MILTON, Ga. — Milton is one of four Georgia cities selected for the 2019 Georgia Tech Smart Cities Challenge, a program that provides funding and support to help improve local livability.
Milton will use the $50,000 grant money to fund Milton Smarter Safer Routes to School, an app designed to help students walk to school safely and more easily. The app will allow students to join “walking school buses” composed of several students and volunteer parents all walking to school together. Through the app, students can also see wait times for walking or biking groups and see which routes are the fastest and safest.
For the first 12 months, Milton will focus the app on downtown Crabapple, home to an elementary school, middle school and high school in close proximity, said Milton Community Development Director Parag Agrawal.
This plan is supplementary to other Milton walkability efforts, Agrawal said. In 2009, Milton implemented its Safe Route to Schools program, adding sidewalk sections, signals at intersections and crosswalks. Before the improvements, 6 percent of Crabapple
Crossing Elementary School students and 2 percent of Northwestern Middle School students walked to school, according to Milton’s Smart Cities application. In April, Northwestern reported 15 percent of its students were walking to school.
Milton completed a Placemaking Plan for downtown Crabapple in 2017.
Agrawal and city staff will work with Georgia Tech’s Kari Watkins and Angshuman Guin, who will advise on functional requirements for the app and oversee its design. Both Watkins and Guin work in Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Watkins as a professor and Guin as a senior research engineer.
Schools have shown support for these walkability initiatives as well, with monthly walk to school days and vocal support of the new app.
“As an elementary school teacher this is music to my ears,” Crabapple Crossing Elementary School’s Principal Rachel Williams wrote in a statement. “Milton has the ability to maintain its reputation of being one of the best cities to live in Georgia, and this grant opportunity would only benefit an area which is already doing positive things for its citizens.”
After the first year trial period, Milton will look to expand the project out the rest of the city over time, Agrawal said. The technology could also be used to increase walkability to and from school for neighboring cities, he said.