Commute Warrior: How Your Commute Can Shape Atlanta's Transportation Future

The newest tool in the future of transportation planning is in your hand.

OK, maybe your pocket. Or your purse.

It’s your Android smartphone. And with a quick app download, your phone can help Georgia Tech transportation researchers better understand how people get where they’re going and how much congestion they are facing on their commute (think: speeds on freeways and how you’re driving relative to the flow of traffic).

“When you have that kind of data, you can do anything from traffic operations research to safety research to travel behavior studies,” said Professor Randall Guensler, a transportation systems engineer in the School Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE).

The Commute Warrior App tracks users’ daily commutes without interfering with the rest of their phones’ functions. Participants are also asked to take a few minutes every week or so to fill out a simple form on their phone or online to explain the purpose of some their trips.

“Everything is completely voluntary,” Guensler said. “You don’t have to tell us anything about your trips if you don’t want to.”

The first project Guensler’s app team is focused on involves commuting in the Interstate 85 corridor in a project sponsored by the National Center for Transportation Systems Productivity and Management (NCTSPM). Guensler said they’re trying to get a thousand commuters to install Commute Warrior this summer, as a part of the GRTA/GDOT Real-time Tracking and Choice Data research project

“In this study, we are trying to figure out why some households are taking GRTA Xpress buses and others are not,” he said. “Living in the same areas, same demographic characteristics, what is it about their travel that makes one household more amenable to taking the Xpress buses?”The Commute Warrior app's main menu. Here, users can describe the purpose of their trips and adjust settings such as when the app sends data.

Guensler said they’re also planning a project through the National Center for Sustainable Transportation (NCST) specifically for Midtown Atlanta and the surrounding areas that is focused on walking, biking and transit use and the energy implications of those modes of transportation for the neighborhood.

But there’s much more this app can do, Guensler said.

“What we really want, ultimately, is to have as many users as we can in Atlanta using [the app] so we can demonstrate how rich the dataset is and all the different research activities it can be used for,” he said.

“It’s astounding what you can do with the data when you have it.”

In addition to traffic studies, future versions of the app will let users print their commute history, help walkers and bike-riders calculate how many calories they’ve burned, track users’ gasoline consumption, and estimate tailpipe emissions.

Currently, the Commute Warrior app is available only in the Google Play Store for Android devices, but Guensler said they’re currently working on a version that will be compatible with the iPhone 5S.

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