An Intelligent Transportation and Connected Vehicle Research Blog

March 31, 2017

Atlanta Bridge Collapse – My Thoughts on Firemageddon17

Filed under: ITS — Joe Gillis @ 10:13 am

Last night I was shocked to see what happened on a section of elevated I-85 northeast of downtown Atlanta.  Once we were all thrilled than no one was hurt or injured it was time to think about how bad this is for Atlanta and the region.

There will be investigation as to why flamable materials and PVC material ws under the bridge.  There will be much investigation into the stability of the nearby segments of bridge in both directions then there will be a reconstruction plan.  It will take months.

In the near-term, GDOT will lay out recomendations.  Here are some of mine:

  1.  Every freeway route going toward Atlanta should alert drivers on I-85 or seeking to use I-85 to leave Atlanta to use I-285.  This should also be recommended to DOTs in Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, and South Carolina as well.  Some large detours may want to be coordinated in those states for through traffic.  DMS signs should be used for this as well as 511 in FL, TN and SC. (Alabama does not have 511)
  2. The DOT will not recommend any specific local street as a detour and none are likely very good anyway except for near your departure or destination location.  For example access to Cheshire Bridge and Piedmont Roads will need a new route in many cases.
  3. The ramps disallowing entry to I-85 should be restored with signs indicating tnat access is only allowed to access to GA 400 northbound.  Since access from GA 400 to NB 85 is allowed, the return trip should also be allowed.  There may be a reason to temporarily keep the barracades for recovery equipment to enter the scene.
  4. There is absolutely no evdidence of terrorist activity but it one would have tried to attack Atlanta this would have been high on the list as a potential disruption.
  5. Ultimately what we will see is I-285 and I-75 north of the city will have congestion increased.  I-285 on the northend will see the worst.  GA 400 and I-85 in the Brookhaven/Chamblee/Doraville area will for now become a loop route to facilitate local traffic only.  I-20 should be discouraged as an alternate route to keep traffic out of downtown
  6. MARTA has already said they will increase service and that is great.  train and Bus service I presume.
  7. Although I am a Civil Engineer which implies I think new roads and lanes are the answer.  I actually think that more using transit, companies encouraging telework (partial or complete) and staggering schedules is the better answer.  If you can reduce the demand that is always better than trying to increase capacity – which is an ever changing dangling carrot.
  8. Lastly  – Former candidate for GA governor Oxendine’s proposal for a tunnel connecting GA 400 and I-675 is not looking quite as crazy right now.  Although I suppose that is just more food for Bugs Bunny 🙂

Please comment on my Twitter page @Gilltrans

October 23, 2013

Georgia transportation Top Ten List – Part Four

Filed under: ITS — Joe Gillis @ 2:03 pm

It is time to reveal the #1 most significant transportation facility in Georgia. Access to my prior three posts and items 2 through 10 on the list may be found here.

Number One (1)

Savannah River and Port – Some may argue that the Atlanta Airport or one of the clogged freeways in Atlanta should be ranked here, but I am looking at the big picture.  What really matters is business and the movement of freight.  Without that, there are fewer jobs and fewer opportunities.  Deepening the channel in the Savannah River is paramount to a successful Georgia economy moving forward.  This project has been in various stages of planning for well over a decade and there is a race of sorts as to which east coast port will be able to take advantage of the deepening of the Panama Canal.  In one way or another, this one facility impacts many of the other 9 items on the list as goods are shipped to the Multimodal center in Austell and then onward by train and truck to points far and wide – especially in Georgia and the southeast US.  One note of disappointment was that the Savannah region did not pass the T-SPLOST which would have included road improvements between the port and I-16.  Although much maligned as one of the most boring interstates in the country, this road has the potential to haul even more freight when the port is deepened.

October 22, 2013

Georgia Transportation Top Ten List – Part Three

Filed under: ITS — Joe Gillis @ 12:08 pm

Continuing our countdown to the top transportation facility in Georgia, here are my previous posts:

My first post for items 8, 9 and 10 is here.

My second post for items 5, 6 and 7 is here.

I have three more positions to offer today – 4, 3 and 2.

