Just in time for the holiday rush, two agencies have come up with on-the-go ways to get traffic information, joining the radio stations that are already doing this.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation offers a service: Dial 511. After you get through a daunting list of choices (urban areas, turnpikes, state highways, or local highways) you can hear traffic delays or construction projects, complete with detour information. It uses voice recognition.
Try bypassing the daunting list of choices. Just say the name of the road, like “Route 1.” You are asked to choose the section of the highway — Trenton to the Millstone River or the Millstone River to Route 18. (Hint: The Millstone River is at Harrison Street.) Then you choose between traffic or construction reports. (Hint: Press 6 or say “Next” to skip to the next report.)
A better way to get up to date information on New Jersey’s roads is on the DOT’s web page (www.njcommuter.com), which has cameras trained on the key intersections.
Keep Middlesex Moving, a county transportation management association, now offers emergency traffic text messaging. Register online at www.kmm.org or 732-745-4318 to receive alerts on traffic jams in any of these corridors:
Route 1, Route 9, Route 18, or Route 287 in Middlesex County
New Jersey Turnpike in Middlesex County
Garden State Parkway in Middlesex County
Since the program launched in September, no traffic jam as been deemed bad enough to use the text message alert. But every week KMM sends a Friday construction report by fax and E-mail, and several times a week it sends alerts about the usual kinds of traffic tie-ups and accidents.
KMM’s fax and E-mail alert program was launched 10 years ago. Fewer than 1,000 addresses get the faxes and E-mails, but these communications are forwarded to an estimated 147,000 commuters. Because KMM has done a minimum of advertising — a week’s worth of radio spots — just 40 people have signed up for the text messaging program.
Another way to get text message traffic alerts is to sign up with the media. Traffic.com’s hotline is 866 MY-TRAFC or 866-698-7232. You can join and program-in your favorite routes. Or just say the name of the highway, like I-95 if you are heading for Philadelphia airport, and for each section of the highway it gives the “jam factor,” travel time, and reported incidents. For text messaging go to mobi.traffic.com. Another possibility, add the hotspots feed for www.traffic.com to your home page.
Call 646-TRAFFIC (646-872-3342) from any phone, say the name of a bridge or tunnel, get real time conditions on any of the tri-state area crossings. On the morning we called, the Holland Tunnel was backed up 20 minutes, the Lincoln Tunnel was backed up 30 minutes, and the George Washington Bridge was clear. This service is provided by Metrocommute, which also has a website as well as E-mail and text alerts for subscribers and media.
Radio stations offer services for cell phones, PDAs, and Blackberrys. 1010 WINS offers the service at E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org. Radio news reporters send out a couple of dozen messages per month on such topics as major transportation issues, large-scale utility outages, critical news events, public safety or amber alerts, important weather announcements, and terror alert changes. As of now, no advertising or sponsorship accompanies the messages, but that may change.
1010 WINS gets its traffic information from Shadow Traffic, a traffic reporting company that serves over 100 radio and TV stations nationwide. During morning rush hour more than two dozen reporters and producers send out the metropolitan New York reports from a newsroom in Rutherford. “We get information from aircraft, our camera network, calls from radio station listeners, and police scanners,” says Bernie Wagenblast, operations manager, “and we check the websites of the transportation departments.”
“Like the weather, traffic affects almost every one. And it is constantly changing,” says Wagenblast. “When I started, we reported traffic only during rush hours. Now it’s every 10 minutes.”
One caveat about the new kinds of traffic reports: Thanks to a new law that goes into effect on March 1, driving while texting could result in a $100 fine.
Route 1 Detours
Expect detours at night on Route 1 southbound at the interchange with I-95/295. NJDOT is making new directional signs and installing a new overhead sign on Route 1 south.
Through Friday, November 30, Route 1 southbound will be closed intermittently for approximately 15 minutes at a time between 10 p.m. and 5 p.m. Also the ramps from Route 1 southbound to I-95 southbound and I-295 southbound will be closed during that time.
Note that though construction will be suspended from Thursday, November 22, to Sunday night, November 25, there could be construction delays after 10 p.m. on the night before Thanksgiving, Wednesday, November 21.
Because of the construction Route 1 southbound traffic will be directed to the Baker’s Basin U-Turn, to Baker’s Basin Road, to Route 1 northbound and back to the I-95/295 interchange.