Are navigational apps creating chaos for local neighborhoods?

Andy Fox
wavy.com

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — We all know how bad traffic can get around Hampton Roads.

Sometimes, you just need to get off the highway and take another route. Some popular apps are helping you to do that, but the cost, some say, is creating traffic chaos on some streets that neighbors say can’t handle it.

The increased traffic on roads that are already too congested is a real issue in the Aragona Village neighborhood of Virginia Beach.

Residents say there are five major cut through streets, and it’s hard to say for sure who came through on navigation apps.

However, users can see the road Google Maps wanted you to take, and neighbors aren’t too happy about that.

The world has changed. Virginia Beach’s Central Library only has a commemorative edition of World Book Encyclopedia.

World Book dates back to 1917, today World Book no longer prints because it has been replaced by google.com. The pay phone is few and far between, and that Atlas map in your car is now the navigation app in your hand,

“I do think it has an impact on creating more of the egregious traffic that does not belong here,” says Lorraine Samko, president of the Aragona Village Civic League.

10 On Your Side asked her: does she think navigation apps create chaos in her neighborhood?

“Yes, I do,” she said.

Samko said she’s outraged that navigation apps send drivers looking for a speedy shortcut down Sullivan Boulevard.

“It puts traffic on neighborhood roads that were not designed to handle the amount of traffic… it reduces the quality of life for those residents who live on those streets.”

The navigation apps can create issues sending drivers down residential streets, “it’s more of a chaos thing where things aren’t working right…when there’s a crash…and a back-up,” says Virginia Beach Traffic Engineer Valerie Henchel who adds, “We have had sporadic complaints…they are saying it’s a neighborhood street and not a thoroughfare.”

But how do the residents know those cutting through are on navigation apps?

“It’s hard to prove,” says Henchel.

That may be the case, but it’s easy to pull up what Google Maps tells drivers trying to get from the Pembroke Mall area to Diamond Springs Road.

The primary roads are Independence Boulevard to Haygood Road to Diamond Springs Road.

Those are roads with several lanes.

Google Maps, however, directs drivers to avoid those roads and use Sullivan Boulevard instead.

Sullivan is a narrow road with no sidewalks, and so much speeding traffic the city put down speed tables to help slow down drivers.

10 On Your Side asked Henchel what she thinks about Google Maps telling drivers to go down Sullivan, “well that’s why we have speed tables out there…we are trying to slow them down.”

It’s unclear if they were on a navigation app, or where they were going, but it does confirm that there are traffic issues that are not helped by Google Maps.

We asked Henchel about that and she said, “potentially, yes” it could be impacting the traffic on Sullivan.

Google Maps sent us this statement from Google Spokesperson Liz Davidoff, “Google Maps strives to accurately model and reflect the real world. Municipalities and agencies responsible for managing roads and reducing traffic are free to take measures according to their individual needs (e.g. speed humps, changing speed limits, adding traffic lights). Google Maps will then strive to reflect that reality completely and accurately in our map model. And our automated routing optimization algorithm will inherently take those parameters into account in every route created in Google Maps.”

Kathy Shannon is also in the Aragona Village Civic League and lives on Lavender Lane, “I’m angry. I’m very angry.”

The traffic issues aren’t only on Sullivan Boulevard, Lavender has speed tables, too. Shannon is emotional about the traffic issue, saying traffic is only getting worse, and navigation apps don’t help.

“This has started as a drip,” Shannon said. “We have gone to a stream, and now we have a running river, and somebody’s gonna die.”

They are public roads, and Debbie O’Connell uses them, and she also uses Sullivan as a cut through. “Yes, I do. I do it to avoid Independence and Haygood.” O’Connell says she uses the navigational apps.

We asked Danny Abrams about it, “I use Sullivan as a cut through all the time.”

O’Connell adds, “It’s more convenient to keep moving instead of sitting in traffic. I’d rather keep going.” O’Connell plans to continue using Sullivan as a cut through.

As for Samko, this is her message to the navigation app companies, “Send the traffic to the roads designed to handle that type of traffic, and not through residential neighborhoods.”

For the record, the three most popular navigation map apps are Apple, Waze and Google.

Waze spokesperson Julie Mossler sent this response:

“Traffic congestion is a chronic, universal problem, and drivers have been looking for alternatives to major thoroughfares long before navigation apps were created. Alongside tools such as speed bumps and traffic light timing, Waze is one part of the toolkit municipalities can utilize to address this issue, not the root of the problem.

“Our service finds open stretches of road and spreads cars across the grid of public streets, helping not only to alleviate congestion but promote a safer drive, as bumper to bumper traffic often means a greater risk of accidents and unsafe driving behavior. If a street is public, it is intended to be used by all citizens and will be taken into consideration to be used by Waze. It simply wouldn’t be effective to create a traffic jam where one doesn’t exist or move congestion from one corridor to another.

“The free Connected Citizens program offers actionable insights to local municipal partners, empowering them to make relevant changes to impact local congestion and better care for their growing community. (For example, Waze assisted a business district in Boston with the timing of their traffic lights to reduce congestion by 18%.) We are glad to have hundreds of local partners and will continue to work together to identify these opportunities whenever possible,”

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