One of the great things about navigation apps on our smartphones is that they help us to easily get from Point A to Point B without having to really think much about it. They can automatically reroute you to save time, and take you through some off-the-beaten-path routes to avoid more congested roadways.
The non-discriminatory nature of navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze means that some relatively low-traffic locales have now become bumper-to-bumper nightmares. Such is the case with the small New Jersey town of Leonia. The quiet community is a suburb of New York City and has a population of fewer than 9,000 people.
However, modern navigation apps have turned what were previously lightly trafficked streets into gridlock. Residents of the town have become enslaved by navigation apps, and commuters' craving to shave previous minutes and seconds off their daily drive.
“In the morning, if I sign onto my Waze account, I find there are 250,000 ‘Wazers’ in the area," said Leonia Police Chief Tom Rowe. "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.”
Many people flee to these small, sleepy towns to avoid the hustle and bustle of big city life, but it appears that no one is safe from modern technology when it comes to traffic rerouting. The fact that Leonia is adjacent to a major highway means that any major traffic stoppage along I-80/I-95 has navigation apps spill impatient motorists onto side streets as a detour.
Leonia's solution is to close off roughly 60 of its roads to all but local residents during rush hour periods to alleviate congestion on its roads. Leonia residents and those who work within the city will be issued a yellow tag that they can display on their car to prove that they are "cleared" to be on the roads. However, those that choose to drive through town without the placard will be hit with $200 fine starting January 22nd.
“Would I prefer not to do this? Of course," added Rowe. "But I would rather try something and fail than not try anything."
For its part, Waze says it will comply with the wishes of the town. “If a road is legally reclassified into a private road, our map editors will make that change," said a spokesperson for the company. "It is our goal to work holistically with our community of drivers, map editors and city contacts to improve the driving experience for all.”