Number 4. (Four)

MARTA – The sometimes maligned transit provider for Fulton and Dekalb counties in Metro Atlanta provides passenger rail and bus service to two counties in Metro Atlanta.  Bus service is pretty typical for a city of Atlanta’s size – routes go to serve the need, frequencies are better in the city center and poor in the suburbs.  Train servce is mostly inside the perimeter (ITP). Extension outside the perimeter beyond the Doraville and North Springs stations has been thwarted on a number of occasions and will continue to come up as an option as traffic becomes worse and worse – especially on GA 400 (you may see that road again in this post 🙂 )   MARTA struggles to cover its costs and given that densities outside the city center are not enough to sustain transit, it is not surprising.  MARTA is most frequently used by those who do not want to use their car – usually for financial reasons.  A few young urbanites consider it ‘hip’ to use transit.  Suburbanites usually only use MARTA for airport parking (Atlanta is better than Washington DC in this area – at least 2016) or parking for downtown events where parking is limited or crowds are large.

Number 3. (Three)

GA 400 – In 40 years, GA 400 has gone from a laughingstock that was so little used that Smokey and the Bandit filmed rural interstate scenes there, to a brutal commute nightmare.  When the tolls are removed in a few weeks it will become even worse.  GA 400 has had lanes added ober the years but it is still the most congested road in atlanta.  If Atlanta wants to be serious about fixing transportation, this route is a place to start – especially the intersection with the I-285 perimeter.  There are long-term plans to add a HOT lane somewhere somehow in the future.  Recent “band-aid” fixes have involved turning shoulder lanes into main lanes during AM rush hours.

Number 2. (Two)

Hartsfield-Jackson Airport – No-brainer; the busiest airport in the world has to make this list.  Arguably this airport has made Atlanta the hub of the south instead of Birmingham (believe it or not), Charlotte or Memphis.  Actually, it may not be arguable.

My next post will be the #1 Transportation Facility in Georgia.  Can you guess what it is?


October 16, 2013

Georgia Transportation Top Ten List – Part Two

Filed under: ITS — Joe Gillis @ 1:02 pm

Continuing my theme from my last post where I listed items 8 thru 10, I will list three more transportation facilities in Georgia of significance.

Number 7. (Seven)

Rome Spur (I-75 to 411 connector) – This link to the AJC provides a good summary of the issue.  By listing this route as #7, I do not imply that other roads in metro Atlanta (ones not yet to come) are not more significant.  However, for such a short route this can have a significant impact on a 25 mile corridor.  The July 2012 TSPLOST that could have funded this route failed to win in this region of the state.  The hold-up is one land owner who will not sell.  There may also be an environmental issue to overcome.  Choosing an alternate route at a higher cost may be worth it.

Number 6. (Six)

Norfolk-Southern Railroad – Although CSX earns an honorable mention, NS is the dominant freight mover in Georgia.  Their lines connect Savannah and Atlanta with other states and smaller lines connect smaller cities.  As railroads go, this is the most significant.  One of the largest Multimodal facilities in the world is in Austell.  Freight from Savannah arrives here and is sent out to places all over the region.

Number 5. (Five)

Atlanta Beltline – Not to be confused with I-285 that circles the city (and itself would be an honorable mention on this list), the Atlanta Beltline is here because it is a dream coming to live.  Urban neighborhoods are being connected via light rail, bicycle and walking trails with parks in between.  The goal is to lift these neighborhoods into significance again and offer walk-ability and a nice urban lifestyle.  Maybe it will succeed, possibly not.  It is a nice effort that is worth a number 5 spot on my list.

October 15, 2013

Georgia Transportation Top Ten List – Part One

Filed under: states — Joe Gillis @ 7:30 am

Everyone likes lists and especially Top Ten Lists.  David Letterman has been doing one for 3 decades or more.  I thought I would take a stab at a transportation list.  I wanted to highlight the most important transportation facilities in Georgia.  I do not want all of them to be automobile-based.  In fact I am attempting to identify items from different types of transportation.  In this post i want to start with #’s 10, 9 and 8.

Number 10 (Ten):

Chattahoochee River – Although not a river that carries freight or passenger cruises, this river is the heart and soul of the state   it is the source of drinking water for much of metro ATL, a place for boaters and rafters and it plays similar roles in Alabama and Florida.  There is certainly controversy between the three states over use of the river.  Alabama and Florida think Georgia use too much water.  Georgia thinks Florida is more concerned about some obscure fish habitat that people getting drinking water.  The fight over this mighty river will not end anytime soon.

Number 9 (Nine)

Appalachian Trail – The beginning of this mega-trail is near Amicalola Falls in north-central Georgia and attracts hikers from all over the world.  There are other trails in the state but this is the mother of them all.

