State CIO and GTA Executive Director Calvin Rhodes presented Marietta city officials with a 2019 Technology Innovation Showcase award on October 11 for their “smart traffic” network, known as Travel Safely. Marietta is the first city in the country to fully implement a comprehensive technology solution to reduce the response times of first responders; make drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians more visible to each other; and improve traffic flow.

The technology team responsible for Travel Safety were previously recognized at a special event on September 23 as part of the Georgia Digital Government Summit in Atlanta.

During the October 11 awards ceremony, City Manager Bill Bruton released data documenting the project’s success and said, “Through this technology, we have far surpassed our initial goal of reducing response time for our fire department.”

Marietta implemented Travel Safely in April 2018, and since then, the response time for the fire department has been reduced by over one minute. “We have every reason to expect this downward trend to continue. A 2009 study determined that a one-minute reduction in response times across the U.S. would save more than 300,000 lives every year,” Mr. Bruton said.

All of Marietta’s first-responder vehicles are outfitted with pre-emption software that is digitally connected to all of the city’s traffic lights, flashers, electronic speed signs, and work zone signs. The system manipulates traffic lights to move traffic through and clear an intersection as the emergency vehicle is approaching. As a result, first responders never encounter a red light.

Private citizens can download the Travel Safely app from Google Play or the Apple App Store and use it to access real-time traffic information. The hands-free app communicates with traffic signals and provides drivers with the information they need to adapt to traffic flow and make decisions about their route based on current conditions. The app notifies drivers of cyclists and pedestrians ahead. In turn, cyclists and pedestrians are warned if a vehicle is approaching at an unsafe speed. Drivers are also notified when they enter a school zone and beacons are active. They are given a warning if they exceed the school-zone speed limit by 10 MPH.

Saving lives isn’t the only benefit of Travel Safely. It’s also expected to save taxpayer dollars. Like other metropolitan areas, Marietta has experienced a steady increase in traffic congestion, which adversely affects response times. Conventional thinking would lead the city to construct, staff, and equipment new fire stations in an effort to keep response times low. City leaders estimate the cost of a new fire station at $6.5 million, but Travel Safely provides a technology solution that helps avoid such costly investments by clearing traffic in the path of first responders.

GTA has sponsored the Technology Innovation Showcase awards since 2012 as a way to recognize local and state government agencies for achievements in the use of technology that enable them to better meet constituent expectations for services and information, improve operating efficiency, and conserve tax dollars.