#SMARTer Together Webinar Series – September Recap
By Ashlee Bryant
In September, our #SMARTer Together webinar series focused on the final presentations of our 2019-20 GA Smart Communities.
On September 3, the City of Woodstock kicked-off the September line-up with their final project presentations entitled: Smart Woodstock Master Plan and Smart Corridor Study. Presenters included Katie O'Connor, AICP Project Lead, Sr. City Planner and Community Development, City of Woodstock; Ramachandra Sivakumar, GISP, Senior Research Engineer, Center for Spatial Planning Analytics and Visualization, Georgia Tech; and Eric Lusher, AICP, Associate Principal, Director of Planning, Pond & Company.
The project goal is to implement a city wide planning strategy - more specifically, a Smart Woodstock Downtown Corridor Study - aiming to meet the need of balancing pedestrian comfort and safety with vehicular efficiency and commuter throughput of a booming walkable urban center. Through data collection from surveys, in-person interviews, and interactive mapping tools, the team was able to engage the public’s interest in the project which concluded in a ranked list of citizen concerns with improving vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle safety as a top concern.
Ramachandra Sivakumar, discussed parking availability research and their goal to help citizens utilize the already existing parking lots on site and direct their attention away from the popular loop parking to less frequented lots. Katie O’Connor completed the presentation by highlighting the project's accomplishments, challenges and lessons learned, and their goals to implement the illuminated crosswalk in their second year of their project. The webinar ended with a panel-style Q&A discussion about topics such as COVID-19 considerations, parking as a pricing mechanism, and alternative transit options, such as autonomous vehicles.
On September 10, Columbus Consolidated Government gave their Smart Uptown final presentation. The Columbus project team included John Broom, Assistant Director, Information Technology Department, Columbus Consolidated Government; Scott Evans, GIS Coordinator, Columbus Consolidated Government; John Taylor, Frederick Law Olmsted Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Tech; and Neda Mohammadi, Postdoctoral Researcher, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and City Infrastructure Analytics Director, Network Dynamics Laboratory, Georgia Tech.
The team discussed their project motivation to improve their uptown area through a four piece project breakdown (Digital Twin, AoT, Integration and Wifi) to integrate technology to bring the uptown area increased connectivity infrastructure, use data to help inform decisions around economic development, increase safety for pedestrians and to expand partnerships between public and private entities.
The team discussed their project planning phases of establishing a timeline, project goals and expected outcomes, their decision to create a three-phased approach and planning onsite events. Further details were discussed about each of their specific phases, starting with their Digital Twin Development. The team utilized GIS-centric data development processes to create 3D models of their uptown area. The second phase of their project was the AoT, which is the development of an Array of Things units that is used to collect real-time data for academic and public use, tracking environmental and infrastructure changes on activity in key locations, and more. The third phase of their project detailed their goal to integrate the AoT, Digital Twin and video data with other data to assess collective citizen hazard exposure and passerby exposure. Their final phase consisted of Wifi with goals to provide a backbone connection system for city workers, provide a stable internet connection, bridge digital equity divides, and to develop their methodologies.
The presentation came to close with their project team discussing their challenges and plans of enacting Phase 2 and Phase 3 and attaining future monetary opportunities, along with a Q&A session.
On September 17, the City of Milton presented their final project presentation on: Technology-Enabled Smart and Safer Routes to School. The Milton team included Michele McIntosh-Ross, Principal Planner, City of Milton; Shubha Jangam, Senior Planner, City of Milton; Kari Watkins, Frederick Law Olmsted Associate Professor, School of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Georgia Tech; and Angshuman Guin, Senior Research Engineer, School of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Georgia Tech.
Michelle McIntosh-Ross highlighted their project goal of using technology to develop an interactive app for smartphones that will provide real-time group communication for parents of kids who want to walk to school in groups, known as a walking school bus app. Called Waddle, the goal of this app is to increase the number of students walking to school to achieve less greenhouse gas emissions and congestion for the community, increased physical fitness, and better academic performance for the students.
The project team discussed their research and motivation for creating an app, as well as the community engagement and feedback they obtained using school newsletters, distributed surveys, and in-person parent and student response meetings. The team highlighted their decision to target the walking school bus app in the downtown Crabapple area and their process in creating safe routes for the students within a one-mile radius of the local elementary and middle school.
On September 24, Macon-Bibb County gave their final presentation of their project: Smart Neighborhoods MBC. Their project team consisted of: Dr. Keith Moffett, County Manager, Macon-Bibb County; Carol Babcock, Director, Healthy Communities & Palliative Care, Navicent Health; and Arthi Rao, Research Scientist, Center for Quality Growth & Regional Development, Georgia Tech.
Rao discussed the team’s goal of promoting equity in their economically stressed neighborhoods by bringing broadband internet to citizens that currently do not have access through Smart Kiosks that will provide access to critical information and services and promote community empowerment in underserved areas.
The team shared their chronological process of identifying vulnerable areas, targeting specific demographic populations, finding specific locations for the kiosks and identifying specific uses for the kiosks through stakeholder engagement methods, such as online surveys, paper surveys, and community meetings. While in the talks with potential companies to purchase kiosks, the project team worked with local health professionals to receive their input in providing services/applications for the kiosk that are relevant to current events, such as COVID-19 testing sites, current information, etc.
Overall, the value and goal of Macon-Bibb’s opportunity to participate in the Georgia Smart Community Challenges was summed up by their county manager, Keith Moffett: “Macon-Bibb Government is honored to be recognized as an emerging GA Smart Community by the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge. SmartNeighborhoodsMBC, as part of our overall smart city strategy, provides support for each of our governing principles for effective government and governance while promoting equitable access to technology in underserved and at-risk neighborhoods.”