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Navigation Apps Pit Neighborhoods Against Commuters

MEDFORD (CBS) -- Whether you are trying to avoid a major accident on the highway, or just finding the fastest route around the daily headaches of Boston traffic, navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps have been a game changer for commuters.

"There are a lot of roads that I would not have gone down otherwise, but Waze is telling me to go down this shortcut," one commuter from Concord told us.

But if you multiply that story by tens of thousands of commuters every day, you've got a problem. Just ask Gail Barry of Medford, who lives near Route 93 at the Roosevelt Circle rotary and says the navigation apps have completely changed her neighborhood.

"The cars go whiz, whiz, whiz. It's like we are living on a highway. It's horrible," she said.

neighborhoods vs. navigation apps waze google maps
Gail Barry. (WBZ-TV)

Barry says the traffic on her residential street has gotten worse every year over the past couple of years, but she won't have to worry about next year. The city recently installed signs limiting access to Brackett Street during the morning and evening rush hour.

"For the residents, it's a safety issue," explained Sgt. Charles Hartnett, who heads up the city's traffic division.

Barry says the change has made a huge difference in her neighborhood.

"I can relax. I can breathe. It's wonderful," she said.

It might be great for residents, but not necessarily for commuters.

"They are not always happy with it," Sgt. Hartnett said.

Brackett Street is the second road in Medford restricting during rush hour since navigation apps started becoming widely used. During that same period, Belmont has installed no right turn signs off busy Brighton Street.

neighborhoods vs. navigation apps waze google maps
Some communities, like Brookline, have restricted access to streets certain apps sent commuters through as short cuts. (WBZ-TV graphic)

Brookline has restricted access to several roads off of Clyde Street and commuters can no longer use a popular cut-through to avoid traffic on Fresh Pond Parkway in Cambridge.

"This is a regional issue," explained Concord Police Chief Joseph O'Connor. "It's one that I face myself when I travel to work."

Chief O'Connor has seen an increase in traffic in some Concord neighborhood. He hasn't restricted any access to any roads yet, but says it could happen in the future.

"It's not as easy as just shutting off a road because it's going to create a problem somewhere else in town," he said.

Cities and towns usually have thorough process of traffic studies and public notification before any action is taken.

neighborhoods vs. navigation apps waze google maps
Concord Police Chief Joseph O'Connor. (WBZ-TV)

Barry says she and her neighbors worked for a long time to have access restricted during commuting hours.

"We called the city. We've talked to the Mayor's office. We have worked for this," she said.

And for the commuters who may be annoyed at the idea of being turned away, Sgt. Hartnett has this helpful, if not popular advice: "Sometimes, you have to get up earlier to go to work."

Many communities are sifting through dozens of requests to slow or direct traffic away from neighborhoods. The City of Cambridge has 31 requests that cover more than a dozen different locations.

So keep an eye out--you could find yourself being turned away on one of the shortcuts you depend on to get to work on time.

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