NEW YORK, N.Y. — The good news for commuters is that a new, publicly financed Web site established this month offers up-to-date information on highway, traffic and transit conditions in the New York City region. But the road to the site's creation has been long and circuitous.
Originating with a $10.4 million federal grant, the site www.trips123.com is a cooperative effort by 16 regional agencies, including two transportation giants — the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The site was supposed to be operational by 1999, and it is supposed to eventually raise money to support the member agencies. Because of administrative delays and the financial collapse of a subcontractor during the dot-com bust, however, the project is nearly five years behind schedule and has made no money.
Adding to the complexity facing the taxpayer-financed project, a similar Web site, www.hopstop.com, was established last fall, although it has information only on city subways and buses.
Trips123 is a creation of Transcom, an entity the Port Authority created in the mid-1980s to coordinate the timing and location of highway construction projects in hopes of easing congestion. Transcom, which became an independent nonprofit organization in 2000, specializes in “intelligent transportation systems" — the use of computers, telecommunications and broadcast signals to move vehicles and people more efficiently.
Trips123, which has cost about $20 million, was formally established April 6, though it has operated since October. The site, which is still being developed, covers 14 counties in New Jersey, 12 in New York and three in Connecticut.
The system has two free features. One is a traveler information center fed by constant updates from highway and transit agencies. Users can zoom in on maps of any part of the region. Congestion is denoted by color: green for normal, yellow for moderate, orange for heavy. A red road means drivers should expect delays. Icons warn motorists of possible trouble: a red X for a traffic incident, a yellow triangle for a construction site and a purple star for sports or a special event.
The other free feature, TransitAdvisor, allows users to plan trips using a combination of subways, buses, commuter railroads and ferries. The program suggests the quickest way to get between two points, using an algorithm that takes into account transit schedules and walking times.
Eventually, the site will offer a subscription-based feature. For $5.95 a month, commuters will be notified about delays or disruptions in their normal daily routes. The customized notices will be sent by telephone, cell phone, pager, fax or e-mail message.
Louis J. Gambaccini, a former New Jersey transportation commissioner who was Transcom’s first chairman, said he had not visited the Web site but felt confident that the group had made a significant impact. The need for information and coordination has never been greater, he said.
"Probably the single most significant event that drove me to set up Transcom was being trapped in traffic that easily could have been avoided with proper knowledge, signage and information about detours," he said.