Some days, I honestly don't know what I would do without my Garmin GPS -- with, importantly, traffic alert. Yes, my sense of direction is on par with that of a small kitten's, but, living in New York, traffic is just part of the landscape. Whatever I can do to improve the odds, to have that proverbial Ace of Spades in my pocket, I shall.
Helping stack the deck is a free navigation app called Waze. It's meant to help with the daily commute, to let you know of ugly traffic patterns to avoid and offer rerouting suggestions. Just to scare us, the folks at Waze sent us data on what we might expect in the New York area on Memorial Day weekend:
1. Traffic levels will begin to spike at noon on Friday, May 25, with the highest concentration of cars on the road from 2 to 4 p.m.
2. Looking at the overall volume of cars, the best times to start your journey are before 11 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
What sets Waze apart from, say, traffic alerts on Google Maps, is that it's so darn cute. Little cartoon cars cry when traffic is at its worst -- a little empathy never hurt, right? -- and smile when you're cruising. Also distinctive is the social aspect: Leaving the app open as you drive, Waze pulls your data, adding it to info culled from all the other Wazers out there. And if you're riding shotgun, you can text in accidents, lookie-loo backups, police spottings and other useful tidbits to assist your fellow travelers.
The result is a communal road map to your destination meant to help you find the way to point B a bit more quickly.
Available for the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android. Info: waze.com.