An app designed to help drivers avoid traffic proved helpful during a recent deadly flood.

Chris Lambert, Systems Consultant for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), used traffic data from Waze to help government officials and first responders in Louisiana during Baton Rouge’s flooding in August. Esri announced a partnership with Waze and local governments on Oct. 12 to encourage more states and cities to use roadway data for similar projects.

When Baton Rouge began to flood, KYTC contacted Waze, a traffic and navigation app that allows community members to post information about incidents. Waze emailed Lambert’s team the user-generated flood data within a couple of hours. Using Esri as a platform, Lambert and his team were able to provide first responders with situational awareness, offering tips on roadblocks and traffic jams.

“I thought it was a really good test case for us,” Lambert said. “We just wanted to be good neighbors.”

Esri’s partnership with Waze and local governments is part of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Intelligent Transportation Systems initiative, which seeks to establish open data and information sharing throughout governments of all sizes. In this partnership, government officials will be able to access Waze data to learn about road closures and traffic patterns to supplement the information they gather from cameras. According to a news release from Esri, people report traffic incidents to Waze before they call the police 60 percent of the time. Esri will provide governments with templates to display the data in an accessible way. The online mapping platform will also add a new connector for Waze to channel its data to the community.

Waze established a Connected Citizens Program in October 2014 to link city governments with Waze data. The program has 100 partners; 72 of those partners are in North America, representing 29 states and Washington, D.C. Andrew Stauffer, product manager of civic technology at Esri, said that Esri joined Waze’s effort to help link citizens to their governments. He said that Waze was a good way to submit information and receive alerts because people who are stuck in traffic would rather check notifications on their app than read a PDF map of the best traffic routes.

“I absolutely think we can get all 50 states involved,” Stauffer said. “The cool part of this is it’s not for major metropolitan areas around the world. It’s for governments of every size. It’s a phenomenal and radical concept. Open data is functional and critical and really shapes how our cities operate.”



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