Nine still frames from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) traffic cameras show the difficulties drivers from the town of Raleigh, North Carolina, face February 12, 2014 during a snow storm that hit the US East Coast. The eastern United States, in the grips of one of the most brutal winters in recent memory, braced for what forecasters warned could be the worst broadside yet -- a massive storm with the season's heaviest snowfall. = RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / NCDOT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS =HO/AFP/Getty Images

Stuck in Traffic Again?

Social Media uncovers a traffic mess – again.

Winter Storm Titan brought with it another epic road blockage this time in the area of Tyler, Texas along the I-20 corridor linking Texas to Louisiana.  Social media was heavy with photos and questions from motorists who were stranded and who had no idea what was causing the standstill nor what to do after being stranded for many hours. Previous storms this winter brought similar problems to Georgia and North Carolina.

In the age of instant information, why have there been so many people stranded for sometimes 12 to 20 hours along our nation’s major metropolitan beltways and highways this winter?

Perhaps the public bears some responsibility for being unaware of or disregarding advice from their local officials.  But there are some motorists who absolutely must get on these roads. Yesterday, a driver could not deliver much needed medicine in time to a patient in East Texas. IF ONLY that driver knew that I-20 was at a dead standstill for more than 4 hours prior to getting on it, he may have found an alternate route (I-80 was somewhat better).

Many states including Georgia and North Carolina have implemented the use of 511 maps and calling to 511 to assist motorists in finding traffic and road conditions and alternative routes. Texas uses a different traffic map http://www.drivetexas.org but is studying the feasibility of implementing 511. But all three states encountered similar problems this winter in having challenges managing epic traffic jams.

There appears to be at least one major flaw in these mapping solutions. Most traffic maps do not show how long traffic has been at a standstill.

This is basically what we have and it is NOT helpful:

Traffic Scale

This is not helpful either:

  Route:               (you name it) 

  Direction:          All Directions

  Affected:           All Lanes Blocked

A motorist using these maps may see expected congestion in a major metropolitan area but will have no idea that motorists have already been stranded at that location for many hours.

How do emergency managers know when to take action? When a billboard in any town today can display the average wait time in the emergency room, why are we still blind to how long a motorist is stranded in a traffic jam?

 

Here is the message we need:

traffic scale we need

OK that was perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek. But both the public and first responders need and deserve better information in order to make informed decisions and avoid an unnecessary disaster.

Maybe there is a tool out there that is available to the public but it must be the best kept secret.  Anybody out there have one to recommend?

 

 

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