Waze, now part of Google, is a crowd sourced handheld app used by 100 million drivers worldwide. It is supported by 500,000 volunteer map editors and 600 partners. Its connected partners program includes 40% of top cities and 60 % of state departments of transportation (DoTs). It is very interesting that Waze has developed a way for governments to report planned and actual road construction which can inform drivers in planning routes ahead of time. This offers a way to provide a single database that could be used to avoid the problem of the same stretch of road being dug up multiple times by different utilities sometimes with a few weeks of each other.
Several years ago I blogged about the online web-based system Koordination im öffentlichen Raum (Spatial, temporal and financial co-ordination of city planning, traffic change, and construction projects on public land) of the City of Bern, Switzerland. This is a system for coordinating street works that achieves some of the same goals as the 2004 Traffic Management Act in the U.K. It is location aware and enables planners to avoid serial excavations of the same stretch of street or road by coordinating all construction from multiple agencies including Federal, Kantonal and city street and highway agencies, water/wastewater, gas, and electricity utilities, and telecommunications companies so that a section of street or road is not dug up more than once every five years. In its first year of operation it was estimated that the coordination system saved SFR 7 million.
At GIS in the Rockies Saila Hanninen of Waze described some of the remarkable ways that Waze data and network are being used for purposes beyond what it was initially intended for.
- During and after Hurricane Sandy in Oct 2012 the White house called Waze for help to determine which gas stations were open in the areas hit by the strom.
- For the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Waze helped to determine where to place three rapid transit lanes that resulted in a 27 % reduction in congestion.
- Waze helped Ghent redesign its city centre to reduce traffic by 40 % which also resulted in fewer accidents and increased bicycle and transit usage.
- Boston asked Waze to help with signal timing that resulted in 18% reduction in congestion just by changing timing.
- During the Pope's visit to Philadelphia, Waze was responsible for a 20% reduction in congestion.
- 63% of callers to 911 don't know their location - Waze can provide accurate locaction information.
- 40% of accidents are reported faster on waze which results in an average of 5 minutes faster response time.
Waze intends to get more proactive. It now has a crisis response team, that can push messages to Waze users in areas affected by a disaster to collect information about road closures, the state of the roads, which gas stations are open, shelter availability, and safe routes to shelter.
Waze has a vision to eliminate traffic. Altogether. To do that requires not only information about the current state of congestion on roads, but also anything that could potentially affect traffic on roads in the future. Knowing when road and major excavations near roads are planned is essential. If the Waze partner program included everyone planning excavations on or near roads, it would have developed a database that would provide all the information required to coordinate excavations by utilities, telecoms, and governments. Similarly to what happened in Bern, this could mean that roads would not be dug up more often than once in five years which would reduce traffic congestion and save money.