Navigation apps are supposed to make driving experiences better by suggesting shortcuts for commuters away from heavy traffic. But officials in one town in New Jersey—Leonia—say they’re actually dealing with extreme congestion because of apps like Waze and Google Maps. So next month Leonia’s set to ban drivers who don’t live there, except in limited circumstances.
Tom Rowe, Leonia’s police chief, explained the problem last week to The New York Times:
“Without question, the game changer has been the navigation apps,” said Tom Rowe, Leonia’s police chief. “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.”
Waze relies on crowd-sourced information to update drivers, which at times leads people to spoof reports of traffic accidents to “deter the app from sending motorists their way,” the Times reports. Google Maps and Apple Maps also send suggested shortcuts out to drivers if heavy traffic is being reported along a route.
In response to Leonia’s situation, town officials crafted a solution they admit is “extreme.” Here’s more from NJ.com:
They’re about to ban drivers who don’t live there, with limited exceptions, from driving on some of their roads for nine hours every day.
If you live or work in Leonia, city hall will issue you a bright yellow tag to hang in your rearview mirror.
Just about anyone else who drives between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. on about 60 of the township’s residential streets could face a $200 fine. And in case you forget, signs will be posted on the streets, hopefully by mid-January, officials said.
“It’s an extreme initiative, I’ll be the first to admit that. However the traffic that we deal with is completely extreme,” Rowe said.
The ordinance in question may get tested in court, however town officials are adamant that it’s perfectly legal. Michael Darcy, executive director of the NJ League of Municipalities, also told NJ.com that he believes it’s legal.
“I think they’re certainly within their rights to do this,” Darcy told the news outlet. “They aren’t just doing this to gate off the community, for example. They’re talking about the safety of the residents, emergency vehicles having access. It’s a problem there.”
Waze shot back to the Times, which said the app shares “free traffic data with municipal planners nationwide who might, for instance, want to monitor the effectiveness of a new time sequence for a traffic signal.”
“If a road is legally reclassified into a private road,” spokesperson Terry Wei told the Times, “our map editors will make that change. It is our goal to work holistically with our community of drivers, map editors and city contacts to improve the driving experience for all.”
The town’s police department already flagged navigation apps about the impending changes, reports the Times. If you live in Leonia, make sure you hang your yellow tag starting Jan. 22.