GPS is great for unfamiliar neighborhoods, estimating how long a trip will take, and finding the nearest gas station; however, it’s also wreaking havoc in otherwise quiet neighborhoods. Services like Waze and other navigation apps give users the ability to circumvent road construction, natural disasters, and detours. This sounds like a great idea, in theory, unless of course you happen to live in one of the neighbors the apps suggest as a detour.
Why neighborhoods are hopping mad
Picture living in a quiet residential neighborhood. Sure, there’s traffic, but it’s not the same traffic flow as the highway. One of the many benefits of living off the beaten path, or at least it was, until Waze started routing hundreds of cars through your neighborhood. According to The Washington Post, this is exactly what happened to Timothy Conner’s neighborhood in Maryland, as well as many other neighborhoods. In Connor’s case there was a marked detour, due to road repair several blocks away from his home, but rather than use the marked detour, Waze (and likely other navigation apps) routed detour dodgers through his neighborhood as a short cut.
Conner stated he could “see them looking down at their phones. [They] had traffic jams, people were honking. It was pretty harrowing.” This isn’t the first time these apps have caused issues for residential neighborhoods. In fact, Conner used a tactic he read about online when the same thing happened in a Southern California neighborhood. He became a Waze imposter.
During rush hour, he’d log on to the app and post false wreck reports, speed traps, or other blockages on his street, hoping to deflect some of the traffic flow.
This tactic worked, for about two weeks and then Waze got wise and booted Connor off the site.
Attempts to combat the app
While the app certainly didn’t create the traffic, it did, however, give drivers cut-through routes they probably wouldn’t have known about any other way. Bates Mattison, a city councilman in Georgia stated, “It used to be that only locals knew all the cut-through routes, but Google Maps and Waze(Google owns Waze as well) are letting everyone know. In some extreme cases, we have to address it to preserve the sanctity of a residential neighborhood.”
In his district, there was an increase of 45,000 cars per day on some residential streets due to construction on a nearby interstate.
I don’t know about you, but I would be upset as well. The sheer number of cars is bound to make excessive noise, not to mention increased safety concerns.
The unfortunate part of this is, there doesn’t seem to be a way to fool these apps, especially in the case of Waze. Waze constantly updates and adjusts based on the data it grabs from other drivers in real-time. Which is great if you’re trying to avoid a traffic-jammed highway, find a way around flooding, or other issues, but not so much if you’re a frustrated resident looking for some Waze relief. If, like Connor, you attempt to log on and report false blockages or problems, other Waze drivers will continue to use the route you’ve reported as blocked and the app’s algorithm will pick up on it and still show the route as viable.
In Connor’s case, the neighborhood and their city councilman even tried to get Google to use the official detour in the app, but they tried to no avail. When construction ended, traffic dwindled a bit, but unfortunately, even after the regular route was opened, a greater majority of drivers still use the short-cut they found with Waze.
I would like to see Waze design a failsafe into their app that allows people (residents) to report when a detour, or short cut, is becoming a problem.
Not that it would make an difference, or that all Waze users would heed the notifications, but it would be nice to be able to let the app know, traffic flow has quadrupled, thanks to their short cuts.
What do you think? Is there some reasonable expectation that traffic flow will remain the same when you purchase a home, or is a free-for-all, as the road is not owned by the homeowner?