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Rolls Out Personalized, Toll-Free
Traffic Information Service for Commuters in Orange County, Los Angeles and Bay Area

January 30, 2008

By Doug Ramsey

After two years of serving the San Diego market, a traffic reporting service (http://traffic.calit2.net) created and operated by a state-funded research center has expanded its reach to the largest metropolitan areas in California.

Snapshot of website of new LA-Orange County edition of Calit2’s Wireless Traffic Report
Website of new LA-Orange County
edition of Calit2’s Wireless Traffic Report

The California Wireless Traffic Report now offers toll-free access to current traffic data for Orange County, Los Angeles County and the Bay Area, and its developers on the campus of the University of California, San Diego hope to expand the service eventually to cover all of California where raw traffic data is available from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

The service was developed by researchers in the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), which is a partnership of UCSD and UC Irvine.

“More than 15,000 San Diegans now use our service to get personalized information relevant to their commute in San Diego County, but we get a lot of calls from people who commute into Orange County as well,” said Ganapathy Chockalingam, a staff researcher at Calit2. “Since the core technologies of the system have now been thoroughly tested, and the service offers more personalization than other traffic services, it became clear that we could expand to OC, Los Angeles and the Bay Area at little extra expense.”

Currently the traffic service is funded by the UCSD division of Calit2 as a public service.

Commuters in each region can get personalized, real-time traffic reports through their cell phones simply by making a phone call. There are two ways to use the system. To get non-personalized reports for major highways, commuters can simply call the toll-free number for the region and, when prompted, say a highway name (e.g., 405-South). It will give all the areas where traffic is flowing at less than 35 miles per hour on that highway.

Photo of Calit2 staff researcher Ganz Chockalingam
Calit2 staff researcher Ganz Chockalingam is the creator of the newly-expanded traffic reporting system

To get personalized traffic reports, commuters can sign up for a free account at http://traffic.calit2.net by entering their cell phone number and commute information. After signing up, when they call the toll-free number for that region, the system identifies the commuter (based on caller-ID) and delivers personalized traffic reports, including a commute time based on current traffic conditions along the caller’s usual route. If the call comes in before noon, the automated service will play the morning commute information; for calls after noon, it responds with evening commute times. Motorists who can commute on a different highway can also store alternative routes—allowing them to compare, for instance, which route would be the fastest way home.

Commuters can also sign up to receive traffic alerts and daily reports via text message or email. Visitors to the website can also view traffic webcams operated by the California Department of Transportation (http://traffic.calit2.net/la/camera.jsp).

Features that set the Wireless Traffic Report apart from other services include peer-to-peer reporting of incidents, which allows commuters to share highway incident information with other commuters in an automated peer to peer fashion. An archive of messages from users about incidents in the San Diego region over the past 12 months can be viewed at http://traffic.calit2.net/sd/ireport.jsp.

Another popular feature is the best-time-to-commute feature. The calculator (available at http://traffic.calit2.net/sd/chartinfo.jsp) provides graphs that analyze traffic patterns for the motorist’s usual commuting route for each day of the week – allowing the driver to determine the best time to commute on a given day. “Some commuters in San Diego report that they have used this feature to make real estate decisions on where to live compared to where they work,” said Calit2’s Chockalingam.

Calit2's Wireless Traffic Report is now available via three toll-free lines: Orange County-Los Angeles County at (888) 9-CALIT2  or (888) 922-5482; the Bay Area at (888) 4-CALIT2 or (888) 422-5482; and San Diego County at (866) 500-0977.

There is an unfunded federal mandate for major metropolitan areas to implement 511 services, a toll-free number for services and information related to traffic and transportation. But even in regions that have already deployed 511 systems – including the Bay Area and San Diego – the level of personalization is limited. Several metro areas have approached Calit2 to consider adopting some of its traffic-report features in future 511 systems.

Calit2’s traffic service is now being leveraged to help first responders and emergency agencies in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack. “Our research and rollout of the San Diego version allowed us to integrate some of these technologies into disaster notification systems developed as part of our joint project with the UC Irvine division of Calit2,” said Chockalingam. “The RESCUE project, funded by the National Science Foundation, now includes the same peer-to-peer information sharing system, and allows first responders to share information from the field in the aftermath of a crisis or disaster.”


Media Contact: Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825

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