Three Cities Receive Georgia Smart Community Challenge Grants

August 6, 2020

Sandy Springs, Savannah and Valdosta, along with Clayton County, are the third class of recipients to receive a Georgia Smart Communities Challenge grant. Georgia Tech announced this year’s grant winners during an online event on August 6. The Georgia Smart Communities Challenge is a funding and technical assistance program for local governments in the state of Georgia.

“As an institution of Georgia, Georgia Tech is foremost committed to making our state better,” said Georgia Tech President Ángel Cabrera. “We’re very excited about Georgia Smart’s third class of winners, who will be able to use our preeminent research and technology to improve lives, livelihoods, safety, and equity — no matter their community’s size, population, demographics, or income level.”

“GMA is excited that the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge is in its third year. As we’ve seen the previous two years, this year’s winners exemplify how Georgia’s cities and counties continue to look for innovative ways to meet the challenges they face,” said GMA Executive Director Larry Hanson. “It’s heartening to see technology used to make our communities better, more efficient and responsive to the needs of residents.”

Below is a summary of each of the new projects.

Streamlining Suburban Transit, Sandy Springs
This project will develop a pilot transit signal priority system for the MARTA bus service through the use of an application programming interface, with the goal of reducing transit time for riders. Georgia Tech researchers Michael Hunter and Kari Watkins will partner with this project team. Collaborators include MARTA and the City of Dunwoody.

Civic Data Science for Equitable Development, Savannah
The city of Savannah plans to build new decision-making tools using a city data hub and analytics platform for programmatic outcomes for vacant and blighted properties. The project will build on work started through the 2018 Georgia Smart Albany project. Georgia Tech researchers Clio Andris and Omar Isaac Asensio will assist with the project. They will work with a number of partner agencies including the City of Savannah Housing and Neighborhood Services Department, City of Savannah Information Technology Department, Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition, Chatham County/City of Savannah Land Bank Authority Inc., Community Housing Services Agency Inc., the Center for Community Progress, and the civic data technology company Tolemi.

Traffic Monitoring and Communication System, Valdosta
This project includes development of a smart traffic management system that will connect all 128 traffic signals in Valdosta for increased safety and efficiency. Georgia Tech researcher Baabak Ashuri will lead the research activities. Valdosta State University researcher Barry Hojjatie will serve as co-principal investigator on the project. Partners include Southern Georgia Regional Commission, Valdosta-Lowndes Development Authority, Valdosta State University, Temple, and Applied Information.

Smart Pedestrian Planning, Clayton County
This project will build a decision support system for transport project prioritization to promote mobility and equity, and to identify smart technologies to support walkability throughout the community. The plan calls for engagement with high school students for data collection tasks and use of Georgia Tech’s semi-automated Geographic Information System collection process to gather sidewalk data. Georgia Tech researchers involved in this project include Randall Guensler, Arthi Rao, and Catherine Ross. Partner organizations include the cities of Lake City and Morrow, as well as the Rotary Club of Lake Spivey/Clayton County.

This year’s grant recipients will receive the following:
  • up to $100,000 in grant funding to develop their pilot;
  • technical assistance and funding for a Georgia Tech researcher;
  • access to a network of peer governments to share best practices; and
  • access to a local, national, and international network of experts for advice on piloting a smart community.
In addition to GMA, collaborators in the Georgia Smart program include Georgia Tech, the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Georgia Association of Regional Commissions, Association County Commissioners of Georgia, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Planning Association, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Technology Association of Georgia, and Georgia Power.

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