I don’t know about you, but I hate being stuck in traffic. I live in Auckland, New Zealand where traffic congestion is a fact of life, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in it. You have choices of time, mode or simply not traveling at all.
Google and Waze are becoming really good at telling you about real time travel times and showing you where the hot spots are and the NZTA has interactive Holiday Journeys information that you can use to plan ahead, providing traffic predictions based on history and other factors, so you can avoid the potentially worst times.
But once you have left, one of the best ways to find out about unplanned events like crashes, floods, slips or other things that will impact on your journey is social media. Departments of Transport all over the world have Twitter accounts where they share information very soon after they know about an event, as well as details such as detours, when it is likely to be cleared and when it has been cleared. They also provide images, video and links to where you can get more information.
Twitter is the social media platform that breaks a lot of news stories. But just because they are on Twitter, doesn’t mean you will know about them.
If you’re like me and follow thousands of accounts (sometimes just out of courtesy because they followed you), it is very difficult to get the information you most need, when you need it.
One of the podcasts I enjoy following is The Science of Social Media from Buffer, and today I was listening to one which was called A Marketers Guide to Decoding Social Media Algorithms in 2019. It was talking about how all social media platforms are constantly tweaking their algorithms. I’m sure you have experienced this. I frequently hear people complaining about Facebook and asking why they are mostly only seeing posts from particular people, when you used to see more from various groups. That’s because they have changed what they feed you, either because advertisers are paying them to, or because they think that’s what you want and you will spend more time on their platform.
Twitter is great for generic breaking news. Today as I write this, they think I want to know about:
- People calling for President Trump’s resignation
- Netflix’s Bird Box
- Demi Lovato’s Recovery
- A stabbed Police Dog
- An ACC warning about social cricket and potential injuries ( I did once catch a ball in the goolies so I know about that one)
There is nothing about holiday traffic even though I follow dozens of travel information accounts. So how do I get that information from Twitter?
I get notifications.
Pick the Twitter account you want to get notifications from on your mobile and then at the top of the page click on the icon that looks like a bell. Hey presto you have the notifications page. You can select None, All Tweets or Only Tweets with live video. I have all selected and my iPhone delivers those with a beep whenever the ones I subscribe to post a tweet. Of course you can do that with any Twitter account. For Auckland, the one I get notifications for is @NZTAAkl.
You can of course subscribe to notifications from as many accounts as you want and you can change these at any time. For example if there was an earthquake, I might subscribe to Civil Defense or a related account until the situation was over, or to the weather service during a severe storm. That way you don’t have to keep going back looking for updates.
If you were planning a trip north on the M1 Pacific Highway from Sydney to Newcastle in Australia right now, they actually have a Twitter Live Video feed for the Christmas Holiday period from @M1trafficNSW which live streams images from their webcams. So from Twitter you can hear Christmas Music, see live video and get updates. That would be great if I was heading up to Forster Tuncurry to see my friends on the coast.
Services like that exist all over the world, so if you are traveling over this holiday period, the way to make sure you don’t miss out on this free information is simply to search for the Department of Transport or equivalent Twitter account for the area you will be traveling in, subscribe to notifications and you won’t have to Tweet that no one is keeping you up to date. preferably do that well before you plan to leave, so that you can avoid an event if you haven’t left yet.
You don’t need an app (besides Twitter), it’s easy to use and free. The tweets also use very little data (except for Live Video, which sucks the juice out of your mobile’s batteries) If you’re in New Zealand, links to all of the NZTA social media links can be found here.
In most cities around the world you will find multiple Twitter accounts that you can follow and subscribe to. There are other places to look, but I would only go to the official ones provided by transport departments or councils because often information shared by other people is either incorrect or out of date. The last thing you want to do is stay home avoiding a crash that was cleared an hour ago!
Under notifications on your mobile there are a lot more settings, for example you can say whether you want to be able to see the notification when your phone is locked and the style of notification and even whether it makes a noise or vibrates your phone. new features are being added all the time and they of course are different depending on the brand and operating system of the phone.