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Agencies offer storm travel information online

With a blizzard warning up for the metropolitan Washington area, there's really only one key bit of advice that transportation agencies have to offer for the moment: Stay inside. Nonetheless, they are doing more than ever to get the word out quickly about the state of the roads and rails.

I hope they will continue this through the weekend, as conditions ease up and people start to emerge from their burrows. In this age, transportation services are about a lot more than building roads and laying tracks, then fixing them when they break. (We're not building that much stuff any more.) We need the agencies to tell us the state of the transportation network and help us understand our options.

Today, the transportation agencies are using their Web sites, e-mail alerts, Twitter and Facebook to do that. It's still primitive, compared to the potential, but it's the right direction. One useful thing about the interactive sites is that you can see feedback from some travelers about current conditions.

-- You may sometimes learn more from Metro's home page than from any announcements inside the transit system. There's a mobile site:
-- Metro has useful some storm information on it's Facebook page, though the most recent posting I see is from Friday afternoon, announcing cancellation of the weekend track work.
-- The Metro Twitter page has a steadier stream of information.

-- The Department of Transportation uses a Facebook page. It has posted several updates about the snow emergency.
-- The snow page on the DDOT Web site is a good starting place for D.C. residents and travelers trying to figure out what's going on now and what's likely to happen as the District government executes its snow emergency plan.
-- Track the progress of snow plows on this page.

-- The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is running a December Storm Page.
-- The Virginia 511 page is very helpful for current conditions across the Commonwealth. (Maryland is going to get a similar service.)
-- The Virginia Department of Transportation is updating its Twitter page frequently today. This is statewide information, so it's not telling you much about conditions in your own community.

-- The State Highway Administration's CHART page is a good starting point for emergency travel information.
-- Use this page to view the most current information about incidents, road conditions and travel times.
-- One of my favorite stops on that current information page is the link that displays what the overhead message boards are saying across the state. Right now, many of the signs are warning Interstate drivers that they will encounter icy conditions.
-- The SHA also uses a Twitter page, but it's not updated frequently enough to top what you can find by using the CHART page.

Our site
As well as illustrating a positive trend, those sites are useful to travelers in particular circumstances. If you're looking for one-stop shopping, then you've found it. On The Washington Post home page and here on the Get There blog, we collect current need-to-know storm information from across the Washington region. I have a Dr. Gridlock Twitter page to share all sorts of local travel information. The most immediate and comprehensive source of news about the storm is our Post Now breaking news blog.

How about you?
Have you discovered any other sites, Facebook pages, Twitter pages that you're finding useful for travel information?

Road Essentials: Incident Map | Traffic Cams | Key Routes

By Robert Thomson  |  December 19, 2009; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Weather  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, snow, travel tips  
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