LA city and county swap traffic info for Waze drivers' data

Mayor Eric Garcetti, front row, second from left, surrounded by city officials as he describes a data swapping agreement with Waze, the Google-owned traffic app.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, front row, second from left, surrounded by city officials as he describes a data swapping agreement with Waze, the Google-owned traffic app. Leo Duran/KPCC

The Waze traffic-avoidance app has begun sharing drivers' aggregated data with Los Angeles city and county traffic managers in exchange for information on street closures, detours and other data that make the app more useful.

Kali Fogel, Metro's congestion reduction manager, said the county is still working on putting the data to use. Eventually, he said the app could help buses stay on schedule, say when drivers report to the app that a bad accident is snarling traffic.

"We can look at that incident and possibly reroute our buses and change where bus stops are located," Fogel said. "The information that Waze provides is so comprehensive in the region, it would allow for that."

Metro also plans to use the data in its own app to help commuters decide when to drive or use a bus or train to get around.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the city's no-cost data sharing pact at his State of the City speech last week, and on Tuesday held a press conference about the deal in the city's traffic management center.

He said the partnership could even help the city plan its street-sweeping and garbage pickup routes.

"Or more dramatically, if there's a hit-and-run accident we can make sure that we know about that, push that information out, and then maybe even apprehend the suspects more quickly," Garcetti said.

In exchange, Waze will get robust information on what streets will be shut down - for things like repaving - and how long they'll be out of commission, he said.

Metro has had a deal with Waze since October, making it among the first ten governments, with Boston and Washington D.C. to enter the data-swapping program with Waze, something it calls its Connected Citizen program. The city of Washington fitted city cars with Waze and uses it to report potholes.

The city "committed to fixing those potholes within 48 hours as part of its Potholepalooza initiative," Fitzgerald said.

The driver data is scrubbed of any individually identifying information and it is aggregated with that of other drivers, so the government cannot see a Waze user's home, destination or personal driving history, said Waze spokeswoman Paige Fitzgerald. The app is owned by Google.

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