Providing up-to-date traffic information has become one of the new services television stations are offering, and WALA FOX10 has just launched what it claims to be the first “real-time, interactive traffic system” for this market.

Called “Traffic Tracker,” the feature uses multiple data streams to provide real-time info on whether cars are crawling along the Causeway or cruising along Cottage Hill. Looking at what was available on the FOX10 website, it appears the Tracker will be broadcast at critical drive times.

“This is a system that allows us to quickly distribute valuable information to our viewers to help them get out the door in the mornings and hopefully back home safely in the evenings,” Gary Yoder, vice president and general manager, said in a news release announcing the new feature. “It’s a commitment we’re making to this community — to help families by saving them time or stress or just the hassle of sitting in traffic one minute longer than necessary.”

Traffic Tracker certainly isn’t the first effort by local TV stations to give viewers traffic information. WPMI and WKRG both offer traffic information on their websites linked to the Alabama Department of Transportation and its cameras. WPMI also sends traffic alerts to cell phones giving info on conditions in some of the area’s trouble spots throughout the day. But it looks like FOX10 will be the first to make it part of the broadcast.

According to FOX10, though, the difference with Traffic Tracker is the way it makes it possible to show viewers the flow of traffic on local thoroughfares as well as alerting them to accidents, breakdowns and other delays. WALA says Tracker also integrates with the station’s weather software to warn of weather-related issues that can cause delays or create dangerous driving conditions. Additionally, the system uses 3-D imagery to show traffic troubles, and also offers drive-time estimates.

“It’s a truly impressive feature. Whether you’re traveling the Bayway or coming in from West Mobile, drive-time estimates tell commuters how long it will take to travel from Point A to Point B,” Scott Flannigan, FOX10 News Director, said. “This is a game changer for this area. Traffic Tracker is a tremendous resource for FOX10 viewers to not only help them plan their commute but to also alert them to danger on the roads and keep them out of harm’s way.”

FOX10 management expects Traffic Tracker to be most heavily viewed during morning and early evening newscasts, but it will be available whenever traffic issues arise. 

Icy reception
WALA’s Bob Grip tweeted Tuesday afternoon that a FOX10 reporter trying to do a story on a possible issue of ice melting at the Riverside Ice skating rink rented by the city was being blocked from doing her job by an employee of the company that owns the rink. “@DevanCoffaro says ice is melting @RiversideIce & the rep from Magic Ice USA is trying 2 keep her from taking pix” read the tweet.

He tweeted again a couple of minutes later “Isn’t Cooper-Riverside Park public property?”

A call to the Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office got to the bottom of the story. Apparently the ice had been thawed some in anticipation of rain Tuesday night, as well as for some maintenance. But when Coffaro tried taking photos of the melted ice, the Magic Ice USA employee did try to block her and eventually the mayor’s spokesman George Talbot got involved and informed the employee it was Caffaro’s right to take the photos.

At the end Grip tweeted, “it is public property. Everything was sorted out and devancoffaro was allowed to take footage of the rink.”

A bit similar to last week’s Missouri University situation where reporters were blocked from doing their jobs, but at least this time someone was there to explain the law. I’ll say it again, folks: If it’s in public, it’s fair game. That’s the First Amendment.

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