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Avoiding delays at the U.S.-Canada border, thanks to NITTEC and Google Maps


Editor’s word: Nowadays’s visitor blogger is Athena Hutchins, government director of the Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition (NITTEC), a group of agencies improving traffic mobility and safety in Western New York and Southern Ontario. Join Athena on a webinar to hear the NITTEC story from her directly on December, 12 at 11-12 PST. Register here.

There’s a lot of traffic activity at the border of Western New York State and Southern Ontario: every month, an average of one million vehicles cross the three bridges with border checkpoints between the U.S. and Canada. Our job at Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition (NITTEC) is to help vacationers and commuters in the Niagara Falls area see any traffic and road issues that might stand in their way. That’s why we created our new map — built with Google Maps — which takes a complex mix of data from local, state and federal agencies and gives drivers a single view of their trip.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utJnKn4kPc4]

We’ve used Google Maps on the NITTEC website since 2007. This year we developed a multilayered map as part of our efforts to improve traffic movement in the cross-border region. The new map uses the Google Maps API to help us pull together a wealth of useful data, including construction projects, delays and border crossing times. This information is available piecemeal from other agencies, but a traveler would have a hard time patching together a true picture of traffic conditions at the border, especially since we’re dealing with data from two countries.

The map is on the homepage of our new NITTEC website, so visitors can quickly find out how long it will take to get to the border, how much time they’ll have to wait at checkpoints and which alternate routes might be less congested. For instance, when the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge has long wait times, a quick glance at the map can tell drivers if they’re better off heading for the Peace Bridge or the Rainbow Bridge. Travelers can use the map’s control panel to choose which overlays they see, such as satellite views, highways, and live camera images.

To develop the new map, we incorporated 10 data feeds from across our 30 coalition agencies. The map refreshes every 20 seconds, using this constantly updated information. A mobile version of the map allows drivers approaching the border to get up-to-date info while they’re en route.

People are already familiar with Google Maps, so seeing our map provides clear, customizable and up-to-date traffic information that can be viewed at a glance and that’s easy to digest. It also helps us send a message about the NITTEC brand – that we’re on a mission to help people in the area get where they’re going safely and more efficiently.