How Atlanta manages its new traffic headache

When a fire under a bridge in Atlanta caused it  to collapse on March 30, Interstate 85 was shut down for miles in both directions, causing a headache for commuters that day and a chronic problem for the city as it reroutes traffic to make repairs that are expected to take until mid-June.

To help drivers deal with detours, Atlanta developed CommuteATL, an online platform designed to help residents and visitors plan their travel during the I-85 bridge reconstruction. Atlanta worked with Esri, the maker of GIS solutions, and Waze, the navigation app firm, to develop the site, which not only provides real-time updates for drivers but also helps city officials manage traffic in near real time.  

“Atlanta traffic engineers monitor this data, identifying congestion or hazards, and then direct crews of signal techs to make real-time adjustments to traffic signals and route guidance to increase capacity on major corridors,” a city spokesperson told GCN. Using the analytics based on traffic patterns and feedback from Waze’s crowdsourced data, city officials can communicate with the company on how it is routing users.

Robert Hathcock, an Esri account manager, said the city was able to get CommuteATL up and running within 12 days using the city’s current tools – ArcGIS and the Waze Connected Citizen Program, a free data-sharing partnership.

The website uses an application programming interface to draw Waze data that populates the map, Hathcock said. But unlike Waze, CommuteATL also provides information on the city’s public transit options (including schedules), parking locations and bike-share locations.

Atlanta CIO Samir Saini said that capabilities within the portal could expand in coming weeks, adding additional real-time, interactive mapping features.

The city will continue to use the data from this solution even after the bridge is repaired, a city spokesman said, noting that the traffic won't go back to normal overnight.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.

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