How to keep tabs on local traffic using maps and social media

In the pre-internet era of television and radio, news stations could get away with 5-minute traffic reports that may or may not have covered the area the viewer was concerned about. Nowadays, no one has the patience to sit through a broadcast; they want to log on to the web, find the traffic alerts that affect them and be on their way.

Map mashups have made spotting local vehicular traffic as easy as pressing the zoom button. Google Maps itself added traffic information to its site last year, but it is the Maps API that is making traffic maps even more interactive.

iMove, which focuses on the traffic of the Vancouver area, has mashed a Google map with construction and traffic alerts, as well as traffic camera locations, weather alerts and local transit information. Users can select what they’d like to see from a series of drop down menus. The selected data is also viewable in a table below the map.

Similar maps based on various technologies are available for many parts of the world, including France, Colorado, Ottawa and England.

History is the best teacher and there is no better lesson than analyzing the roads where fatal accidents have occurred. Risky Roads, previously featured in this post, uses color-coded markers to illustrate dangerous roads across the United States. The site uses readily available data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and has breakdowns for all 50 states.

Triptop NYC is another handy map that, instead of plotting real-time traffic patterns, estimated the commute between any two points in New York City. The map is not only visually stunning, it is also extremely helpful.

Of course, traffic is not limited to cars and trucks traveling on land. maps the real-time movement of ships as they travel around the globe. As one can imagine there can be many ships traveling in any one area, so the site uses quadrants to indicate how many nautical navigators are traveling in a given area. The type of ship can be narrowed down using the checkbox system in the left rail.

The following visualization of Twitter users who have just landed from their airline flights shows that maps don’t have to be static to be informative. Find out more about how this video was created here.

Web 2.0 technology means users can share traffic information with each other, creating citizen-fueled traffic reports that rival mainstream media sources. Trapster uses mobile technology to let its users plot speed traps and avoid traffic tickets. Users can submit a speed trap via their cell phone or by calling a toll-free number. By downloading the Trapster application, anyone can be alerted of speed traps in the immediate area.

Commuter Feed harnesses the power of Twitter to get traffic updates for cities around the world. Recent accidents and traffic delays can also be found by searching Twitter for location-based tweets (e.g. “traffic accident near:90018”) or from from any of the Twitter accounts dedicated to area traffic reports, including @nyctraffic and @lasvegasweather

Hat tip to Google Maps Mania for the links and inspiration.

Also on 10,000 Words:

10 Mind-blowing maps (and 3 ways to create them)
Weather 2.0: Interactive online tools for keeping tabs on Mother Nature
How to quickly track natural disasters online
8 Ways of visualizing the news
5 Ways to create a Google Map in minutes