This past Saturday, TransportationCamp South took place at Georgia Tech. Innovators from around the City, State, and Region came together for one day of discussions, demos, and education related to transportation in the South.
TransportationCamp South is the latest iteration of a series of TranportationCamp “un-conferences”. At these un-conferences, people show up with ideas that they want to discuss, demos they want to show off, or debates they want to lead. They promote these ideas by posting them on large post-it notes, and a very small team of organizers very quickly compiles a schedule of hour-long sessions taking place in a dozen different rooms throughout the day. If your topic is picked for a particular round of sessions, you lead that session. If not, you get to attend one of the other awesome sessions selected. It is essentially a crowd-sourced conference.
The conference attracts civil and transportation engineers, city planners, computer programmers, advocates, officials, and general enthusiasts of transportation issues. All these people with varied backgrounds mix and mingle at a wide array of sessions that you won’t find at most conventional conferences.
Photos from TransportationCamp South. Find these and more on Facebook
Session topics cover a wide array categories such as technical demos of real-time transit tracking apps (like OneBusAway, which hopefully will be available in Atlanta very soon), history reviews of freeways and transit in the South, a debate of the role and impact of autonomous cars in urban transportation, and more whimsical topics like “MARTA Pickup Lines”, which sounds silly but is actually a group of transit advocates promoting transit use through humorous and often sardonic social media events called TransitThursdays. I don’t do Twitter, but I may have to start this week.
Some cool stuff that I got to see and learn:
I now know that the reason that there is so much green space around Freedom Parkway and Inman Park (see the areas inside the orange lines). It’s because hundreds of homes were bulldozed to make way for an interstate that never came. Guess who put a stop to that interstate…it was Jimmy Carter. Guess where the Jimmy Carter Library is, at the intersection of these interstates that never happened.
I got learn more cool history, like the reason that Gwinnett and Clayton have representation on the MARTA board. It’s because in 1965 they voted YES to the MARTA Act. The MARTA Act created an agency to plan future transit in Atlanta. In 1971, Clayton and Gwinnett vote NO to actually funding the transit plan. So Clayton and Gwinnett are still on the planning board but have no MARTA service because they don’t want to fund it. Cobb has always been in the NO category.
There was also a demo of some cool apps resulting from MARTA releasing their real-time bus data. OneBusAway, which was developed at the University of Washington for transit in Seattle, is being tested at Georgia Tech. I’m hoping that it will be available publicly in Atlanta sometime soon. It is only a matter of time before a variety of real-time tracking apps are available in Atlanta. See the image below for a preview (click to enlarge).
I also learned that self-driving cars are going to let us have our cake and eat it too. Forbe’s says by 2040 self-driving cars will dominate the roads. This means that anyone who wants to live way out in the country and still work in the city will have a no-hassle commute. It also means that all the parking and dangerous cars in city-centers will be removed to build Jane Jacobsian paradises. Finally, transit Utopia. Or maybe none of that will happen and we’ll live in gridlock hell because toddlers will all of a sudden have cars just like kids have cell phones today. Who knows? It was great to hear opinions on how self-drivings cars will impact safety, transit/highway use, land development and vehicle ownership. Do we really need to own cars once they can drive themselves? I say NO! Others say YES! Maybe we can both win. Attendees of this meeting decided to continue this discussion with monthly meet-ups. If you are interested in talking about impacts of self-drivings cars in Atlanta and want to be ahead of the game, drop me a line.
Bottom line, TransportationCamp South was a fun and educational event. Far more happened than I care to write about here. If you want to learn more about it, check out the Facebook page and keep an eye out for TransportationCamp South 2014.