A number of Internet sites are tackling traffic. The two most common tools are interactive maps, often capable of zooming down to street-corner level and zooming out to embrace the entire country, and close-to-real-time webcam shots.
One of the best resources comes from AAA. Located at maps.aaamidatlantic.com, it gives "ideal" drive times to any address in the United States and "current" drive times for many routes. It also provides the average rate of speed for each scenario. On Friday, September 23, at 1:30 p.m., for example, the site reported that the ideal drive time between 12 Roszel Road, U.S. 1’s office, and Penns Landing in Philadelphia was 48 minutes, and the ideal speed was 52.4 miles per hour. The current drive time at that moment, however, was 53 minutes. Drivers leaving the Princeton area for Penns Landing then could expect to travel at 47.3 miles per hour.
There is a feature on this easy-to-use site that allows drivers to request a route that will take them around slow traffic.
AAA’s New Jersey spokesperson, Tracy Noble, explains that the "ideal" time is actually an average, so anyone traveling at rush hour could expect a longer trip, while midnight travelers would probably make significantly better time. The current time, she says, is fed to AAA by a subscription mapping service that relies on a plethora of sources, including state police, departments of transportation, and even sensors embedded in highways.
To find the drive time feature, go to the main site, click on "travel," and then "maps and traffic," and then "drive times."
This site is most useful for trips outside of the immediate Princeton area, for which it lists only "ideal" travel times.
For the daily commute, the best tool is usually a webcam. Click on a cam near your office and you can see in an instant that Route 1 is jammed and that a parallel road could be better. NJDOT’s website, at www.state.nj.us/transportation/traffic/camera (type a shortcut, "Route 1 cams," into Google) reports what its extensive network of cams is seeing. It is not real-time, but only lags by a few minutes. The pictures are a bit grainy, but show clearly enough just how much pavement is showing between cars at any time of the day or night.
In addition to Route 1, the site reports on nearly every other major and intermediate highway in the state, include Routes 29, 130, 202, I-95, and I-295. (And the "route 1" Google shortcut nets them all.)
For more information on those main arteries, as well as incident reports for local streets, the NJDOT site also provides close-to-real-time reports of traffic events via both text and an interactive map. Block out a portion of the map, which covers the entire state and also reaches into New York and Pennsylvania, and it shows detours, construction, and accidents. It gives details such as "Vehicle on fire; slow traffic. Right lane closed."
Many other sites provide this type of information, and most cover the entire country. They include the Weather Channel, at www.weather.com, which also provides forecasts for weather along the way. Other sites in this category include Weatherbug, at www.weatherbug.com, and Yahoo! Maps, at maps.yahoo.com.
No traffic is good traffic, and these sites aim to keep your traffic frustration to a minimum. Even when there is just no way around a nasty jam, the traffic sites allow you to mentally prepare – and perhaps to salvage dinner, or a dinner date, by calling ahead.