Traffic reports

So there I was, stuck in the gridlock yesterday morning caused by the sniper, and as I listened to the radio, a thought occurred to me.

Does anyone listen to the traffic reports?

And by that, I mean do people listen to them for information? Do they get anything out of them? They’re unavoidable in most markets (it’s every ten minutes in D.C.), but I bet a lot of people just tune them out.

The reason I was wondering is that most of the traffic reports are the same each day, with a little variation. For example, in this area, you know there are slowdowns on the Beltway, 50, 95, 270, and 66. These are givens. What causes the backup is mostly irrelevant, IMO.

[Pet peeve: they never seem to mention Rte. 1, a multilane highway that connects Baltimore to D.C. and is intermittently heavy, not constantly.]

So do you tune in to the traffic reports in the morning to help you plan your commute?

Whenever I go up to or come from Rockville, I listen to WTOP just for their reports (which are, at best, barely adequate). What I want to know is the state of 95 in between Fredericksburg and D.C. This way I can take 301 or 17 if there’s a big backup in my way.

My problem, though, with all traffic reports is that they always reference the name of the nearest cross-street (i.e., “Major accident on 495 at Route 1.” Well, this works for areas which I’m familiar with, but most of the time, I have no clue where they’re talking about. I don’t know how many times they’ve talked about problems on 95 which scares me until I figure they’re talking about 95 north of D.C., rather than south of D.C. What they need to do (and it’d be so simple, I think) is reference mile markers, so I can judge how far away problems are from where I am at the moment.

But I still listen, because it’s saved me a few times in the past, and I’m sure it’ll save me again in the future.

Funny how you replied to this thread, flyboy, since we’re from the same general area. My problem with that terrible radio station’s traffic reports is that although they’re done every 10 minutes, each report takes close to two full minutes because of the traffic “reporter” and her weird tendency to sing, chit-chat, bullshit, meander, and in general do anything but provide actual facts about the traffic.

I listen to them when I need to make a decision about the route to attempt, or when I’m trying to decide whether or not I’m being sucked into a tarbaby caused by a major pileup, or I’m just dealing with normal gridlock.

Often enough, though, the decision must be taken about two minutes before the next report.

I listen to them just about every day. I find them to be very helpful in planning my route to and from work.

Slightly off topic, the reporters here in Denver do something which I find very peculiar. There is a traffic reporter who does the traffic for several different radio stations. You can tell it is the same guy, but he has a slightly different name for each station. For example, for one, he is John Talon. At another he is Jonathan Steel. And on the AM station, he is Jim John. Why would he do this? Another guy is Gordon Scott, and then he reports the news on another station and is Scott Gordon. I find this very annoying, since I know that it is the same guy! Can anyone think of a good reason for this?

Yeah, the person works for a company that supplies traffic reporters - they have Metro Traffic around here, I think, and there’s also Shadow Traffic up in the Philly area. The reporters’ pieces are carried on many different radio stations, and they’ll often change their name a) to suit the format and b) so it looks like there’s even more reporters than there are - that is, to avoid saturation.

We have absolutly worthless reports round here (the nearest “big” city where the radio station comes from). The go something like this:

“Its busy out there, so watch it! Remember to slow down in school zones!”

Thats followed by a 25 second pimp of the local roadside shithook, who sponsered the “report”.

What help was that?

Rust? Whats that?

I listen to the LA traffic reports when I think about it. :slight_smile:

I can think of one time that a fortuitously-timed traffic report allowed me to suddenly alter my route (jumping from the 57 over to the 55) just in time to avoid a big jam-up. Most of the time, though, they tend to be too slow to report all but the hours-long backups.

Yeah, sure, if they warn that the entire 710 freeway is closed in both directions for the rest of the morning, I’ll find another way to work before hopping in with both feet. That’s rare, though.

I find them very useful. I know that if enough time has elapsed that they’re mentioning a problem, then the problem has been cleared and that’s the best way to drive! :smiley:

I find them useless, but I live in a fairly small town and there is really only one sensible way to get to my college – it never has much traffic. Maybe if there was a huge accident on the interstate around where I was I’d go down the main street of my town instead, but unless it was something huge it’d be a waste of time. Anyways, most of the stations are based in a bigger town 40 miles north of where I live - the interstate is probably the only thing they’d mention that’d be of importance to me and I’m only on it for about 6-8 minutes…


One thing I like about my local traffic station: they accept call-in reports. So if I’m stuck in traffic because of a gapers block at an accident, and if I’m feeling public-spirited that morning, I’ll call it into the station. Ten minutes later my accident/backup report comes out of the radio, and the next commuter benefits. Sweet.

They accept call-in reports at our local station, too, which is great. However, I am a little tired of hearing that “Fred on the Beltway” noticed a woodchuck get squashed."

In all seriousness, although the guy-in-a-car method is very helpful - since those folks are more likely to be IN the jam, rather than patrolling the streets, looking for one - I don’t like hearing each call attributed to some caller. It makes me think that the traffic reporter is doing nothing more than taking a call or two, when they’re really coordinating with police and fire/rescue, as well as looking at monitors placed at specific hot points.

20 years ago I worked at the Lums Restaurant on Route 1 in College Park (it’s now a Jerry’s subs, I think) and had a bird’s eye view of the passing traffic all day long. That road is in a constant state of flux. Slow spots here & there, that aren’t slow 10 minutes later. It would be hard to deliver a traffic report on a certain 5-block section of route 1 and have it still be accurate 10 minutes later.

I listed to WTOP when I’m stuck in traffic somewhere, and have nothing better to do anyway. On a few occasions I have actually heard them announce the cause of the jam & was able to take steps (an off ramp) to avoid it.

If I drove to of from work on a major artery, I’d listen before I left just to make sure the road wasn’t closed due to a toxic chemical truck spill, or something.

Yeah, but if there’s an accident (or a police action) on Rte. 1, it’d be helpful to know about it so I can turn onto a side street, since these situations can take longer to clear up than a mere traffic jam.

I’ve always wanted to be the “Traffic Person”. I figure I can do the report from my kitchen table while I’m having a cup of coffee.

Problems on The Belt. Van Wyck jammed. 30-minute backup at the Verrazano. 15 at the George, 30 at the Lincoln, 30 at the Holland. Cross Bronx backed up to Jerome Avenue, accident there with a jack-knifed tractor-trailer. Alternate side of the street parking is in effect.

Same thing every day and rarely a mention of which direction the jack-knifed tractor trailer was going.

What a waste.

In my hometown, the traffic reports also regularly announce cop radar traps as well as accidents, so you know exactly where you need to stop speeding. It’s great.