Sunday, April 11, 2010

Please Visit my new Blog Home:

Please check out my new Blog location:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stimulus Thoughts

 The traffic and transportation world is definitely feeling the recession.  While public funding is drying up there is the hope that stimulus funding will help bridge the gap until tax receipts are strong again and able to support widespread funding for my profession.  I have had co-workers and other colleagues affected by this downturn and some have found work others haven't.  What remains to be seen is how the demand for improved transportation will track as compared to the available funding given current methods for creating funding sources.  In a normal industry, demand drops in a recession as buyers pull back and save money, pay off debt or do something else with their money.  Transportation needs never take a holiday, they only increase and with funding being less available this demand is likely to increase and at some point turn exponential as needs stack on top of needs.  I certainly expect that we will soon be to the point where there will be further crumbling or roads and bridges and the cost to just keep up what we already have will sap almost all that is available to spend on transportation.  How does this portend for ITS?  We have to be creative and clever.  If there are a lot of road projects going on there's opportunity for two things - work zone management and placement of fiber cable in the ground.  There's also the need to have adjusted traffic signal control plans during construction.  Of course we in ITS can still use cost/benefit analysis data to justify new ITS devices where needs occur, but there is certainly more competition for every dollar available.  I see the need for more coming together to solve problems.  I have worked on a regional ATMS project in metro Atlanta where three suburbs came together and this is going well thus far.  Arterial Management is going to be the next big thing as freeway management approaches build-out in many places. Hopefully things will turn around son as we ride out this storm. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trends in Engineering Consulting - In a time of Budget Crises

As the economy sours and state and local governments are squeezed there is fear that consulting work will decline. Although this has been at least somewhat true, we in the ITS world should see this as an opportunity because we have a solution that can be marketed as a cost saver. Concrete, asphalt and steel are becoming more expensive and funds for new roads and even maintenance are more scarce. The Feds are asking the States and locals to pay more of their share. Cost/Benefit ratios for ITS projects are easy to present to a client. There is one other trend I believe we will see more and more. The trend I expect to see is agencies coming to consultants with tasks to help them work smarter and more economically. This is really what engineering is all about in a nutshell, really. As consultants we will have a chance to do some thinking and brainstorming to come up with some creative solutions.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ramp Metering Without Signals

I was driving between Cartersville and Rome Georgia and noticed something I had not seen before. A so-called ramp meter with stop signs. A ramp to get on US 411 southbound had one stop sign away form the main freeway with a sign telling the driver to wait until traffic clears the second stop sign - at the freeway entrance point - before proceeding. I presume in this environment it works fine. Maybe you the reader have seen this many times but for me it was a first. If I had not been driving or if I lived nearby I would get a photo and post it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

ITS State Tour #1: Alabama (Part 1)

Alabama is where I have lived longer than anywhere else, therefore I may be more opinionated than intended, but I will try to refrain. I lived in Alabama 24 years including my time studying Civil Engineering at Auburn and working for Intergraph in Huntsville. Like other smaller states, Alabama is not as far along in implementing ITS as some of its neighbors such as Georgia or even Tennessee. This is not necessarily critical; ITS is a need-driven technology and other states have traffic issues in greater numbers than Alabama. I would suggest that there are three distinct types of freeways in Alabama which would suggest three types of ITS solutions.

One is the urban areas which include the big 4: Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville.

Another is the heavier traveled freeways: I-65 from the Tennessee line to Montgomery and I-20 from the Georgia line to Tuscaloosa (segments of each outside metro Birmingham) - much of these segments of freeway are already 6-laned or will be in the future.

Finally, there are the rural freeways which is everywhere else. It might be fair to include US 231 south of Montgomery to Florida and ALA 157 from Florence to Cullman as candidates for ITS since they are significant through routes even though they are not limited access. Hurricane evacuations are a special need for routes in the southern part of the state.

