Traveller Information Systems. By Kevin S. Hutchby
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Atlanta Regional Commission

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MARTA route map The ARC actively works with GDOT, MARTA and the Police as well as the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and is the Federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organisation for many issues in Greater Atlanta. Atlantaís transportation problems provide the ARC with many challenges which it is aiming to address in terms of air quality, public transport, highways, cycling, pedestrian facilities and incident and congestion management. Whilst not a direct developer of Traveller Information Systems an insight was gained into the problems / challenges facing developing cities, such as Atlanta and the attempts at solutions. For this reason I have included a brief report of key ARC issues.

A question and answer session was kindly granted and provided by Susie Dunn and Chris Chovan of ARC.

ARCís responsibility for producing regional development plans have helped it to forge good and vital relationships with related organisations, described by Susie as one large team. It has been identified that only by working together can the Commission provide accepted best practices for land use, environmental practices, housing and of course transportation. Another vitally important partnership exists with the citizens of Atlanta and the ARC. It actively encourages the involvement of the population for key planning issues. A growth scenario, based on existing development, and the implications of, was used to generate a series of policies and best practices for a sustainable future for Greater Atlanta. A key policy is to encourage transit oriented developments where a mixture of land uses (business, public, retail, entertainment and residential) are clustered within an average quarter of a mile walking distance of a transit station. Such methods of development encourage the use of buses and rail and a plan exists for such a development around Lindbergh MARTA station.

Among the many transport recommendations forwarded by the ARC for new developments are:

  • Provision of networks for pedestrians and cyclists as good as whatever is provided for motorists

  • Provision of short-cuts for pedestrians and cyclists and alternatives to travel along high volume roads

  • Encourage programs for local employees incorporating ride-sharing, modified work hours and telecommuting, among others.
These sit alongside recommendations for best practice in the use of traffic signals and ideal road widths etc. Seemingly no detail is omitted amongst ARCís plans. One particular problem with the expansion of the Metropolitan area is the inability of the rail network, impressive as it is, to catch up with new suburbs and retail and business areas.

Commissioned in 1979, the MARTA network does not cater for all of Greater Atlanta due to the rapid expansion of the City A $36 billion regional transport plan is trying to establish long term transport policies, projecting forward to 2025 including compliance with air quality standards by promoting transport alternatives to the single occupancy motor vehicle. Although the costs involved here look astronomical for a single city, Atlantaís congested highways are said to cost more than 2 billion pounds a year in terms of wasted fuel, wasted time and pollution. The bulk of the investment is targeted towards an expansion of the commuter rail system, buses from neighbourhoods to nearest rail links, better park & ride links and better facilities to encourage cyclists including cycle tracks and cycle carrying public transport vehicles. To put the size of the challenge into perspective the figures talked about include another 220 miles of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes planned, 700 new cleaner fuel buses to be introduced and an incredible 2,700 miles of new walkways and cycle tracks.

From this blueprint shorter term projects are planned and prioritised and a target date of 2003 exists for Atlanta to meet air quality conformity standards.

Such is the scale of Atlantaís ambitious plan it has been considered a model for other areas with similar traffic problems and air quality non-conformance. In terms of getting the public of Atlanta involved, the ARC could seemingly not have done more with 30 community forums, 4 major conferences, more than 200 presentations on the development plan, 51 public meetings, bimonthly newsletters to an audience of 7000, 1.5 million questionnaires distributed and many other initiatives directly involving Atlantaís populous. The plan itself has been made public via the Internet and local libraries. This itself has currently resulted in 5,300 hits to the Internet site, fifteen hundred survey comments and about a thousand letters, e:mails and faxes.

To help it, Atlanta already has a good springboard for further ITS development with the existence of a shared fibre optic backbone consisting of 228 miles of data cabling. The State DOT, MARTA as well as six local jurisdiction areas all have access to the various data transmitted around this network which includes CCTV images from hundreds of cameras and vehicle detection information.

More information on the plan can be found at Atlantaregional

My sincere thanks to Susie Dunn and Chris Chovan

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