Atlanta to test people, traffic systems

Athletes from around the world will not be the only ones gathering in Atlanta this summer to test their prowess in the centennial Olympics.

Numerous federal agencies are using the Olympic Games as an opportunity to test new computer systems designed to ease the strain that an estimated 2 million visitors will put on Atlanta's various transportation systems.

One of the more ambitious projects is the $140 million Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), a joint effort of the Federal Highway Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

ITS was created specifically for the Olympics and is thought to be the most integrated transportation system in the nation.

"It's a model for other metro areas of what we think ITS can do in terms of traffic and transit management and providing information to travelers," said Shelley Lynch, engineering systems manager for FHA's Georgia Division.

The heart of ITS is the Advanced Transportation Management System (ATMS), which collects traffic information from more than 350 cameras, numerous traffic reporters and other sources scattered throughout the city. The system, operated by the Transportation Management Center and six control centers in the Atlanta area, includes geographic information system software, a relational database management system, real-time data acquisition and expert system software and traffic-specific programs.

The traffic information will be distributed through a half-dozen media, including radio wave-based, handheld personal communication devices and navigational units mounted in vehicles. The devices are being distributed free of charge through the Chamber of Commerce, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and Atlanta businesses.

ATMS traffic data also will be distributed through 130 touchscreen kiosks throughout the Atlanta region. Information on vehicle route planning, public transit schedules and route planning and weather information will also be available.

ITS will not reduce congestion, but it will allow transportation officials to respond quickly to problems and will give visitors and residents an opportunity to better plan their routes through the city.

Traffic congestion could be eased, however, by the General Services Administration's new telecommuting program in Atlanta. This month GSA opened a telecommuting center in the federal courthouse in Gainesville, Ga. (pop. 18,000), 60 miles northeast of Atlanta.

GSA is offering the center, which has 25 workstations, to federal agencies free of charge through fiscal 1996. Atlanta employees from the Department of Housing and Urban Development have already signed up to work in the center.

"We always have had plans to begin telecommuting in the Atlanta area, but the Olympics was a catalyst to get it started," a GSA spokeswoman said.

GSA plans to open three more telecommuting centers in Georgia—in Lithonia, Kennesaw and a yet-to-be-determined town—with a target of relocating about 4,500 of the 13,000 federal employees who work near or inside the "Olympic Ring," an imaginary circle encompassing much of downtown Atlanta, where many events will take place.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration will be testing a new system, dubbed the "highway in the sky," to help alleviate air traffic congestion. The Atlanta Short-Haul Transportation System will monitor low-flying helicopters used for security, air ambulance services and local law enforcement.

The FAA has outfitted about 50 helicopters with Global Positioning System satellite receivers that will provide precise positioning information. The FAA also is using data link communications to transmit information to a network of air traffic management systems.

In response to the expected onslaught of air travelers, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has installed its Ident system in the Hartsfield-Atlanta International Airport. Ident is an automated fingerprint identification system that stores fingerprints and photos of persons caught illegally crossing the border. Ron Collison, head of information resources management for the INS, said the Olympics, with a tremendous influx of foreigners, will be viewed by many as a way to illegally enter the United States.

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