By Tee Schneider
I have a couple of little tricks up my sleeve when it comes to beating commuter traffic and the first one is called Waze. If you’re a commuter, and you have a smartphone, and you hate traffic you really ought to give it a try.
Waze is a free, community based traffic app that has literally put hours back into my life. My husband commutes and I am home with our daughter most of the time but as an actress currently living in the burbs I often have to get all the way across the city to get to an audition.
Case in point: yesterday. I had to get from Mississauga to a voice studio in the east end of Toronto around mid-afternoon and then back to pick up my husband on the west end of Toronto at rush hour. Oh, and the Gardiner Expressway, which is the major route between those two points, is under construction for the next bazillion years.
If you’re not familiar with the area, here’s a little visual aid, (pay close attention to the legend):
Before Waze, my solution to this problem would have been to take the route through town, (not suggesting this was a good solution). Here’s what that route looked like:
I can tell you that the first leg would generally have taken me about an hour and a half give or take ten minutes on the low end and a half-hour on the top end. The way back? Eeesh. Another hour to hour and a half at rush hour. Most of the time, I would be making this trip with a toddler in the car meaning that about three hours of her day would be spent scrunched up in her car seat, not napping and reaching epic proportions of misery by day’s end. But, no more people, no more.
My trip to the voice studio yesterday took me 28 minutes door to door and the trip to pick up my husband? 26 minutes. Really.
But here’s the real kicker. Before my husband started using Waze, he was travelling from Mississauga via a couple of routes through town and averaging anywhere between an hour and ten minutes to an hour and a half per direction depending on the day. Since the Gardiner closures started and we began using Waze his commute has drastically improved. He now averages about 40 minutes per direction. Crazy right?
Waze is “gamified” you earn points for doing certain actions like reporting slow-downs, objects on roads etc. You even provide traffic information to the network by simply driving with it on. Like any device, you don’t want to be manually operating it while driving but those functions are great if you have a passenger in the car.
What I love most about Waze though, is that it teaches you about routes that you would never think to take. If you are a regular commuter, use Waze for awhile to teach you about the best routes to your regular destinations and definitely, if you have somewhere new to go, give it a try.
Here’s what the Waze live map looks like for the same route tonight.
Can’t show you exactly where it took me yesterday because it updates in real time based on what’s going on but basically I can tell you that it brought me around all the construction handily. All the little pink dudes are other Wazers by the way.
Similarly, Google Maps now has a fantastic GPS function built in which I prefer for longer drives out of town and areas that I’m really unfamiliar with. One of the best parts about the Google Maps GPS is that the voice is fantastic and it reads the names of roads very well UNLIKE the lousy GPS in my car. Waze was acquired by Google in 2013 and perhaps the plan was to integrate the technologies but upon last reading that takeover is under review as it may have been in violation of competition law. TBD.
Both apps will adapt your route based on slowdowns and other events but don’t miss a turn. My experience has been that both apps seem to have a hard time with this.
On one occasion, the Google Maps app told me that I was at my destination when in fact I was a block away.
Both apps are really hard on my phone battery so you’ll want a charge cord in your car.
If you are not using these tools, just like the title says, you’re doing it wrong. Take a page from good old Dr. Seuss. “Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say.”
Do you have any tricks up your sleeve? I’d love to hear about them so drop me a line a *protected email*.
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