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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-07-004    Date:  May/Jun 2007
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-07-004
Issue No: Vol. 70 No. 6
Date: May/Jun 2007


Internet Watch

by Brittany Boughter

WSDOT Web Team Updates Traveler Information Pages

At last count, the Washington State Department of Trans- portation's (WSDOT) Web site averaged about 4 million page views per day. In addition, the site set a record of 15 million page views on January 10, 2007, underscoring an enormous growth in site use since 2006, which only attracted about 1.5 million page views during the entire year.

After learning that 90 percent of site use focused on traveler information, the WSDOT Web team seized the opportunity to begin updating the site to meet the growing demand for traveler information. In November 2005, WSDOT revamped the design of some of the department's most popular Web pages to make it easier for users to find information. The site now includes feeds from more traffic cameras and information to help travelers avoid congestion by leaving at different times or taking alternate routes. In October 2006, the department launched a new homepage and top-tier pages to update the site's look and create pages that load more quickly. WSDOT now is evaluating new Web tools, including a mapping program that enables users to pan, zoom, and customize map views.

The new pages include site-specific information for Seattle (www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/seattle), Tacoma (www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/tacoma), Bellingham (www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/bellingham), and the U.S./Canadian border (www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/border). By enabling users to access traffic and travel information via cell phones and personal digital assistants and see real-time messages displayed on changeable message signs, the Web team hopes that commuters and visitors will save time and have safer travel experiences.

Feedback Fuels Change

After extensive research, and using feedback from site users, WSDOT Web designers created the new pages to be easy to use and more intuitive, enabling visitors to quickly access and bookmark the pages they use the most.

"We did two things users will notice and like right off the bat," says Laura Merritt, WSDOT Web manager. "First, we used the lefthand side of the screen to show users what we have to offer. Second, users can now bookmark specific information."

For example, Merritt explains, users can click on the word "bridge" to see focused information about the floating bridges or click "travel times" to see how long it will actually take to get from one point to another. "Visitors to our site tell us they love being able to get what they want so easily and that it's no longer buried inside the site," she says. "They tell us they didn't know we had so much good information. Users also can go to a camera image and bookmark it, something they couldn't do before. It used to take two, three, even four, clicks to get to the picture and users still couldn't bookmark it."

Because traveler information comprises such a high percentage of Web traffic on the WSDOT site statewide, Merritt and her team expect that drivers will be able to make better choices about when, where, and how to travel. Ultimately, these informed decisions will help keep traffic flowing, she says, for all highway users.

Diverse Offerings

The new pages offer information targeting customers living or traveling in specific geographic areas. For example, more than 25,000 people a day access the "Seattle Area Traffic" pages. Users can view traffic flow on the congestion map in real time or access historical data from 10 minutes ago or 10 months ago. Camera images of highway segments reload every 1.5 minutes. A yellow news box on the main page displays information on road closures and upcoming construction work.

The "Tacoma Area Traffic" pages, which receive hits from nearly 6,000 people each day, feature links to information about the Tacoma Narrows and Hood Canal bridges. The "Bellingham Area Traffic" site currently hosts only 800 people a day, but WSDOT officials expect more visitors to access the site now that real-time traffic information is available via cameras recently installed at key Bellingham chokepoints.

Finally, the "U.S./Canadian Border" site, with about 1,400 visitors a day, now offers views from multiple cameras on both sides of the border. The site lists wait times for traffic heading in both directions at the Peace Arch, provides links to information about the NEXUS lanes (lanes dedicated to frequent border crossers), and features color-coded traffic maps so drivers can monitor delays at the border.

WSDOT research shows that more people are logging onto its traveler information sites every day. In fact, each quarter, Web usage increases 15 percent over the same quarter the previous year. "That's great news," says Merritt. "We are pleased drivers find this site a valuable tool in making commute decisions."

To view the WSDOT traffic Web sites, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic. For more information, contact Laura Merritt at 360-705-7074 or merritl@wsdot.wa.gov.

The WSDOT 'Seattle Area Traffic' Web site is shown here.
The WSDOT "Seattle Area Traffic" Web site is shown here.

To view the "ITS Deployment Statistics" Web site, visit www.itsdeployment.its.dot.gov. For more information, contact Dr. Joseph Peters at 202-366-2202 or joe.peters@fhwa.dot.gov.

Brittany Boughter is a contributing editor for Public Roads.



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