Traffic reports

I have listened to countless traffic reports over the years I have yet to hear one that in any remote way helps, interests or impacts me. Yes, I have lived in major cities where one would " guess" traffic reports would be of use …but are they and to whom? Traffic reports, if helpful at all would seem to pertain to such a small number of motorists at any given time to be not worth the trouble and expense. Additionally, if a driver is lucky enough to be listening to the radio when a report comes on that has something to do with the road he/she is on, my guess is they are already in the traffic and no amount of information will be helpful…who needs to hear about bumper to bumper traffic when you are in the midst of it. And again, the number of people who might hear about the upcoming traffic jam and who could sneak off the upcoming exit to an alternative route must be so small…you get the question. Google is of little help here. Believe me I’ve looked. It can’t be that I’m the only person in the world to wonder about what the true value of traffic reports are…and that’s where you come in Cecil or another person out there who can help me not feel so lonely in my wonder. Mark

radio stations run reports during high traffic times repeatedly or on schedule. you don’t need to happen across them, you purposely tune to them. you use them for route decision making before committing yourself which is very useful. you might also use them to alter your regular route while in progress if congestion occurs.

I suspect a decent fraction of the audience tunes in for “psychological” reasons rather than for explicit route planning. Knowing the extent of a jam and the expected travel time is comforting, and many people would rather not spend the next 30 minutes wondering if they’ll be 2 hours late. If they just knew how long the trip would take, then they’d be able to relax. There’s lots of research out there on queuing both on and off the road, and happiness can be greatly affected by the level of uncertainty.

Personally, I have little use for the radio traffic reports, but I regularly make route planning decisions using online traffic density maps, particularly when traveling to or from the airport, since that journey is often at some random time on some random day, and I have numerous alternative routes to choose among to make my trip as short as possible.

I find them helpful about once or twice a year. I commute right on the edge of rush-hour, so travel time can vary a lot, and backup on backroads depends a lot on how long the highway has been tied up.

I like the traffic cams best, but I don’t often remember to check them.

They were quite handy when we lived in Seattle, where there are many potential choke points, especially if you’re trying to get across the lake. I found them quite handy. I haven’t lived in a city where traffic was much of a consideration for many years now, but when I have to go north on I-5 I check ODOT web site for wrecks, etc. which can tie up traffic for miles/hours.

I’ve lived in the Seattle area since 1965, commuted most of that time, and in all those years have had precisely one report that I was able to use to plan an alternate route. Usually;

  1. You get the report when you are already in the midst of the jam.

  2. There is no alternate route that would be any better than toughening out the jam.

  3. You are in the midst of a nasty jam, which has been completely missed by the traffice report.

I think they are a huge waste of time and money. And they have one infuriating characteristic. The traffic reporter will be reporting on a fender bender or some such metal bending incident, and will inevitably say, in an unctuous self-righteous voice, something to the effect that “…the slowdown is caused by of all those looky-loos who have all slowed down to look at the accident.”

Just what did the dumb bastard expect us to do? If you don’t slow down, you’ll rear end the guy in front of you at a speed differential of about 50 mph since he has already slowed down because the guy in front of him has slowed down, so forth and so on ad infinitum. In the rush hour, there will always be some guy that slows down, and one is all it takes - the resulting jam won’t end until the rush hour is over. This is a concept that seems to be totally beyond the traffic broadcasters.

I use them whenever I’m driving to visit my folks on Long Island. There are important decisions you need to make: Whitestone or Throgs Neck Bridge? LI Expressway or Northern State (or, sometimes, Northern Boulevard)? If they tell me there’s a traffic jam on the Grand Central, I have to choose another route. They often save me a lot of time.

The traffic reporter being unaware of the number of people who’ve been hit and killed in those situations.

Out here the traffic reports stopped implying slowing down in uncertain situations with pedestrians on your side of the highway was a bad idea. Now, we all have to change lanes if police - or tow trucks - are in the breakdown lane.

I use them every single day, multiple times a day. I’m a home health nurse in Chicagoland, I’ve got anywhere from 4 to 9 different houses to go to each day, in a 50 mile range. There are innumerable Other Ways I can go (not that there’s always a *Better *Way, but there’s almost always an Other Way.)

