Traffic Technology

This new app hopes to solve Austin's terrible traffic problem

This new app could solve Austin's terrible traffic problem

Austin traffic highway I-35 congestion
The Metropia smartphone app launched in Austin on Wednesday. Courtesy photo

Traffic is a problem on every Austinite's mind. In the most recent Zandan poll we named traffic woes the No. 1 issue facing the city. And reports claim that daily commutes longer than 30 minutes can negatively impact our health, which is bad news for us because we sit in some of the worst congestion in the nation and can waste up to 80 hours a year stuck in traffic.

The good news is there's an app for that! The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has teamed up with Metropia to help alleviate some of these traffic concerns. During a transportation forum on Wednesday, the duo announced the launch of the Metropia mobile app in Austin.

Metropia is a free app currently available for download for iPhone and Android users. It functions like a game, where real-time user data is used to provide suggestions like leaving earlier or later or using a different route to avoid traffic. (You can watch a video of how it works over at KVUE.)

"As more Austin drivers continue to plan their trips in advance, the more Metropia can accurately predict traffic patterns and contribute to the alleviation of city-wide congestion," stated a release about the app. 

The app also tracks each user's CO2 emissions and the travel time that they save by following its suggestions. In exchange for lowering emissions and increasing time saved, users earn points that can be traded in for perks, such as gift cards and discounts from local retailers like Tacodeli and Luke's Locker.

"Austin needs a holistic ecosystem that works together to help reduce the city's congestion," said Mia Zmud, principal of Metropia Austin. "Corporate businesses, local retailers, employees and every driver in Austin can all work together with Metropia and with the Mobility Authority to start making these changes to free up the city." 

It officially launched Wednesday, but the Metropia app has been in beta testing in Austin for the past eight months. During that time, more than 500 users saved a grand total of 211 hours in commute time and 8,550 pounds of CO2.

In addition to the mobile app, Metropia is encouraging businesses to stagger schedules so that Austinites aren't flocking to and from work at the same times. AMD and Emerson have already signed on for this flexible scheduling initiative, which Mayor Steve Adler promoted during his State of the City Address in April. "If we can get just 17,000 cars off road at rush hour, we could potentially lighten traffic to levels we enjoy on state holidays," he said.

The City of Austin is embracing solutions to help alleviate traffic, including an online discussion forum as well as plans to increase transportation alternatives and fix underlying infrastructure problems.