Smartphone app Waze helps motorists navigate Las Vegas Valley roads

The most comments that hit Warrior Central on a regular basis involve those blasted orange cones.

What’s going on with this street? When are workers going to be done? Why couldn’t they have done this project last month when the street was already torn up? How come the cones are still out when they aren’t working?

But one question rarely seen: How can I help?

Although most motorists believe they can’t make a difference, aside from simply following the rules and being courteous to fellow travelers, there’s a new way to help.

Or, technically, a new Waze.

Waze is a smartphone navigational application that can be downloaded for free from the usual Apple and Google Play sources.

Under a new program unveiled last week by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada and Waze, the region is now a part of a Connected Citizens Program. That means that when a Waze user logs on and uses the navigation system, two-way communication is established. Because the app works in real time, motorists will get immediate notifications of problems that could be ahead on the route.

That could be the dreaded orange cones, a snarling traffic accident or even a police speed trap.

The RTC is contributing to the program by feeding real-time traffic information from its Freeway Arterial System of Transportation center, the collection and distribution point of the Las Vegas Valley’s traffic movements, to Waze. It also offers information gathered through the agency’s “Seeing Orange” program, a committee of public works and utility representatives that regularly list ongoing road projects.

Waze, in turn, distributes that information to motorists by altering their routes when feeding turn-by-turn instructions.

The real-time feedback from motorists occurs anonymously and goes to Waze through GPS tracking. The data include a motorist’s speed along a route. If it’s normal, it’s assumed that there are no traffic problems; if it’s slower than usual, it’s an indicator of some street issue.

Waze users also can submit information on traffic accidents, debris on a road, even potholes to warn other Waze users behind them.

Paige Fitzgerald, manager of the Connected Citizens program for San Francisco-based Waze, said there are 78,000 monthly users of the app in Southern Nevada. But the more people who are using it, the more effective it becomes. Fitzgerald said 62 government partners are involved in similar community partnerships nationwide.

Tina Quigley, RTC general manager, is a regular Waze user and says the new partnership could go a long way toward reducing frustration brought about by orange cones.

Quigley said when the Seeing Orange committee first met, members discovered that some of the projects motorists were complaining about weren’t city or county public works street projects. Utility companies and water reclamation programs were also being undertaken, and their orange cones aren’t any different from the cities’ and county’s.

But now, everybody is at the table and a more complete database is being built to forward to motorists.

It should also be noted that thanks to the fuel revenue indexing program that generates road construction and repair funds through higher gasoline taxes through the end of December that there have been more street projects in the past 2½ years than Southern Nevada has seen since the recession.

More than 220 projects have been approved, some large, some small, all affecting commutes.

The more information a motorist is armed with, the better those commutes will be.

And Waze will be one of the ways that happens.

Bike-share survey

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is seeking public comments on where to locate 18 docking stations for 180 bicycles for downtown Las Vegas’ first bike-share program.

The interactive survey is pretty easy to navigate and is available at rtcsnv.com/cycling/bike-share.

By late summer, bike users will be able to register to check out a bike and ride it in the downtown area, parking it in one of those docking stations so that they’re available to the next rider.

Heavy traffic

One of the city’s largest annual conventions arrives next week so motorists may want to steer clear of the Las Vegas Convention Center unless they’re attending.

The National Association of Broadcasters will bring an estimated 103,000 people to the city for four days beginning April 18. Early arrivals may get here by the weekend.

Questions and comments should be sent to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number. Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter @RJroadwarrior

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