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Georgia Transit Association
GTA Awards

GTA Awards Outstanding Manager - Gary Watson,Division Manager Douglas County Rideshare
Gary Watson has made outstanding contributions to the public transportation industry in Georgia. Interestingly, Mr.Watson did not start his career in transportation, but rather in editing and writing.

Mr. Watson worked for a variety of local newspapers before becoming the RideShare Coordinator for the Douglas County Board of Commissioners in 1989. After taking a brief hiatus in 2010, he returned as RideShare director earlier this year. In addition to his everyday duties, Mr. Watson has also authored two fictional novels.

When Mr. Watson arrived at Douglas County in 1989, the RideShare program was in its infancy with a fleet of two vans. New to transportation, he taught himself grant writing, FTA regulations and NTD reporting, which caused him to adopt a much grander long-term vision for Douglas RideShare. Mr. Watson began and fostered an important relationship with GRTA and County leadership, and was able to oversee the implementation of a $5 million Douglas County Transportation Center in 1999 (completed in 2003).

 In addition, he has continued to secure funding for park-and-ride development in locations throughout Carroll and Douglas counties, and to ultimately increase the RideShare program from two vans to 80+ (accounting for 30% of the total vanpools in the 22-county metro Atlanta region).

The Douglas County RideShare staff appreciates and respects Mr. Watson’s hard work over the years. He is always available to assist, offer advice, and help make the program successful. This is verified by the numerous awards and recognitions he's received, including the Douglas County Employee of the Year, Douglas County Shining Star Employee, Service to Community Award and PACE Award. 

Innovation Award - Georgia Tech's Parking and Transportation Services
Soon after the implementation of the Georgia Tech Trolley transit system, a trend emerged that began to be referred to as “bus bunching.” Bunching occurred when vehicles would arrive at a stop one immediately after the other to create uneven frequencies, overcrowding of vehicles, and customer service issues. 

In order to alleviate this issue, two researchers, Dr. John Bartholdi (Georgia Tech) and Dr. Don Eisenstein (University of Chicago) developed a methodology to move away from the traditional schedule system with a new format that would strategically adjust the schedule based on real-time GPS bus location data. This resulted a software and hardware application called “NextBuzz,” designed to coordinate busses on a fixed route, allowing them to dynamically adjust layover time of a vehicle in order to equalize headways and reduce the occurrence of bus bunching. The software (embedded in table computers) looks at the location of other buses to calculate arrival times. The software then indicates to the driver the wait time before departing. 

An extra feature of the software is that it does not need to know the mapped route, and will work with any number of vehicles on a specific fixed route. When vehicles are added or removed from the route, the system will recalculate to equalize headways. It also allows for detours. As long as the end points are the same, the system will continue to operate.

This system went fully live on Tech’s campus in August 2013. The software has proved to reduce and equalize headways, resulting in shorter and more consistent wait times for passengers. Large disturbances, such as removing vehicles, are easily alleviated. The software also reduces the need for intervention by management or drivers.

This system is ideal for high-frequency routes that are shorter in length, such as university transit, downtown circulators, shuttles to airports, sporting events, hotels and other last mile services. Customer satisfaction is the motivation behind the NexBuzz project, and the system has improved Tech's Trolley network performance by reducing customer concerns.  

Performance Award - MARTA

This year, the Performance Award goes to MARTA for their continued efforts to improve customer service and increase accessibility. MARTA’s annual ridership continues to increase in coordination with continued service improvements such as those in May 2014. The service change included enhanced service times on the rail lines and reduced waits. MARTA also added additional rail cars to the Red and Gold train lines to accommodate higher passenger demand. Service enhancements were implemented on 17 bus routes resulting in 23 additional trips during weekdays, 99 additional trips on Saturday and 55 additional trips on Sunday.

MARTA has also placed a major emphasis on increased customer service. Two of the most significant improvements involve innovative technology-driven solutions. MARTA recently rolled out its Ride With Respect campaign in September 2013 to tackle the public’s perception that riding transit is unsafe.  MARTA increased the presence of security on trains, buses and stations and also increased video surveillance systemwide. MARTA also released the See & Say App, giving riders the ability to report suspicious or inappropriate activity. After a customer reports a concern with the app, MARTA’s Police Department displaces an officer where needed.

Following this effort, almost 1,000 passengers have been suspended for inappropriate behavior and customers have a sense that their concerns are being addressed. Additionally, MARTA rolled out the On the Go mobile app in late 2012 that provides electronic schedule and real-time arrival information at the tip of the finger.  The app enables customers to set up service alerts to notify them of service delays and route changes.  MARTA released their General Transit Feed Specifications to the public, allowing the local tech community and app developers to incorporate their information into other innovative transportation applications.

Frank Hill, Jr. Award  - Thomas County Transit
The GDOT Intermodal Division - Transit Section selects and recognizes a rural transit system that has exemplified excellence over the past year. The Frank Hill, Jr. Award recognizes rural transit systems that represent a most improved rural transit system, coordination, cooperation, and/or overall excellence in service delivery. Thomas County Commissioner Elaine Mays and Transit Director Donnie Baggett accepted the award.

GTA President's Award - Tavores Edwards, Transportation Manager Coweta County Transportation & Engineering Department
Tavores Edwards was recognized as an individual who has demonstrated exceptional commitment to GTA through volunteer service. Thank you, Tavores!