Twitter Helps I-35 Motorists Avoid Delays
On October 1, an 18-wheeler overturned and caught fire on I-35 near Loop 363 north of Temple. The crash backed up southbound traffic for miles as crews spent five hours clearing the roadway.
But some motorists managed to avoid the delay by choosing an alternate route, thanks to email and social media alerts sent out by TxDOT.
|Tweets like this one help keep travelers along I-35 informed so they can better decisions about routes to take during incidents on the interstate.|
"Incidents like this one are why TxDOT has put such an emphasis on social media," explains Waco District I-35 Public Information Officer Jodi Wheatley. "The more people we can reach, the better we can maintain mobility along the I-35 corridor and the fewer frustrations travelers will suffer. Twitter has become a great tool for reaching them with vital information. It can make a huge difference for our subscribers in terms of predicting travel times to their destinations."
Followers of the Twitter handle @MY35TravelTimes receive an alert when a five-minute or more delay is detected anywhere along the corridor. The tweets continue regularly until the incident is cleared and traffic flow is back to normal.
"The tweets are automatically generated and tied in with the same traveler information system that feeds travel times to our portable changeable message signs [PCMSs]," Wheatley says. The PCMSs display the same information along the roadway for the benefit of travelers currently on the road.
For @MY35TravelTimes, there are about 500,000 tweet impressions each month (which includes the number of subscribers multiplied by the number of tweets and retweets).
Anyone signed up with Twitter can follow @MY35TravelTimes, simply by signing up at My35.org. Click on the Central tab at the top of the page. In the Traffic Updates section, click on Twitter: @My35TravelTimes and sign up.
In addition to I-35 travel times in the Waco District, Twitter users can be also be notified about the conditions along the corridor by following the Waco District feed, @TxDOTWacoPIO, and the statewide I-35 corridor feed, @I35Travel.
Just recently, TxDOT began including alternate route/detour maps for email incident alerts. Now when an incident occurs and a long delay is anticipated, users are given a suggested alternate route they can take to avoid a delay. In addition to a graphic map, text will detail the detour route, step-by-step.
The major incidents along the corridor are also shared on TxDOT's Facebook page (simply "like" Texas Department of Transportation on the page). Currently, the page has 104,000 likes.
"We've received a lot of positive feedback about how helpful Twitter has been for motorists," Wheatley says. "And the Twitter channel is in addition to the email alerts that subscribers receive about lane closures and incidents. We're doing everything we can—whether through social media, email, or the PCMSs along the roadway, and adding more tools all the time—to keep motorists informed and moving safely through the corridor."