SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Internet not only is transforming the
way we shop and search for information, but it also is quietly
smoothing the grind of the daily commute.
From the San Francisco area's 511.org, which helps connect lone
drivers with the riders they need to use commuter lanes and avoid
bridge tolls, to Houston's cyberlink to cameras that monitor traffic
flow, commuters have a bevy of sites aimed at improving the hours that
bookend the 9-to-5 workday.
Besides finding out how to carpool as a way to avoid paying the $3 San
Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge toll, users of 511.org
(http://www.511.org) can access trip planners, transit schedules and
information for bicyclists.
A popular section (http://www.ridenow.org/carpool) lists pickup
locations for "casual carpooling" -- an activity known as "slugging"
in the Washington metropolitan area. This informal, but well-
established system helps riders meet drivers in set locations so
they can carpool to work.
A variety of sites run by official transportation departments as well
as online commentators
(http://www.slug-lines.com/Slugging/Etiquette.asp) compile etiquette
tips for casual carpoolers. As a general rule, line jumping is frowned
upon; passengers should remain silent unless spoken to by the driver;
and talk of religion, politics or sex is verboten.
In the Washington Beltway, the Washington Area Bikers Association
(http://www.waba.org/new/help/cap.php) helps pedaling commuters find
their best route.
Riders of the area's Metro trains recently tapped into the local
transit authority's site (http://www.wmata.com) for alternate routes
home when a crash disrupted rush-hour schedules.
Commuters who want to free up their hands and eyes while filling
travel time with literature or news turn to sites like
Audible Inc., a former dot-com star resurrected with help from the
technology behind popular digital music players like Apple's iPod,
provides subscribers with downloads of "The DaVinci Code," The Wall
Street Journal and other content.
The Web also treats commuters to a bird's-eye view of traffic
conditions -- thanks to sites connected to cameras installed by
transportation departments around the United States.
The Greater Houston Transportation and Emergency Management Center
provides a real-time traffic map with color-coded trouble spots in
addition to up-to-the-minute reports on weather, accidents and
incidents, road closures and construction projects.
The site http://www.houstontranstar.org is among the most
sophisticated of its kind.
Elsewhere, Metrocommute.com (http://www.metrocommute.com) provides
real-time traffic, transit and weather reports for New York, Los
Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Hartford, Connecticut, via the
Web, e-mail or text messages to mobile phones.
And as with almost everything that happens in life, there are Web
logs, or blogs, with cybercommentary devoted to the daily commute.
Proponents of the car-free lifestyle tap into the Web log BikeForums
(http://www.bikeforums.net) to share views with fellow cyclists.
Across the pond, Webmaster Annie Mole operates "Going Underground"
(http://london-underground.blogspot.com), a daily blog on the London
Underground where posters ponder such mysteries as how seven stops and
one change can be faster than two stops and one change.
The site also features photos from the Tube -- as the subway system is
While the Internet cannot eliminate all the headaches of public
transportation, it does provide a way to vent poetically, as shown in
this Tube haiku favorite selected by Mole:
Damn the Circle line
Counting minutes ticking by. Killing life's lost time.
I'm offered her seat but reject her kind insult.
This journey's aged me.
The train is filling, Why does your bag need a seat?
I am getting stressed.
("LiveWire" is being discontinued. The last column will appear on
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