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Ga. Tech students help design transit apps

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ATLANTA -

Some civil engineering students at Georgia Tech are working on a few projects to make getting around the city easier. They're a part of the Georgia Transportation Institute and soon, you could be using their research.

The students and faculty members at the school are working to develop two helpful apps -- one for cyclists and another for MARTA bus riders.

Assistant professor Kari Watkins says studying traffic and transportation is her passion.

"Behind all of my research is this goal of making it easier for people to use transit or cycle," said Watkins.

Studies show MARTA ridership is down because of inconsistencies with wait times.

"There could be traffic that affects bus service, unexpected delays and when a bus gets behind schedule, you can end up standing out there waiting at the bus stop for five, 10, 20 minutes even," said PhD student Candy Brakewood.

Watkins and her students are working to bring an app she helped create in Seattle to the Atlanta area. It's called OneBusAway and constantly pulls MARTA data to show exactly how long you can plan to wait.

"By having OneBusAway, it really removes the uncertainty from the waiting time," said Watkins.

Another app they're working on is Cycle Atlanta. It's designed to give bicyclists the power to report problems to the city and see results.

"Where should we put in bike lanes, or fill a pothole, or fix a traffic signal so that you can actually bike around the city as safely as possible," Watkins said.

The students say working to cater the system to a tech-savvy generation is something they are proud of.

"Doing research here at Tech, not only are we trying to measure whether people wait less time or ride the bus more, but I think we're actually helping people have better days and increasing their satisfaction with transit," said PhD student Landon Reed.

Watkins and her students have looked at how long people think they're waiting for a bus versus how long they're actually standing there. She says people think they are waiting for a bus longer than they really are, and that makes them feel less safe.

She says she hopes the apps will change that perception. Her team continues to work out the kinks, and hope to launch them sometime in May.

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