Free real time traffic and congestion maps using phone GPS data crowd sourcing in Costa Rica
Instant information on construction delays, road closures and traffic conditions is especially helpful when traveling in Costa Rica because there aren’t that many ways to get from point A to point B. Going around a landslide could easily add five or six hours to a two hour drive.
Seven years after it was first available in the U.S. google now provides free information about traffic on major roads and highways in Costa Rica by collecting information on how fast phones are moving along the route (details on how it works).
Instant updates on jams and slow moving vehicles are available on smartphones or on the internet using this map from WAZE.
Check traffic congestion before you head to the airport or make a trip to the beach.
Sketchy Coverage in Costa Rica
For crowd-sourcing to be effective you need a crowd contributing data in real time and while cell phones are almost ubiquitous in Costa Rica there still aren’t that many people with GPS enabled phones. In 2014 Google bought the WAZE app which is the most popular navigation tool in Costa Rica and allows users to pin comments on police speed traps, construction, accidents and other delays. It’s filled in a lot of the gaps, but not all.
That means sometimes you’ll see roads with no data.
When you see big chunks of the circumvalacion highway without red, yellow or green line overlays that simply indicates that no one has contributed any data (driven that road with their GPS on and google maps with my location enabled) in the previous few minutes.
Guessing Traffic Conditions When There’s No Data
There’s no traffic
If you’re a gambler you can play the odds and assume that no data probably means no problem. You’d be wrong. Unless it’s 3:15 am it probably means the road is completely closed for some reason.
If there were tons of of cars parked on the Pan American highway stuck in traffic there would be a couple of reason to expect to see it on the map.
First, where there are lots of cars there are lots of phones making it highly likely a few of them would be broadcasting to google maps.
Second if everyone is sitting in traffic it’s likely that they have their phones out tweeting about how bad the traffic is or even checking google maps with my location enabled for a way out of the traffic jam.
But there could be no traffic because the road is closed…
On the other hand it’s possible that a landslide is blocking the entire road and there’s no traffic because the road is closed.
The transit police maintain a web based list of updates which includes landslides, washed out bridges and other delays/closures on major routes. They do a good job of keeping the road information up to date for a few major routes but unfortunately the website is frequently down for days or weeks at a time.
It is in Spanish. You can try dropping the url into Google Translate or another Spanish to English app but they use a lot of vernacular and usually the English version is less intelligible than the original.