Communities fight back against congestion-causing traffic apps

LEONIA, N.J. -- A new sign in Leonia, New Jersey, is a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem. For residents like Melissa Soesman, it's one way to control out-of-control traffic.

"Sometimes, it takes 10 minutes, 15 minutes" just to leave her driveway, she said. "It depends on who's going to be nice and how much I'm going to push up against their car until they let me out."

Leonia is a 1-square-mile town in the shadow of New York City's George Washington Bridge. For years, whenever traffic would back up at the bridge, savvy commuters would get off the highway a take a shortcut through Leonia. If you knew the secret, there were ways to beat the jam.


A smartphone showing the Waze navigation app.

CBS News

But now, everyone has Waze or other similar traffic apps that route drivers though Leonia. Once the main streets get clogged, commuters get sent through residential streets.

"Because they have an app that says, 'Take a right then a left then a right then a left to shave three minutes off your commute,' now they're all over every narrow side street in this municipality," said Judah Zeigler, Leonia's mayor.

So now the community plans to restrict access to side streets to Leonia residents during rush hour. Drivers who don't have a tag hanging in their cars can expect a ticket.

It's not just a $20 fine. "No, we're talking about $200 -- $200 has some teeth," Zeigler said.

From Medford, Massachusetts, to Fremont, California, communities have become victims of the traffic apps. As Leonia Police Chief Tom Rowe discovered, the app will remove side streets from its menu of shortcuts in communities that pass laws restricting access by non-residents.

"People will do whatever the app tells them to do,"said Rowe.

It's what the app stops telling them to do that should make life better in Leonia.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.