2013-08-29

Co.Exist

When You're Stuck In Traffic, This App Will Make Your Voice Heard

Have a commuting horror story? Rather than fume on your own, a new app allows you to vent directly to Congress, to help advocate for sorely needed transportation investments.

A new smartphone app for traffic-choked commuters won't part the seas of cars on the freeway, but it will at least get your annoyed voice heard by elected officials.

"I'm Stuck" was created by Building America's Future, a political coalition dedicated to encouraging more investment in roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. (Its powerful co-chairs include New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Pennsylvania governor Edward Rendell, and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

In a week since its release, the app has been downloaded almost 10,000 times, sending out around 1,700 letters to elected officials from people in 37 states.

Commuters who find themselves trapped in traffic, airplane passengers who are stuck on a tarmac, bus riders stranded at the bus stop: All are encouraged to report their problem via "I'm Stuck," which will shoot a quick, pre-written complaint to the appropriate U.S. representative or senator, tailored to their specific mode of transit and current situation.

In a test on the app, the letter I would send to my senators in California includes the following text: "I'm stuck in traffic wasting time, fuel, and money. All around me are trucks, commuters, and families delayed and frustrated. Please pay attention to America's ailing and inadequate infrastructure."

"Usually commuters think traffic is like weather--it is something that happens to them and they have no control over it. But that isn’t the case at all," writes Rendell on the group's website. "The policies we put in place, or the lack of a coherent long-term infrastructure plan, directly impacts the daily experience of Americans trying to get around their communities. This app gives commuters and passengers a tool to voice their frustrations to Congress."

Or you can fight traffic on a more personal level, using this car counter to map traffic patters on your street.

The app joins a crowded field of other citizen-reporting apps used to voice complaints about municipal problems, like SeeClickFix. But "I'm Stuck" aims to do something different--rather than attempting to get citizen complaints heard among local representatives, like department of public works or city councilmen, the app's creators have national ambitions, and view the aggregate of on-the-ground frustrations as a powerful tool to lobby at the highest levels of government.

BAF cites 66,000 structurally deficient bridges in the U.S. and an estimated $121 billion that congestion costs the economy according to a press release in its argument that the country needs more investment in its roadways through new, long-term legislation.

It's unclear if California Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer actually care if I'm personally stuck in Los Angeles traffic, but "I'm Stuck" is determined to leverage my daily schleps into political change. Let's see if it works.

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