Transit Text: ODOT Road Conditions from your Cell Phone

Jan. 25, 2011, 7:25 p.m.

Note: This service has been discontinued. The free SMS gateway I was using is no longer available, and with the ubiquity of smartphones (even though I don't have one), it doesn't make sense to put development effort into this project at this time.

Traffic on Mt. Hood can be terrible sometimes, especially when you're driving back from skiing right when everybody else is getting off the mountain. There's a particular bend on US-26, a few miles from the OR-35 interchange, where traffic almost always slows to a standstill. Every time, we wonder - is the road closed from a crash, or is it just slow traffic as usual?

There are often times when it's useful to know whether the road is just congested, or if there is a real problem ahead. ODOT's Trip Check service is great for this, and even has a mobile version, but not everybody has a smartphone with a browser. Fortunately, ODOT has Twitter feeds for all its roads, which you can subscribe to via SMS. This becomes annoying though if you don't already have a Twitter account, or don't want to receive a text every time something happens on your favorite highway. So, I made my own solution.

TransitText is a text message-based service. All you have to do is send a text requesting a particular route, and you will receive the most recent official post from ODOT's Twitter feed for that road. For a full list of roads, see ODOT's Twitter info page. The service uses Zeep Mobile API. Please note that occasionally Zeep is a bit buggy and won't send you a text back. This is a problem inherent to their service, and there is nothing I can do about it. If anybody can recommend a more reliable, and most importantly, free SMS API, please let me know in the comments.

All you need to do to get started is text orroads to 88147. For more details, visit transit.nathanhinkle.com.

Please remember that texting while driving is dangerous, and illegal in Oregon. Always have a passenger in the car operate the phone when you are on the road.

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