulate the sound to pinpoint the place the shot was fired. The data available to police includes the caliber of the bullet, according to Atlanta’s chief information technology officer.

These traffic signals are connected via fiber to other traffic lights that are computer operated. This network of traffic signals enables vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists to share the space and travel safely at optimum speeds.

These traffic signals are part of the transportation system being installed along North Avenue. City officials plan to cut the ribbon Sept. 16 on this “smart corridor” during an event that’s to include a demonstration of autonomous vehicles.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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