Sandy Springs is seeking grant money for a pilot program in using its traffic signal technology to give MARTA buses longer green lights if they are running late.

The city is seeking $25,000 from the 2020 Georgia Smart Communities Challenge Grant for the $125,000 project, Assistant City Manager Kristin Smith said at the June 2 City Council meeting. Georgia Tech administers the grant program, which receives federal funding.

The city recently purchased technology that automatically changes traffic lights to green for police, fire and ambulance vehicles to improve response times. It uses GPS and route-predicting software to track the vehicles and have a green light ready for them. The city says the same technology can integrate with MARTA buses using their automatic vehicle location (AVL) systems.

In the pilot project, Smith said staff members would upload the bus stop locations and schedules for the two routes into the system. The system can extend a green traffic light if it detects a bus nearby, she said. The system would not change a traffic light from red to green.

“Our work will focus on two highly utilized bus routes that run along Hammond Drive and provide connectivity to MARTA rail,” Smith said.

MARTA Routes 5 and 87 were chosen for the pilot study. They travel along Roswell Road, Hammond Drive, Johnson Ferry Road and Dunwoody Place.

She confirmed for Councilmember Chris Burnett that the study would examine MARTA bus stops.

“They will look at the bus stop location because that is important in figuring out which stops will be included and how that will work and how the system will run,” Smith said.

Depending on the situation, MARTA could change the timing of its schedules as the technology is implemented.

Applications for the grant are due June 12, with Georgia Tech saying awards will be announced in summer 2020. Each team must begin work on the project in September, with a kickoff meeting set on Sept. 10.

As a requirement of the grant, the city would work with a Georgia Tech researcher and use an intern from Georgia Tech for the project.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.