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August 29, 2014
By Lisa Dare


Blog updated Sept. 2, 2016

Terrible Traffic Tuesday. September Surge. Call it what you like, but metro drivers dread the end of summer as traffic rebounds with a vengeance after Labor Day. Can technology tame your traffic troubles? 

Are cities effectively using tech to conquer traffic?

You might be forgiven for thinking cities and states are already optimizing your traffic experience with technology. While a few use advanced data collection, adapative traffic lights and other innovative (but hardly sci-fi) technologies, most cities are far behind. As of 2014, only about 3 percent of traffic lights used adaptive technology to optimize traffic flow, according to Governing.com. 

Thankfully, there are some signs of progress. The U.S. Department of Transportation used a $40 million Smart City Challenge to incentivize cities to upgrade their traffic technology. Columbus, Ohio, beat techie cities like San Francisco and Austin with its proposal to create autonomous vehicle corridors and equip buses, taxis and cars with vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

The DOT is also partnering with Google parent company Alphabet to feed their data and analytics capabilities to cities to assist in traffic planning and management. 

Traffic apps: Waze vs. Google

Every driver who braves congested roads should check a map app before every commute. But which one should you use?

Waze

  • Good for drivers who will do anything to shave a few minutes off their commute
  • It learns your preferred routes
  • You can set it up to automatically notify people (think your spouse or babysitter) your ETA when traffic makes you late

Google Maps

  • Has an increasingly robust tool set to help you understand and avoid delays
  • Gives you route options so you can compare and select your preferred route (e.g., the highway route adds 5 minutes to your trip but might appeal to you more than back roads)
  • Excellent route preview feature if you just want to compare routes but don't need help navigating them

Want to know more? Read Lifehacker's thorough comparison of Waze and Google.

For public transit commuters, Moovit offers some much-needed help. The social app uses a combination of public data, user-entered intel and predictive analytics to help riders navigate public transit systems. It offers delay alerts, schedules and route-planning help.  

Skip the traffic altogether

Finally, there is a foolproof way to avoid traffic: Work from home. Need help convincing your boss? Send her these articles:

To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home: The Harvard Business Review interviewed Stanford Professor Nicholas Bloom about his groundbreaking study of call center workers that shows a huge improvement in worker productivity, morale and retention. But does it apply to higher-skilled workers? Bloom thinks it does.  

Does Working From Home Work? Evidence From A Chinese Experiment. You can read the full study of how sending a control group of workers home for nine months produced surprisingly strong results showing workers are much more productive at home.

And finally, PC World offers some great advice for managing telework employees.

Have a great Labor Day, everyone! And if your post-Labor-Day commute is too much to bear, why not try finding a new IT job closer to home?


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