The supposed real time traffic updates on my Tom Tom are horrible. I can’t tell you the number of times it says there’s no traffic while I’m in the midst of an hour long backup, or that there’s a delay when there isn’t. I don’t even pay attention to it anymore, but I’ve got WBBM Traffic on the Eights on the brain. (They’re better…not perfect, but better.)

We don’t have traffic reports in the rural area where I live, and if we did, they would likely mention things like “Farmer Brown’s bull got loose again, and is wandering down the county road right before the main highway. Would the next guy out that way go knock on his door and tell him to go get the bull and fix his damn fence?”

I do find traffic reports helpful when I go to places like Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, etc. where there are alternative routes available. If I hear of a wreck or something on my primary route, I can switch to an alternate and avoid the hassle.

I listen in the morning going to work. I live in one suburb of Nashville and work in two others, so traffic can get backed up as I get closer to work. I also check the accident and construction reports when I go to Memphis or Louisville for work. It doesn’t always save a lot of time, but it does save the frustration of stop and go traffic.

Me too, it’s happened maybe about once every other year or so that I’ve heard a radio traffic report at just the right place and just the right time to help me out, so I could choose an alternate route.

As mentioned above, the strategy is to tune in specifically when you’re on the road in an area where traffic reports are regularly broadcast. I live in a medium sized town and just drive around town mostly, but when I get onto the freeways and drive off to the Big City areas, that’s when I tune in and listen.

My only problems with traffic reports in Seattle is the reference points they use - the “S Curves”, the “Bus Barn”, etc. They’re fine if you live in the area, or drive regularly, but if you don’t the references mean little or nothing to you. Mentioning the occasional route/side street would be nice.

Ditto for the NYC/NJ area. I wish they’d mention the exit numbers. When they only mention the neighborhood or the street, I am totally clueless unless it is a place that I happen to be familiar with. But if they’d use the exit number, everyone would know whether it is on there path or not.

heh heh… Around these parts they call the “looky-loos” rubberneckers, and they typically are blamed for the slowdown on the opposite (accident-free) side of the road. Hence, there is no “uncertain situation with pedestrians on the side of the road” where the alleged rubbernecking is happening.

It’s a given that the traffic on the accident side will slow to a crawl, and I don’t know how many folks will blame that on rubberneckers.

As for the innocence of the individual driver in the rubbernecker crowd, stopping because the car in front stops… no single snowflake feels responsible for the avalanche.
(I almost always take advantage of the slowdown to catch a quick peek at the action, and I feel instant guilt for doing so.)

As noted, it’s probably more beneficial if you listen to the traffic report before you start driving, for planning purposes.

I was headed to Portland, once. I was south of Olympia, barely getting a Seattle station on my AM radio. The traffic report came on. There was an accident at mile post 81, southbound. I was just heading into a little valley and I saw brake lights at the top of the next hill. But there was an exit between me and them. I took it, fished out my state map, took local roads and got back on I-5 in Centralia just where traffic was starting to move again.

The exit I took was 95; missed a 14-mile backup. Traffic reports aren’t useful very often, but sometimes once is all it takes.

OK, could you perhaps explain what this little snowflake should do to avoid slowing down just because the little snowflake in front of me has slowed down?

I live in the DC area (ranked in the top 3 worst traffic cities for years). We really, really use it here. There are many tie-ups on the major interstates and there are alternate routes you need to consider when there is a blockage. Even small accidents have a way of causing tremendous backups that radiate out (e.g., accident on the Beltway, everybody bails out to secondary roads, big backups on those, then backups on other roads that have intersections with the secondary roads). The limited Potomac crossings in outer Virginia makes it essential to know if the Beltway American Legion Bridge has a blockage. I check traffic every day before leaving the office (morning traffic is generally more consistent except for the rare semi that jackknifes on the Beltway). Sometimes you have to gut it out, sometimes take another route, and now and then it’s just better to stay and get an extra hour of work done until a problem clears out.

I, also, live and drive in the Chicago area. I listen to WBBM (news radio) as I get ready for work; if I hear that my main route to work has a worse-than-usual delay that morning, I’ll take an alternate. I’d guess that happens once a month or so (in fact, it happened today).

Once you do, in fact, find yourself ensconced in a traffic jam, there isn’t a whole lot that the traffic report can help with, save for giving you an idea of where the traffic might loosen up again, and just how long you might be spending in the jam.