Orlando road map (zimmytw/Shutterstock.com)

Florida's data-driven intelligent transit

A data management initiative called SunStore is at the heart of the Florida Department of Transportation’s plans to make central Florida’s roads safer.

Last month, the Federal Highway Administration awarded FDOT, MetroPlan Orlando and the University of Central Florida an $11.9 million grant to support development of intelligent transportation systems that target road safety for the region.  According to FDOT’s grant application, central Florida has one of the highest frequencies of pedestrian crashes and ranks among the country’s top 40 most congested areas.

SunStore will help fuel three smart city projects: PedSafe, a pedestrian and bicycle collision avoidance system; SmartCommunity, which will leverage existing ridesharing and car-sharing apps to offer residents access to cars when required; and GreenWay, which will manage more than 1,000 traffic signals and connect to data in SunStore to support real-time operation through a regional decision support system. That connection will allow strategic planning for special events to consider of all users and transportation modes and will provide a unified approach to system operations and management, the application stated.

“All the proposed programs will rely on FDOT’s existing SunStore for housing, sharing, analyzing, transporting and applying enterprise data for improved safety and mobility across all modes of travel. This will help accelerate deployment of the proposed programs,” according to the grant application.

SunStore interfaces with the state’s data integration and video aggregation system to make transportation data available to universities, research institutions and businesses. Initial deployments for SunStore are complete, with additional building and deployment expected through 2018.

In terms of the grant’s requirements, SunStore aligned with all the focus areas: multimodal integrated corridor management, connected vehicle technology at intersections and pedestrian crossings, freight community system, technology to support connected communities, infrastructure assessment and rural technology deployments.

Besides increasing safety, the impetus for this effort comes from the state’s “new and rapidly developing environment with an aging and increasingly diverse population, both culturally and economically,” the document stated. “Demand on the transportation system has never been higher.”

Lessons learned from the successful implementation of smart technology will be applied to Creative Village, a 68-acre mixed-use, transit-oriented urban neighborhood under development in downtown Orlando. It’s expected to add more than 10,000 students and residents to the area.

The grant money will be matched by $53 million in non-federal funds or in-kind assets. Additionally, FDOT has programmed $47 million over the next five years for the operations and maintenance of the program.

“This project puts Central Florida on the cutting-edge of technology in transportation -- and it’s only the beginning," said MetroPlan Orlando Executive Director Harry Barley. "Once the technology is tested, we can then take the lessons learned and expand it to all of Central Florida.”

“Orlando is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, and it’s critical that our transportation system keep pace,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) in announcing the grant win Oct. 5. “This grant will help make Orlando’s roads safer and less congested, and give residents a wider range of transportation options.”

“As one of the most visited areas, Central Florida will benefit immensely from this federal funding,” added Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.). “This grant will help residents and our 68 million annual visitors get from place to place quicker, faster, safer and with less fuel usage and air pollution.”

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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