Share By Giovanna Fabiano
Few things are more frustrating than getting stuck in traffic on your way to work. Congestion is often a necessary evil, especially if you work near a city, but gridlock takes away valuable time that you could use to catch up on that project or eat breakfast with the kids.
That extra hour in traffic here or there starts to add up: The average American commuter spends almost the equivalent of a week at work, 38 hours, stuck in traffic every year, according to Texas A&M’s annual mobility study.
“Congestion caused urban Americans to travel 5.5 billion hours more and to purchase an extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel,” wrote the study’s co-author, Bill Eisele.
Commuters who work in big cities have an even longer slog to the office. Washington, D.C. ranked No. 1, with the average commuter spending 67 hours stuck in traffic, followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and New York, according to the study.
While the best solution might be to ditch your car for public transportation or bike to work instead, not everyone has that option. If you’re stuck behind the wheel, your smartphone can help you see what’s up ahead by utilizing crowdsourcing technology.
Here are 4 apps to help you spend less time in traffic, and more quality time at work or at home.
This navigation app provides clear turn-by-turn directions and monitors traffic conditions at the same time. Unlike other crowdsourcing apps, there’s no need to input anything into your phone (something you’d want to avoid altogether while driving). Waze collects traffic data— speed, detours, and more — and shares it with you and other drivers. You may also be proactive and share information on road accidents, construction and police traps. Waze is free on iPhone and Android.
Free for Android and iPhone, Google Maps now has voice-activated turn-by-turn navigation, whether you’re walking, driving or taking public transit. You can also utilize 3D maps, street view and a large searchable database of restaurants and businesses. The app provides traffic info, though not as detailed as Waze, using speed information from other drivers to determine which roadways are congested. Portions of traffic-plagued roads appear red on the map.
Once a fixture on dashboards, auto-navigation devices have been in steady decline the last few years, trumped by the ubiquitous smartphone. The reason is obvious: pay anywhere from $120 to $400 for a bulky GPS device that can only be used in your car or just download a navigation app on your cell phone. The TomTom app, for a one-time download of $39.99, offers some things that other apps don’t: Advanced lane guidance to help you navigate difficult junctions, offline maps that you can store without a data connection, and the ability to multitask by giving you turn-by-turn directions while you’re on the phone. The downside? It eats up a lot of data: You need at least 2.3 GB of free storage space.
The latest version of this app, free on Apple and Android, is one of the most advanced in terms of driving and traffic intelligence. A personalized feature allows you to input your starting point and destination, and get estimated arrival times. You can even find out about any accidents, construction and sporting events that could clog the highway.
While avoiding traffic entirely is a pipe dream, it doesn’t hurt to arm yourself with tools that can cut down on your commute and get you to where you’d rather be.