Number 8 (Eight)

Silver Comet – This is Georgia’s best example of a ‘Rails-to’-Trails” bicycle trail.  I would like to ride it some day if i can get in good enough shape 🙂 .  It runs almost 62 miles form Smyrna to Alabama and then continues another 33 miles in Alabama to Anniston as the Chief Ladiga trail.  Cyclists come from all over to try out this one but it is also a local favorite.

To summarize I have done a river, a hiking trail and a bike trail.  Expect to see more of the traditional facilities in future posts.




December 18, 2012

Maybe the Solution to Metro Transportation Problems

Filed under: ITS — Joe Gillis @ 9:01 am

Living in Atlanta, the poster child of bad traffic and limited resources to resolve it, I have seen a lot of solutions tried to solve the problems we have. Indeed I work for a company whose job it is to install software systems to manage intelligent transportation devices. We have a measure of success , including here in Georgia. If we fly up to 30,000 feet and think about things, there are really three main things one can do to alleviate traffic congestion. The first one is add lanes and roads. That is old school or like the Missouri Tigers said before losing to the Georgia Bulldogs, “Old Man Football.” Yes you have to have roads and where feasible (and that is critical) transit. Where it makes sense, one should also have trails for walkers and bikers, too. At the end of the day, if you have a built-out metro area, there is a limit to how many people you can get to point A to B. One can do like Sydney Australia and build a tunnel. John Oxendine proposed the I-675 to GA 400 tunnel and was laughed out of the Governor’s race in 2010. One can build flying cars or step up connected vehicle research, but those are not ready for prime time.

So the next level is to apply ITS solutions which is what my company does as do a number of other companies. We do what we can and squeeze a little more orange juice off the pulp and make some improvements. At the end of the day, many feel it is still not good enough. That is where the third leg of the stool comes into play.

Ever heard of the term travel demand management? It’s not very ‘sexy.” it is not very high tech, but if one wants to get the most our of roads, transit, ITS, etc… it has to be considered. Atlanta uses some of its Federal funds received for pollution mitigation to manage the Clean Air Campaign. My former employer runs that program. Although the premise of paying people to take transit, bike or walk to work is to alleviate pollution (get a car and its emissions off the road) it also reduces congestion. Clean Air also encourages telecommuting and it offers van pools (the opportunity to create them). There is one additional thing that I feel will be driven by the economy and the continued congestion issues in cities – The Four- or Four-and-a-Half-Day work week.

If an office can completely shut down one day a week that not only saves their energy use (cost) but it takes some cars off the road. Although most would prefer a Friday off or maybe a Monday, it would be best if some chose to take off some of the other three days.

I understand many industries have to be open 8 to 5, M-F, but many do not. In a couple of days my county school system shuts down until January 7th. Traffic will be much better for a few days. Why? People start taking off work. This is exactly what would happen if more companies removed one of two rush hours a week.

Historically, I believe the 4 day work week could be the standard during my lifetime. It was in my Dad’s lifetime that the five day week replaced the six. In fact, he had college classes on Saturday morning. The Federal Government has led the way on this. For years my Huntsville, AL friends who worked for NASA or on Redstone Arsenal had a schedule where they worked eight 9 hour days and one eight hour day and one day off every two weeks. Not a bad start. In theory one could get away with offering less vacation and save some money. Many vacation days are to get a Friday or a Monday on a weekend, anyway.

In conclusion, yes we need everything in our arsenal to attack congestion. It is time to consider the one that will take even more cars off the road.

December 4, 2012

Disney World and Legoland – What I learned about Transportation

Filed under: ITS — Joe Gillis @ 7:15 am

I know, only a road geek would go with his wife and son to Florida to a 4 Disney parks and Legoland and write a blog post

about transportation. My observations include five main points:

1. The Disney Fastpass draws upon the same economic theory that makes Hot lanes, or toll HOV lanes, work.

I had not been to Disney since 2003, and even though the Fastpass was around by then, I had never used it until last week.

if you are not familiar (and until you do it it is really hard to explain, but I’ll try) the Fastpass gives you the right
to essentially cut line, or really enter a much shorter line with other Fastpass users, on high demand rides and
attractions. there are only so many passes issued throughout the day and these passes tell you to come back and get in
line in a one hour time window in the future. One key rule makes it effective. You can only possess one Fastpass at a
time (that is you cannot get another one until the first time (in the hour time window) has elapsed of the pass you
possess. This forces the user to make an economic choice, be limited to this pass for 1, 2 or maybe 8 hours of try to do
something else while waiting and either skip the ride or wait in line like the masses. Now with HOT lanes you are trading
in money to get a faster throughput on the freeway. At Disney World, one is paying for a faster line by limiting future
attraction choices. in the end, in both cases the one who chooses a Fastpass or a HOT lane has decided that the cost is
low enough to proceed.