Next post - links to web sites related to ITS in Alabama.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Why There May Never be Flying Cars

Many of us grew up watching cartoons such as the Jetsons.  It appeared that any view of the future of transportation included flying cars.  The concept seems good.  A flying car seems to be a logical step beyond the road-bound car.  It frees up capacity and is very flexible.  In 1989, the view of 2015 transportation included flying cars.  The makers of Back to the Future Part II even considered that cars would be amphibious (land/air) and that existing cars could be retrofitted for $39,999.95.
However something occurred in 2001 that may have halted the idea of flying cars forever.  Can anyone imagine the logicical  and security nightmare of keeping flying cars from being used by terrorists?  It would be impossible.  One can argue that a surface vehicle can be a suicide bomber.  That is correct.  However, it is obvious that a flying vehicle could hit a number of targets impossible to access in a land vehicle and inflict far more damage.  As recent as the final Star Wars Trilogy, flying cars were exhibited in the big screen.  Sadly, maybe, it will probably never happen.
Where does that leave us?  Although cars will change and evolve and eventually no longer rely on fossil fuels, we will probably always have them in some form or fashion.  We will also continue to have trains and planes unless something unforeseen occurs. 
Given all of this, those in the Intelligent Transportation field will continue to seek ways to maximize the efficiency of surface transportation in the way it appears today - mostly through current ITS technology and managed lanes.

Friday, October 12, 2007

More on 511 - potential pitfall to avoid

Last night I was at home getting my wife's new cell phone configured for bluetooth.  I wanted to try it out.  I first dialed an automatic time and temperature number and it did fine.  Then being the good traffic engineer I am, I issued the command: CALL 511.  The voice recognition SW in my ear said, "Did you say 911?"  However witht he TV on in the room my first thought was that it did say '511' and all was fine.  I said 'YES' then it registered that it actually said '911.'  Being formerly an employee of a company that write 911-related dispatch management software I am intimately aware that improper '911' calls are considered anathema.  I frantically pushed the call button on my bluetooth imediately then opened the phone and pressed the off button.  The response was not immediate and a 4 second call to 911 occurred.  I hoped nothing woufl happen but within 5 seconds the cell phone rang and my heart sunk.  It was an effici ent Alpharetta Police Dispatcher asking if all was okay - they had received a call.  I apologized and admitted that the voice recognition took my '511' as '911.'  That was the end of that.
What does this mean?  I suggest that one proceed with care when you dial '511' using Bluetooth. 
On a related matter, I was at the meeting of ITS Georgia yesterday at Southern Polytech Univ.   the speaker was the outgoing commissioner of the Georgia DOT.  During the Q/A session an audience member asked him about 511 in terms of drivers using cell phones.  It is a subject I have thought about myself. The commissioner suggested that in his observation, 90% of the erratic drivers seem to be on the cell phone.  He also mentioned how regulating this is a freedom issue and is unpopular.  He did not really tie cell phone use to 511 but the understood presedent is that people will use cell phones anyway and hopefully the drivers will use them carefully or let a passenger dial for them.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A case for 511

I was driving back from visiting my mom in Missisippi yesterday and was on I-20 between Birmingham an Anniston.  There was a wreck on the Coosa River bridge and westbound traffic (not my way!) was backed up for 4-5 miles.  Georgia just got 511 going this year but Alabama does not have its system going yet. A research study said one could be up by 2005 but it did not occur.
All states are supposed to have 511 by 2011.
Looking at this backup the drivers are helpless and depend on local radio (what's that in this age of corporate radio?) to know about such events.  I come to realize that in rural areas, the ability to give drivers advance word on such events and give recommended detours is of high importance.--JKG

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rush Hour Supersized

Being a first-time big city commuter (with apologies to Huntsville, AL) I am learning about just how long the AM and PM rush hour has become. First of all, calling it 'hour' singular is a misnomer. On a typical day each rush 'time period' is somewhere between 2 and 3 hours each. This supersizing of the rush 'hour' has some interesting side effects.

