App helped Atlantans avoid I-285 plane crash

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When a plane crashes on I-285, you know you’re going to be stuck in traffic a long (long, long, LONG) time.

Back in the day, you’d dig out a map if you were lucky to have one in the glove compartment and try to navigate around it. But increasingly, stranded motorists are turning to their smartphones to find alternate routes.

There are numerous traffic app choices, including TomTom, INRIX and perhaps the best known one, Waze.

I wondered how prevalent usage of such apps had become. So I asked the people at Waze, the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app (owned by Google), to crunch the numbers.

They found that on May 8, the day of the tragic four-fatality plane crash, daily app usage jumped 26 percent and downloads increased by 192 percent compared to the day before.

And compared to an average weekday in Atlanta, daily usage was up by about the same amount — 29 percent — while daily downloads were 143 percent higher.

So the epic traffic jam not only prompted existing users to pick up their phones. It drove, well, droves of new users to download Waze.

“We saw a HUGE spike in downloads per hour starting 9 a.m. local Atlanta time and continuing until 8 p.m. local time,” noted Trak Lord,  who handles media partnerships and creative communications for Waze. “We’ve seen similar spikes in the past, such as the infamous January snowstorm that left Atlantans stranded on the freeways for hours at a time.”

Waze has over 325,000 monthly active users in Atlanta, Lord said.

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