The 2019 Crown Communities Awards
What is in this article?
- The 2019 Crown Communities Awards
- Orange County, Fla.: Competitive food drive
- Phoenix, Ariz.: Biogas-to-renewable natural gas plant
- Marietta, Ga.: Connected city network and app
- West Sacramento, Calif.: On-demand bus public transit
- Ottawa, Ka.: Downtown outdoor event space
- Ormond Beach, Fla.: Citizen engagement meeting series
Marietta, Ga.: Connected city network and app
In Marietta, Ga., fire trucks don’t hit red lights while responding to emergencies. Drivers in the city can also get notifications when they’re approaching pedestrians and cyclists, and they can be notified about traffic conditions on roads.
Both abilities are because of an innovative, city-wide connected network that the city built in 2018, with system refinements taking place during the first half of 2019. The network has transformed Marietta into what the Atlanta Journal Constitution calls “the first fully connected city in the U.S.”
The roots of the network lie in multiple issues Marietta faced in decreasing response times for the Marietta Fire Department. However, city staff had also been working with various companies on technology initiatives to improve city services like traffic signalization. Working with Applied Information and Temple Technology Services, Marietta saw the potential for solving multiple issues by becoming a beta site for a connected city network.
Ultimately, Marietta implemented connected city technology that allows pre-emption software installed in every city fire truck to digitally connect to all of the city’s traffic signals, flashers, electronic speed signs and work zone signs.
The connectivity allows fire trucks to never hit a red light—traffic lights flush congestion from intersections in anticipation of emergency vehicles, which are then given green lights at pre-cleared intersections. The innovation has allowed the fire department to save 10 seconds minimum per intersection crossed, and the department has saved over 1 minute on average per response.
The partnership has also yielded a free app, Marietta TravelSafely, which private citizens can download to connect their smartphones to the network if they are within the city’s 23 square mile area. App-enabled phones communicate with traffic signals they approach, yielding real-time traffic information. So, drivers receive notifications about pedestrians and cyclists, speeds in school zones and general traffic conditions. Non-drivers can get notified when vehicles approach them at unsafe speeds.
Users don’t register or enter any data when they download the app, and the app doesn’t communicate any identity information to the network. They can also select which notifications they want to receive. In accordance with Georgia’s hands-free law, the app runs underneath other apps like Waze and issues audible alerts in the background.
Altogether, intersection upgrades cost $615,000 for the first five years of operation, and the fire apparatus devices cost $80,000. Currently, city staff are testing network applications in police vehicles, school buses and public transit. But for Marietta City Manager Bill Bruton, the network’s public safety applications remain top-of-mind.
“To me, the greatest benefit is safety. Anything that we can do to make sure that when somebody is in distress… that they get the service they need as quick as possible, really goes to the core of what we do as a government, protecting the safety of our citizens,” Bruton says.