The year 1996 was a big one for transforming metro Atlanta. Not only did the region host the Olympics, but it was also the year that traffic information in Georgia was revolutionized by the creation of NaviGAtor. Realizing the extent of traffic issues the region would encounter as employers, commuters and international visitors converged on Atlanta during the Olympic Games, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) worked with federal and local authorities to create an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) to manage the situation.
After 14 years of development, NaviGAtor continues to expand its area of coverage and has led to easier travel, increased safety and saved time and money, all while keeping pollution out of the air. About 350,000 Georgians get traffic information from www.georgia-navigator.com each week, – in addition to the thousands who use the 511 service for such options as real-time traffic updates, reporting incidents and connecting to rideshare and transit information – and the HERO service has assisted motorists involved in a million traffic incidents since launch. Yet despite all that the NaviGAtor system does to help mobility in the state, and your commute, many citizens don’t realize the impact it’s had on them.
You may forget how bad gridlock was before GDOT’s NaviGAtor came along, so here’s a little reminder. Once in the summer of 1991, there were two accidents on I-285. Pretty typical, right? Well, because the accidents were blocking the highway and assistance was unable to get there in time, people were stuck in the 90-degree temperature for hours, getting overheated, running out of gas and experiencing heat exhaustion. By the time emergency vehicles heard about and were able to respond to this situation, they couldn’t get through to the accidents because of the overwhelming volume of backed up traffic. In those days, it didn’t take much to seriously back up traffic, because if your car or truck broke down in the middle of the interstate or you got in an accident, you sat there until you could get a tow truck to come move you out of the way. Today, NaviGAtor’s HERO trucks patrol 280 miles of metro Atlanta interstates, providing assistance to motorists and commuters in need. The trucks can also be dispatched instantly when motorists report an incident using 511. Unlike 10 years ago, the average clearing time for a car accident incident is now only 10 minutes thanks to HERO, thereby keeping traffic flowing and improving your commute to work.
To better understand NaviGAtor’s impact on the region, consider this. In one year, the NaviGAtor service saved 7 million vehicle-hours of incident delays and 5.2 million gallons of gasoline. It provided 49,000 motorist assists and prevented more than 340 crashes. By helping us avoid more gridlock, NaviGAtor has also protected Georgians from exposure to the extra air pollution that sitting in traffic creates. During a sample year, NaviGAtor helped keep 186 tons of hydrocarbons, more than 2,457 tons of carbon monoxide and more than 261 tons of nitrogen oxide out of the air we breathe. A big thank you to the dedicated team working behind the scenes at NaviGAtor, because even though metro Atlanta has traffic and air quality issues, it clearly would be a lot worse without the helping hands of the NaviGAtor intelligent transportation system.
For more information about NaviGAtor and to get real-time traffic information, visit www.georgia-navigator.com, or call 511.
The chill of autumn is in the air. And The Clean Air Campaign is glad to exchange all the Code Orange smog days over the past five months for orange pumpkins and fall leaves. Rake in all the Georgia transportation and air quality happenings in this latest edition of Merging Lanes.
BP After "Math": Not All's Well That Ends Well
We're approaching the six-month anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster that became one of the worst pollution events in our nation's history. Our water-cooler conversations all spring and summer included terms like "top kill" and "blowout preventer." We watched the live underwater camera feeds and debated whether the nation's dependence on oil had finally gone too far. And although the The Deepwater Horizon well was finally capped several weeks ago, the aftermath will be felt for a long time.
The Feds have arrived at an official estimate for BP's Gulf oil spill - pegged at about five million barrels of oil. Since U.S. refineries produce around 20 gallons of gasoline from one barrel (42 gallons) of crude oil, the spill equates to around 100 million gallons of gasoline. But how connected can Georgians feel to this issue at this point? Figure in the Atlanta region there are about 2.37 million commuters. Of those, about 84% drive alone on their daily commute, averaging a 40 mile roundtrip to and from work. Assuming average fuel economy of about 20 miles to the gallon, that’s nearly 4 million gallons of gas burned every day on commute activity alone.
So commuters in metro Atlanta would burn through this oil spill in approximately 25 days of just normal commuting to and from work. When will more of us turn our discontent over this situation into something actionable?
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Survey Says: What's Different About Your Commute
The 2009 edition of the American Community Survey came out last week, with a section dedicated to commuting characteristics. A few highlights:
- 11% of Georgians carpool to work compared to 10% nationally
- Roughly two out of five of us statewide live in one county and work in another
- That number jumps to more than four out of five in the Atlanta region
- Mean travel time actually "improved" in Atlanta from 30.4 minutes each way to 30.1 minutes. For drive-alone commuters, that represents about a 30-second gain in free time each day. Please, contain your enthusiasm.
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Type II Diabetes Linked to Particle Pollution
A new study has been published demonstrating a correlation between type II diabetes in adults and exposure to particle pollution. According to the researchers, "For every 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase in PM2.5 exposure, there was a 1 percent increase in diabetes prevalence." Although the high season for ground-level ozone has just ended in Georgia, fine particulate matter is a year-round threat to public health. Learn how to limit your exposure and limit your contribution to the problem.
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"Mad" About Transit ...
How has AMC's "Mad Men" series - a sleek 1960s cable TV show about the golden age of advertising - garnered three consecutive Emmy awards for Best Drama? According to this New York Times article, clean commuting plays a lead role.