Communities Are Telling Waze To Stop Sending Traffic Through Them

Small communities are tired of being used as detour routes.

byRob Stumpf|
Waze Hero 01
via Getty Images

One of the best things about real-time navigation for motorists is the ability to reroute traffic for congestion. But for locals of high-traffic vacation spots, that advantage has quickly resulted in small neighborhoods becoming overwhelmed by cars looking to save a minute on their commute.

Authorities, residents, and lawmakers in the Outer Banks town of Southern Shores, North Carolina, have been fighting this problem for years. Traffic patterns haven't improved there despite erecting locals-only signs, temporary barricades, and provisional speed bumps. Now, city officials have resorted to taking up the mess with navigation giant Waze directly to help stifle road congestion.

via Getty Images

Every time Southern Shores officials looked to solve its traffic problem with traditional means, it only created congestion in another area. For example, by blocking off one roadway with signs and barricades, congestion was worse on another street. If that wasn't bad enough, barricades also "made some drivers and residents confrontational," making it difficult to use them for the 2023 vacationing season. Besides, locals say that cutting through these streets isn't actually a shortcut, and once one route begins to back up, so do the smaller roads.

The town recently passed a "No Through Traffic" resolution during a city council meeting earlier this month. The passed resolution would be enacted between Memorial Day and Labor Day and would regulate traffic from being routed through local streets—so as long as mapping companies got the memo. Southern Shores' mayor, Elizabeth Morey, made sure that would happen.

Morey met with Waze employees recently to discuss the possibility of no longer rerouting traffic through residential areas per the resolution. In the meeting, Waze agreed to avoid routing traffic through local streets since a resolution was in the process of being adopted by the city.

"I think one of them visits here frequently so they feel our pain, which was really comforting to know," Morey said. "And they have assured us that if we adopt this resolution, [drivers] are not going to see where it’s faster to go through our town streets according to the traffic navigation app.”

Likely, this won't solve all of Southern Shores' traffic problems. Locals still know about the shortcuts, frequently spelled out online for tourists to find, though that's not as easy as a navigation app simply rerouting traffic. The town has also previously identified the need for another bridge to connect the Outer Banks to the mainland, though pushback from environmental activists has previously delayed any formal project from taking shape.

It also doesn't solve the suburban hell that is America's road planning. Southern Shores is just one example of navigation apps causing more traffic in residential areas. But without a major reworking of the traffic systems, who is to say what will ultimately fix the underlying problem? For now, it looks like the answer is to throw various forms of regulation at the problem and hope it goes away.

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