Track traffic while on the go for Memorial Day

Memorial Day is fast approaching and you'll probably be traveling over the weekend. But you won't be alone, so try out these traffic apps that could help you get to your destination sooner.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
4 min read

Memorial Day is one of the busiest traffic days of the year. No matter where you're going, you're likely to get caught in traffic. But if you're looking to find a way to escape it, you've come to the right place. We've found a variety of apps and sites that can be accessed from your mobile phone or GPS device that provide you with all the traffic data you need to stay away from busy roads. But remember: you shouldn't use these apps while you drive. So either try these out in the passenger seat or hand them off to your travel companion while you cruise down the road.

Traffic-tracking tools

Commuter Feed
Commuter Feed makes you rely on Twitter friends to find traffic. Don Reisinger/CNET

Commuter Feed If you can access Twitter from your mobile phone, Commuter Feed will be helpful. The site is a network of Twitter users that communicate bad traffic areas with the rest of the community. Whenever they see a backup or an accident, they update the site with its location. It's not a huge community, so finding traffic in smaller areas will be tough. But if you're in a big city and you can access Commuter Feed while on the go, I think you'll be happy with what you find.

Google Maps Accessing Google Maps' traffic data takes no time if you have a mobile phone, like the iPhone or T-Mobile G1. Once you find the area you're looking for, you can click the "traffic" button above the map. The tool will then color-code streets based on the amount of traffic at the time. Green means you won't need to worry about traffic. Red means you will. It covers most areas in the U.S. It's a great tool.

Live Maps Microsoft's Live Maps features outstanding traffic data. Similar to Google Maps, Live Maps displays traffic in streets in most areas across the U.S. You can even export the map to your GPS device. Mobile phone users who have the mobile version of Live Search installed can choose an area (most major metro areas are currently supported) and see how traffic is at any time. Unfortunately, only BlackBerry and Windows Mobile users can download the mobile version of Live Maps.

Mobile Millennium Mobile Millennium is a free public traffic-information system that uses speed and position information gathered from GPS-equipped cell phones. Users can download the software onto their device and see how traffic is in their area. Unfortunately, Mobile Millennium only works on a select number of phones -- so far, mostly BlackBerry devices and Nokia smartphones -- so not everyone will be able to use it.

MSN Direct
MSN Direct shows traffic data on the Garmin Nuvi. Don Reisinger/CNET

MSN Direct MSN Direct is a neat tool for your GPS device. If you have a Garmin Nuvi that supports MSN Direct, you can pay $50 per year or a one-time payment of $130 and have access to real-time traffic no matter where you go. MSN Direct will display traffic around you. You can then direct your GPS device to find an alternate route on those roads that have less traffic. It's not available in every small town across the U.S., but it covers enough cities that I think you'll be happy with it.

Traffic The Traffic app for the iPhone is extremely useful. It uses your iPhone's GPS to determine traffic on the roads around you. Since it displays that information over a Google Maps integration, you should be able to find your way around the heavy traffic areas without much trouble. It costs $1.99 in the Apple App Store.

Traffic.com Although Traffic.com is specifically designed for you to check traffic before you go on a trip, it will send you alerts via text message when you're traveling. Once you sign up for the site, you can route your trip. You can then choose to be alerted to any changes in traffic along your route for the days you will be traveling. The service sends you a text message with the update. It won't reroute you, but it will tell you that the roads you're approaching are getting backed up. The site is free to use, but standard text-messaging rates will apply.

TrafficGauge You can access the TrafficGauge mobile site from your cell phone and track traffic as you travel. You can also use its Facebook app or install it on your desktop. It tracks traffic wherever you go. But there's one issue: it's only available in select cities. So far, TrafficGauge can only be used in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and a handful of other U.S. metro areas.

Traffic View
Traffic View lets you see more than markers. Don Reisinger/CNET

TrafficInfo TrafficInfo is an iPhone app that lets you see how traffic is on certain streets in a few cities across the U.S. If you live outside a major U.S. city, you probably won't find much use for TrafficInfo. But if you do live in a major city, the app will give you a listing of all the streets in a particular area and their traffic status. Unfortunately, you won't be able to view traffic over a map, so it might be difficult to decide where to go. But since TrafficInfo is free, it might be worth trying out before you spend money on paid alternatives.

Traffic View If you want to see more than markers on a map, the Traffic View iPhone app is for you. It provides you with up-to-date traffic information in major metro areas across the U.S. When you click on one of the markers, it loads a traffic camera from the area. So, if you want to see how traffic is on Fifth Avenue in New York City, you can click on the respective marker and Traffic View will display a real-time video of the street. Like Traffic, all those markers are placed over a Google Maps display, so you can find your way around trouble areas. Traffic View costs $1.99 in the Apple App Store.

The Top 3

If you're in a hurry and you want to find the best apps before you leave, here you go:

1. Google Maps

2. MSN Direct

3. Traffic.com