Traffic is just the worst. The absolute worst. No matter what transportation engineers do, they can’t always prevent traffic jams and congestion from happening since unpredictable human behavior is often the cause. Luckily, this being the 21st century and all, there are now a whole host of traffic-fighting apps available which use real-time traffic updates and map data to create quicker alternate routes for users during rush hour and other peak times. While these apps sound like a great way to save an extra three or four minutes of your day, they of course come with a downside. Traffic-fighting apps often reroute drivers indiscriminately onto any and all available roads without considering the impact these new routes could have on local activity. The result? Angry homeowners whose tranquil, tree-lined residential streets are now overflowing with frustrated, coffee-fueled commuters stinking up the joint and causing horrendous traffic jams. In order to fight this growing problem, one New Jersey town is now issuing fines for drivers who use traffic-fighting map apps to reroute through residential roads.
According to The New York Times, police in Leonia, New Jersey will close 60 streets to all traffic except local residents or individuals who work in the borough. Starting begin issuing $200 fines to drivers on Leonia streets during peak rush hours who do not have a police-issued yellow hang tag. The move is in response to a recent surge in commuters who use the quiet suburban town as a shortcut for commutes to larger urban areas. Those shortcuts are often suggested by apps like Google Maps or Waze which help users find routes around traffic. Leonia police chief Tom Rowe, a Waze user himself, says the app and others like it have made driving in Leonia a nightmare:
Without question, the game changer has been the navigation apps. 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.
A spokesperson for Waze says the company does its best to respond to user feedback and will restrict the use of roads marked as private. While Leonia residents are sure to cheer these new restriction, the move is not without its critics. Neighboring towns now fear Leonia’s ban will simply reroute commuters into their streets, while other NJ residents feel that since their tax dollars fund public roads, they should be free to drive on all of them. Is this an example of government overreach, or a necessary measure to ensure local residents have priority on their own roads?