2. Legoland assumes that driving in a roundabout (traffic circle) is intuitive.

My 8 year old drove a miniature car on a miniature streetscape with about 15 other children at Legoland. In prep for this
5 minute “driving school” the teacher taught the kids about stopping at Stop Signs, using hand signals for turns and going on
green at traffic lights. (The course had all of these.) What shocked me was when I got to see the course, after hearing
the training and realizing there was a roundabout in the middle – complete with proper signage. The roundabout was not
even mentioned in the training session. of course, the kids did it wrong most of the time. Several kids turned left into
the circle and others entered without yielding. Interestingly, some cities host training sessions for real residents and
real drivers in the United States when a roundabout it about to be installed. Of course this is laughable to our European

3. Disney World implements technology behind the scenes but not so much to the view of the public.

First of all, with the exception of the two dynamic message signs in Epcot that gives current waits and Fastpass
availability for all rides, all other signage on the property is either static or only has a numeric display for minutes
(wait times) or to display the hour time window for the Fastpass. My real surprise was how they use (and don’t use)
technology for their extensive bus/transit system. Behind the scenes, there is obviously a lot of scheduling and on-the-fly
operation going on to make sure buses are where they are needed. Buses are moved around to cover routes with more demand
from those with less. I stayed at the Port Orleans Resort which had two areas – French Quarter and Riverside. Sometimes
we shared a bus other times we each had our own bus. Demand was tracked and Disney added or subtracted (reallocated) a bus
when needed. Once, we were in line for the bus at the time they changed to a merged bus. They had a technician on a
walkie-talkie manually changing a sign outside the bus loading area to indicate which bay was for the combined bus. All of
this could have been automated with digital signs but, no it was a wooden sign and a real person. Maybe the cost for
Disney was still less to do it this way. Or, maybe Disney does not want to overwhelm its guests with technology that can
be confusing, I suppose.

4. Disney World understand that density is needed for rail transit.

Politicians and local leaders are seemingly always clamoring for high speed rail between points A and B – with few
exceptions, maybe no exceptions, there is nowhere in the US this can be profitable. One of these places is through
Orlando (Disney World) to connect Tampa and I assume Daytona beach. At Disney World property is where I want to focus.
Disney runs a monorail between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot and one between the Magic Kingdom and its nearby resorts.
Although the monorail is free to the user, it is not to Disney. Transportation within the park is a big deal and a perk to
their customers. Disney knows where to run buses and where to run a monorail. If it were cost effective to build a
monorail everywhere versus running buses they would do it. They keep the bus frequency pretty good – 20 minutes or less.
That’s more frequent that MARTA most of the time. Now Disney could justify a monorail if its population of visitors and
the dollars they spent made it worthwhile. Given that Disney as a corporation is so-called “politically conscious” you
would think they would jump on the transit bandwagon and build out a monorail. But even Disney knows it is not cost-
effective. The monorail they have may not be cost effective either but if one considers the Magic Kingdom is the
centerpiece of their property and that the Magic Kingdom and Epcot are way older than much of the development, it makes
sense. In effect, the monorail is a novelty and part of the experience.

5. Florida is the future for elsewhere. Toll Roads abound.

I have written about this before but it is obvious that in this new economy and the era of low gas taxes and higher gas
mileage, there will have to be new sources of road revenue to operate and build them. Florida learned this long ago as did
Texas. One must keep a stash of bills to get to and from Disney World.

One last thing..heard this on the radio. Although this article does not mention there will be an extra cost for this
service, the radio said there would be. In a move even closer to congestion pricing, Disney may allow premium (for pay)
access to rides to avoid long lines:

October 9, 2012

One could compare the nation’s…

Filed under: ITS — Tags: — Joe Gillis @ 8:28 pm

One could compare the nation’s transportation to an octopus. Pulled in 8 directions as what needs to be fixed or built with little money.

#GDOT (Georgia) tries low-cost…

Filed under: ITS — Tags: — Joe Gillis @ 6:03 am

#GDOT (Georgia) tries low-cost innovation (variable speed limits #VSL ) as alternative to adding lanes via @sharethis

October 8, 2012

What do you look for in a publ…

Filed under: ITS — Tags: — Joe Gillis @ 9:22 pm

What do you look for in a public-facing traffic management website?

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress