How Atlanta streamlines traffic flows

Real time, crowdsourced data from the Waze mobile app, coupled with geospatial analysis from Esri keeps traffic moving smoothly in the ATL.

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Stephen Lawson

If you’ve been stuck in traffic, you’ll appreciate Atlanta’s innovative new approach to keep things moving smoothly.

Traffic jams are unpredictable and collecting real-time data over a large area is difficult. The City of Atlanta streamlines traffic with a city-wide system where every driver becomes a mobile traffic sensor and crowdsourced data improves traffic flow.


The City of Atlanta was struck by what Atlanta Mayor Reed termed the single largest transportation disaster on March 30, 2017.  A bridge on one of the main traffic arteries into the city, I-85, collapsed due to a maliciously set fire from beneath. Traffic gridlock lasted for months. Atlanta which belongs to the 100 Resilient Cities program set to work. Stephanie Stuckey, Chief Resilience Office for Atlanta turned to the Esri Disaster Response Program, to find a way to ease the traffic burden. A partnership was formed with Esri, a global smart-mapping leader and Waze to build the foundation of Intelligent Transportation Systems.

How it works

Waze is the world's largest community-based traffic and navigation app with over 65 million monthly active users. The app provides anonymized data which can show the average speed of a segment, and is updated every few minutes. Drivers can also report potholes, roadkill, accidents, disabled motorists, and closed roads are provided in this feed to the city. Every driver is both a traffic sensor and beneficiary of the collected intelligence saving time, fuel and aggravation.

Esri provides the technology for governments that facilitates the exchange of data up to the Waze commercial application. This two-way data exchange also ingests the real-time feed of alerts reported from anonymized mobile users directly into government systems for emergency and traffic management. Advanced analytical insights are derived from this crowdsourced data allows. Esri’s GeoEvent Server ingests Waze user data to produce a web map service for Atlanta commuters and City Executives to see traffic jams, road closures, accidents, and alerts in real-time. City executives communicate with Waze on how to route users based on patterns and density and citizen feedback.


The Esri Disaster Response team helped implement this system to support this emergency. The goal was to get the information on a map, and start to see where other roads were starting to back up and where jams were being reported. The system can alert police and traffic engineers of incidents even before someone calls 911 by analyzing accident reports.

CommuteATL takes all commuters into account - and not just drivers. It provides a public dashboard with multiple transport options by incorporating information from MARTA on their bus and train service routes and station locations; bike lanes and bike share stations; and Georgia Regional Transit Authority.

Built for scale

This IoT project provides some valuable lessons:

  1. The use of mobile apps to crow-source information feeds rather than trying to instal thousands of sensors. This helps lower both the cost and the time needed to implement the project.
  2. Faster adoption by leveraging commuters self-interest to both collect and consume traffic advice using the existing Waze app.
  3. Real time spatial analysis of traffic data so that decisions can remedy potential problems before they get worse.
  4. listic solution by incorporating multiple forms of transportation integration with existing Atlanta city management systems.

Atlanta has taken resiliency to a new level. Crowdsourced geospatial data is combined with Esri’s geospatial platform enables commuters in Atlanta get to their destination faster.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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