Live Traffic drives information flow

No matter how geeky I am it sometimes just amazes me how much information is freely available in the world today. I’ve recently spent some time recently playing with the RTA’s Live Traffic website and app.

I started out looking for cameras showing traffic conditions around Sydney and the site certainly has those available for the major spots. But it has much more than that too. There’s notification of accidents and road works in real-time. There are indications of traffic-flow conditions on major roads. You can also superimpose your standard Google Maps journey-planning over all this.

Live Traffic is updated by the minute and has a series of Twtter feeds pushing updates out (rather sweetly, the site explains that Twitter “is a real-time information network made up of instant messages called Tweets.”).

The iPhone app does much the same things with cameras and map views. If you are interested in the app get the free one called “Live Traffic NSW” – there’s another one just called “Live Traffic” which you pay for and which is another thing entirely. A separate mobile site caters for other phones.

I’m happy that all this information is available should I want to use it, especially for free. But would I use it?

If I was a regular commuter I might find all this useful as long as I had an easily accessible alternative route to switch to in case of problems. So if I have a look before leaving home and see congestion on my primary route, I could decide to go another way. That, however, seems unlikely to happen a lot. If I was stuck in a traffic jam it might be useful to be able to find out what’s going on and, perhaps, get some idea of when the jam might clear. Of course for that to work I’d have to be looking at my phone in the car which might not be the most brilliant, or legal, idea.

So I’m struggling to find the information as useful as its first blush indicates. But if you’re the sort of person for whom this would be useful information, the website and app are just great. I’d certainly recommend popping the free app onto your phone just in case.

Thinking about it though, what I would really like to see is not the real-time information but historical information. I’d love to be able to see average travel time on major roads by time and date, how many accidents there are on the Bridge, things like that which would demonstrate how the road network is running over time. But that, I would imagine, is not driven by technology allowing access to information – the roadblock there would be all about politics.

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