A few weeks ago Miami-Dade Transit announced a new partnership with the Waze Connected Cities program. Basically, the two are trading information to improve traffic and commute times. The county gives the Waze app its data on things like road closures and construction. In return, Waze shares its real-time data about traffic so the county can optimize traffic light timing and public transit. We’re one of 75 entities (cities/counties) trying this out.
“We are working to use technology and information to improve mobility across Miami-Dade, with projects like Waze, our new Transit Tracker app, and mobile ticketing,” says Alice Bravo, Director of Miami-Dade Transportation and Public Works
Where it’s worked before and what it’s done:
In Boston, Mass., city officials used Waze data to adjust traffic signals in real time to help ease current traffic congestion. The Waze data is sent straight to the traffic management center and lights react to the current road conditions — so if there’s a jam officials can adjust the lights to ease up the flow.
In Rio de Janeiro, the Waze API has been embedded into the city’s traffic control center to help with real-time traffic monitoring. They’ve used that information to, for example, optimize garbage routes — no more jams caused by garbage stops at rush hour — and relieve traffic congestion.
It can also help during natural disasters. When Hurricane Joaquin hit South Carolina in 2015, Waze’s volunteers who use the app and edit the maps so that they’re current aggregated more than 1,000 notifications of road closures, flooding, and blocked roads. The South Carolina Department of Transit and FEMA used the Waze data to figure out how to get resources where they’re needed.
How Miami-Dade can use it:
Reducing congestion: At different times of the day, we have bottlenecks on the roads that cause massive delays due to travel congestion, according to Carlos Cruz-Casas, the assistant director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works.
Right now the county uses information from a Florida Department of Transportation program called SunGuide which collects traffic data using cameras on major state roads and freeways. But it’s not great at tracking things in real time, and at the street level. With Waze, that information can be better refined and tracked on a micro-level.
Getting information real time + synchronizing traffic lights:
The county can get information about an accident that is slowing traffic down at that moment and adjust traffic signals to keep cars moving. Even if it’s something as small as someone double parking downtown, that helps us understand how it’s affecting the flow of traffic and how we can respond to it, Cruz-Casas said.
With this real-time data, they can synchronize all 2900 traffic lights around the county to make them function better in response to the people on the roads. For example, if there’s a traffic build up, we can make the green light last a little longer right away to reduce it.
Sending notifications: MDT can notify people through the app about emergency closures, road work, or alternate routes. During events like July 4th, they notified users about planned closures on Biscayne. MDT also let users know, through the app, that there was a free shuttle they could take if they parked their car at a lot five to 10 minutes away.
All for free? What’s the catch?
It’s completely free, according to Waze spokesperson, Meghan Kelleher. The data exchange is free and the app is free for users. Users provide their insight, the partner provides information about road closures and construction. The more data Waze receives the better their maps can become, she said.
Code for Miami volunteer Adam Old cautions that the data released by the county should be released in a format that is useful to everyone, not only to Waze. Also, that the Waze data should be public and usable according to the county’s open data policy.
So… how does Waze make money?
Waze provides opportunities through three different channels — branded pins, adds that pop up when you’re stopped, and the last is celebrity voices. Advertisers pay for celebrity voices to help you navigate the city, from C3PO to Colonel Sanders.
Want to understand more about our partnership Miami-Dade Transit to change the convo on transit?
CEO Chris Sopher has the full download over on Medium.