This is an excellent article in the Sept. 12th USA Today:

Restaurants such as McDonalds are opening earlier and local TV newscasts are seeing the largest gains in the early morning timeslot: As shown in this story about Austin, TX.

What we are seeing is motorist behavior modification. Drivers are adjusting their commutes earlier (or later in some cases) to spread the traffic out over more time.

Cities such as Atlanta have programs that promote tele-commuting 1 or more days a week, taking public transportation, etc... However the largest change I see is more people commuting times away from the typical 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. timeslots.

Where does ITS fit into this? One interesting thing that our local Georgia NaviGAtor makes available to the public is historical travel data on the freeways:

One can select their normal commute and see how much time can be saved by leaving home or work at a different time. Considering only recurring congestion (non-recurring incidents throw everything off normal) ever 15 minutes oen way or another makes a few minutes difference.

Companies are becoming friendlier to shifted work schedules and that makes such trends likely to increase in the future.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

HOV Expansion and Truck-Only Tolling

In the Atlanta metro area traffic is a problem and even with a myriad of consultants in the area doing traffic and ITS work the demand is such that new alternative solutions must be considered and implemented.

There are plans and discussions to convert some of the HOV lanes on I-85 north toward South Carolina to managed lanes - High Occupancy Tolling (HOT). They would still be HOV-2 but single occupancy vehicles could pay to drive in the HOV lane. The rate would be regulated by the same type of toll tag that is used on the GA 400 toll road. However, how one could regulate whether the vehicle has more than one passenger is a challenge to overcome.

On I-75 north toward Chattanooga and on I-20 west toward Birmingham, there have been plans and discussions on adding Truck-Only Toll (TOT) lanes - lanes that would effectively segregate trucks from other vehicles. The benefit would be that vehicle traffic congestion could be reduced and safety should improve. in addition, the dedicated truck lane would be wired for both tolling and weight and size regulation (PrePass).

A study on both options can be found at this link:

A local Cobb County (I-75 north area) citizens website discusses the HOT project

I was responsible for table topics at my Northpark Toastmasters: and I raide a question about these two issues. The responses were generally in favor but one person suggested that the purpose of the HOV lane would be defeated in that no longer would single passengers be discouraged (other than financially) from driving alone. He asserted that the goal of removing cars from the roads to improve air quality would be gone. Another speaker suggested a pay to speed policy that woud raise tax revenue based on how fast vehicles drove.

I personally believe that the next phase of traffic management will include a significant of privatization and/or tolling.---JKG

Friday, September 07, 2007

My Entry into the ITS World

I have not posted in 10 months. During that time I was able to successfully gain employment in the ITS field. It is my dream job and I am really happy. I spent the last 6 months getting acclimated to my new job and I have been learning a lot about the business and I have been involved in some neat projects. During this time I thought about whether to blog, what to include in an ITS blog, etc... I have decided on the following groundrules for this blog for myself.

1) I will not discuss any proprietary information on future business opportunities or on active projects.
2) My posts will be similar to what one might hear or discuss at a meeting of a transportation-related group meeting.
3) I will talk about current events related to ITS and traffic
4) Due to my proximity to Atlanta, our traffic situation will get more air play than other cities.
5) I will attempt to talk about what other states and maybe countries are doing in the area of ITS
6) I will talk about current and future technology and the possible practical application of these.

Comments are encouraged and appreciated.

My goal is to post about once a week but more or less often as my situation dictates.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Not Just for Freeways

One thing I have observed and thought about in recent weeks is that most industry focus in the area of ITS is making the freeways run smoother. This is certainly important and where the technology has been applied.

However I propose to the readers that consideration for major arterials needs to move beyond signal control. What this would be is up to discussion. Certainly you could have cameras and mini-message signs but with congestion on the roads that interconnect with the freeways getting more and more clogged something needs to be done to take care of them too...JKG

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Welcome to my Intelligent Transportation blog. The exact direction I want to take with this blog is to post some of my thoughts and research on the subject and I encourage readers to post theirs. My first real post will be in a week or so....JKG