GPS apps, like Google Maps and Waze, have revolutionized the way people get around. The huge number of users means the apps have accurate real-time traffic data crowdsourced from everyone using the app, and the algorithms use that data to re-route drivers around accidents and traffic hotspots.
Normally, that means efficient routing which helps with congestion. But in some cases, the re-routed traffic can cause havoc for small town and their roads, which were never designed to handle the onslaught of cars that try and use back roads to find their way around an accident.
The town of Leonia, New Jersey, is no stranger to the problem, and starting next month, it’s taking an extreme measure to deal with GPS-caused congestion: banning all non-local drivers from its roads. The police chief explained the problem to the New York Times:
“Without question, the game changer has been the navigation apps,” said Tom Rowe, Leonia’s police chief. “In the morning, if I sign onto my Waze account, I find there are 250,000 ‘Wazers’ in the area. When the primary roads become congested, it directs vehicles into Leonia and pushes them onto secondary and tertiary roads. We have had days when people can’t get out of their driveways.”
To tackle congestion, Leonia is closing all non-local drivers from roads at peak times. If you live or work in Leonia, the police will issue you with a bright yellow tag to hang on your mirror. Anyone without the tag is banned from driving on Leonia’s roads between 6AM and 10AM, and 4PM and 9PM. “It’s an extreme initiative, I’ll be the first to admit that. However the traffic that we deal with is completely extreme,” Rowe said.
Waze told the Times that it would respect the classification as the roads as private, not public, and keep working with the city if requested. “It is our goal to work holistically with our community of drivers, map editors and city contacts to improve the driving experience for all,” spokesperson Terry Wei said.