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Posted August 30, 2017 | 10:52 AM

Traffic App a Two-way Street

Sharing real-time data helps motorists, County

Waze works, for traffic planners as well as commuters and other motorists.

Hillsborough County Public Works last summer began sending road-closure and emergency shelter reports to the popular crowd-sourcing app. Those details have proved useful to Waze motorists, adding to a litany of real-time traffic information. It also has been fruitful for the County, providing feedback from drivers that helps experts locate and repair trouble spots.

Here's how it works: People who sign up for the free app can use it to access government data and motorists' observations such as locations of standstill traffic, construction, objects on roads, and crashes, among other particulars. Waze subscribers also can note inexpensive places to buy gasoline, plot road trips to unfamiliar locales, and coordinate their commutes with friends.

Locally, Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), and Florida's Department of Transportation are partners in the Waze Connected Citizens Program. The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners approved participation in August 2016.

Shannon Philippus uses the app in her weekday commute from Dover to Middleton High, where her daughter attends the school's magnet program, and on to her job in downtown Tampa. There are about seven possible routes, and Shannon uses Waze to decide which to take on a given day. "It helps me out," she says. "When I don't use it, I kick myself."

She recognizes that real-time feedback from motorists can benefit government planners: "You've got to prioritize your projects, but are you prioritizing your projects correctly?"

Public Works sees additional potential benefits. It is evaluating the feasibility of using crowd-sourced feedback to serve as indicators, to see if it supports information collected from other sources. If, for example, information provided by Waze drivers consistently shows lengthy back-ups at an intersection at a certain time, the County could initiate a study that might result in adjusting a traffic signal or adding a lane.

For now, one year into the partnership between motorists and the County, the app is proving to be an effective two-way communication tool.

Photo information: Shannon Philippus uses Waze in her daily commute between Dover and downtown Tampa.