Yahoo Offers Real-Time Traffic Reports

Largely overlooked during the holiday craziness last month, Yahoo introduced real-time traffic information for 70 major U.S. cities.

The company enhanced Yahoo Maps to display real time traffic conditions including speed and congestion information on major roads, as well as construction information and accident reports. You can turn traffic information on or off with a new control box that appears on the right side of a map display.

Speed on major arteries is indicated by small colored dots. Green dots mean smoothly flowing traffic at normal highway speeds. Yellow dots indicate slowed traffic, and red dots indicate that traffic is crawling.

Dots are displayed on either side of a road; this lets you see at a glance when traffic is moving at different speeds in opposite directions.

Accident locations and construction zones are marked with small icons. Mousing over an icon shows a brief summary of the situation; clicking the icon displays a pop-up window with more details, including severity, reported time and estimated end time.

Yahoo gets its data from a number of sources including government agencies responsible for traffic info collection. For example, traffic information for San Francisco comes from Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol. Information for Atlanta comes from the Georgia Department of Transportation, and so on.

You can access real-time traffic information in several ways. In addition to entering a major city name directly into Yahoo Maps, Yahoo has created a page with links to cities with traffic reports.

My preferred approach is to use Yahoo's new shortcut with the word "traffic" on either side of a city name in a Yahoo search box. If available, you'll see a Yahoo Shortcut link to traffic conditions in that city at the top of the result page. Search results also often include other useful sources of traffic information from a variety of sources.

For more on how Yahoo plans to continue enhancing its local search services, see this interview with Ali Diab (part 2 is here). Ali oversees product management for Yahoo's local products, including Maps, City Guides, Local and Yellow Pages.

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