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Local Homeowners Try to Outsmart Waze to Stop Traffic From Surging into Their Neighborhood

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What happens when your neighborhood suddenly becomes noisy and crowded and dangerous, all thanks to an unexpected rush of traffic?

Automatically, the residents? safety is compromised. The peace and quiet gone. Privacy flies out the window.

That?s what happened to the residential street of Timothy Connor in Takoma Park, Maryland. And it?s all because of community-based traffic and navigation apps such as Waze and Google Maps, which have been leading motorists right into Timothy?s once-peaceful community.

As Timothy himself describes his neighborhood?s current situation: ?harrowing.?

?I could see them looking down at their phones,? said Connor, as reported by The Washington Post. ?We had traffic jams, people were honking. It was pretty harrowing.?

So what did Timothy do?

According to The Washington Post, Timothy decided to become a Waze impostor.

?And so Connor borrowed a tactic he read about from the car wars of Southern California and other traffic-weary regions: He became a Waze impostor. Every rush hour, he went on the Google-owned social-media app and posted false reports of a wreck, speed trap or other blockage on his street, hoping to deflect some of the flow.?

For two weeks, Timothy?s wily tactic worked. Until Waze knew about his ruse.

?He continued his guerrilla counterattack for two weeks before the app booted him off, apparently detecting a saboteur in its ranks. That made Connor a casualty in the social-media skirmishes erupting across the country as neighborhoods try to contend with suddenly savvy drivers finding their way on routes that were once all but secret.

??It used to be that only locals knew all the cut-through routes, but Google Maps and Waze are letting everyone know,? said Bates Mattison, a city councilman in the Atlanta suburb of Brookhaven, Ga. ?In some extreme cases, we have to address it to preserve the sanctity of a residential neighborhood.??

The sudden surge of traffic only happened when the major intersections in Timothy?s area became congested.

When population growth began to overwhelm a set of major intersections in his district, there was an increase of 45,000 cars a day on some residential streets, as app-armed commuters fought their way to nearby Interstate 85. In response, the city is posting signs to restrict left or right turns at key intersections.

Waze and Google Maps are not the main culprit behind the congestion. These apps just gave motorists alternative routes that ordinary drivers, especially non-locals, would not have known about otherwise.

It?s not just Timothy?s Takoma Park neighborhood that got affected by Waze and Google Maps.

?In Portland, Ore., for example, when drivers trying to avoid local construction began flooding a street that had been redesigned as a ?greenway? bike route, city officials had to put up barrels on some stretches to filter out the vehicular through-traffic. It worked.?



Timothy Connor in his Takoma Park home in Maryland (Image courtesy of The Washington Post)

As a form of retaliation, homeowners have come up with ingenious ways to outsmart the app.

??some Waze warriors had launched concerted campaigns to fool the app. Neighbors filed false reports of blockages, sometimes with multiple users reporting the same issue to boost their credibility. But Waze was way ahead of them.?

Waze simply has a way of finding out if you have been tampering with the map or deliberately sending false reports of accidents and blockages in your street. It?s just the way the app is designed to work.

?The nature of crowdsourcing is that if you put in a fake accident, the next 10 people are going to report that it?s not there,? said Julie Mossler, Waze?s head of communications. The company will suspend users they suspect of ?tampering with the map,? she said.?

Homeowners like Timothy Connor are still at odds with the interest of Waze and Google Maps. For every diversionary tactic that they can come up with, Waze seems to have a solution. Who will win the battle? No one knows for sure. But in the end, it?s only the Waze users that will benefit from all of this.

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