One Year Later: North Avenue Smart Corridor

In September 2017, the City of Atlanta launched the North Avenue Smart Corridor.

Just over a year ago in September 2017, the City of Atlanta and Georgia Tech launched the North Avenue Smart Corridor. It’s the most connected corridor in Georgia and a living laboratory for traffic management through technology. The Renew Atlanta infrastructure bond is funding the approximately $3-million project and over the past year, the corridor has seen significant technology changes.

High definition video cameras mounted at approximately 20 intersections detect how many cars are on the road, how fast they’re going, and the number of occupants. Thermal cameras recognize pedestrians and give them priority over vehicles to safely cross intersections. And, a smartphone app connects pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists to smart city technology and each other, sending out safety warnings about impending red lights and other dangerous traffic situations.

According to Renew Atlanta, the technology is paying off; the corridor—stretching from Northside Drive to Freedom Parkway—has seen improved travel times and a 25-percent reduction in vehicle crashes. “Ultimately it’s improved safety for everyone,” said Keary Lord, deputy program manager, Renew Atlanta Bond and TSPLOST Programs. “When you’re able to reduce crashes, you’re certainly going to reduce injuries and fatalities at the same time. So, it’s the safety benefit that’s the most significant.”

Georgia Tech is the City’s official research partner on the North Avenue project. Michael Hunter, associate professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is leading Georgia Tech’s work on North Avenue and is developing a real-time model of the corridor. Sensors along the corridor connect to the model and send operation and vehicle location information to researchers and city officials. The goal: improve signal timing and energy use, and reduce emissions. “One of the major concepts of smart cities is this idea of turning data into actionable information. How do I take data and do something useful with it?” said Hunter.

Hunter and his colleagues have spent the past nine months building the model and getting all of the data streams to work together consistently. They’re now calibrating a working version of the model and preparing to integrate it into the corridor, taking into account varying traffic conditions. “You want to be able to respond dynamically and in real-time to traffic conditions,” said Hunter. “Monday is not the same as Tuesday is not the same as Wednesday.”

The next phase of the project is the introduction of an autonomous shuttle in early 2019 which will run a route along North Avenue and Ponce de Leon Avenue and have two stops—the North Avenue MARTA station and Ponce City Market, a popular destination in Midtown Atlanta. The City is also exploring other areas of Atlanta to deploy smart city technology; Campbellton Road is now the site of a smart transit corridor in partnership with MARTA.

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Alyson Powell Key

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Institute for People and Technology