As a daily commuter, I often rely on the WSDOT traffic maps to understand how long my commute might take and what areas are backing up, so I can strategically determine the quickest and safest route.
For a long time I used their website (from a bookmark in my browser), that is not mobile optimized. I know the idea is that people are checking this site before they leave and not from the car, but to be honest, I only check it once I am in the car. They have recently added display advertising to their page, which makes it even more difficult to attain the information I need on my mobile phone. Since their website is not optimized for mobile, I must zoom in to get the details I am looking for and in doing so the banner ad consumes a quarter of my screen.
Because of this addition, I decided to check out their mobile app. I hadn’t before because I had been advised by other commuters that it wasn’t very accurate. In comparing the maps over the last week, I find them fairly similar in traffic volumes. However, I am not thrilled with the user experience on their mobile app.
The most frustrating part is that I am not able to favorite a flowmap for a particular area. For example, I open the app, and I am sent to a menu that has traffic maps, ferries, mountain passes, social media and border information. I select traffic maps, from there I get another menu where I can select from 13 different cities/areas. I select Seattle Area and arrive at the flowmap, which I find the most helpful in determining my commute. This is where I ask, “Where is the favorite button? I want to put this on my flowmap on my home screen for quicker navigation!” While I have done away with the obtrusive display ad, I have to navigate through 2 menus to get to the 3rd screen that I find most helpful.
I am particularly passionate about traffic because I commute over 60 miles, 5 days a week. I recently joined a vanpool (always a passenger), which has allowed me to be more involved socially with traffic than before (passenger half the time). As a passenger, I am able to photograph, retweet updates and give insight to daily commuters. With this said, I would love more social capabilities within the app. For example, I would like to tweet the flowmap or updates I see from the WSDOT instead of the app being a one way street of information to the user.
Another great idea that I found, in the app reviews on iTunes, is to incorporate the ability to report carpool lane violators, instead of calling the HERO phone line. I find myself calling the HERO line at least once a week.
Also, with the recent addition of tolling to the 520 bridge, it would be great for the app to tell the user the current toll rate, so that drivers can decide if it’s worth taking 520 or not.
It might also be interesting if they could generate a screen, where I could go as a regular I-5 commuter, to get tips and tricks for traveling the corridor from other users. They currently have a screen where you can see Seattle Area alerts, but what if I could post a tip that there was a giant pothole in the right lane at the mid-point of the Ship Canal bridge. This way other commuters could be aware of the hole before they slam into it and the WSDOT would be able to gather road conditions first hand and take the steps to fix it.
Altogether, good app, I only have a few suggestions for the WSDOT. First, optimize their area traffic map websites for mobile use. Then, add a favorite option for your area flowmap within the app.