Houston Drivers to Get Video Traffic Info by Cell Phone

The CW affiliate has introduced its Traffic Jam Cell Cams program, an ad-supported service to Houston.

At rush hour, some 2 million daily commuters in Houston make local freeways about as clogged as an old cowboy’s arteries. But local station KHCW (Channel 39) is empowering the commuters in the sprawling city with a free cell phone traffic service designed to help drivers spot and avoid highway tie-ups.

The CW affiliate has introduced its Traffic Jam Cell Cams program, an ad-supported service to Houston. A similar service already exists in New York in conjunction with radio news giant WCBS.

The Texas service relies on more than 600 traffic cameras mounted in a five-county area and is operated by Houston TranStar, a collaboration among four government agencies responsible for providing transportation management and emergency management services to the area.

3rd Dimension Inc., a New York-based mobile marketing and application company, developed the system technology. “Cell phones are incredibly useful and personal,” said Bruce Laskin, chief operating officer of 3rd Dimension. “We hope that we have added to that utility with an application providing individualized video information whenever it is needed.”

The application is compatible with data enabled phones on the Sprint, Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile networks, and including popular smart phones such as the BlackBerry, Palm Treo and the Motorola Q.

“This new service supports our mission of enhancing transportation services to taxpayers throughout the region,” said Dinah Massie Martinez, spokeswoman for Houston TranStar. “Drivers will be able to plan the most time- and fuel-efficient route to wherever they are going before ever setting foot in their vehicles.”

Users can download the video application at the station’s Web site, www.khcw.trb.com, or by typing www.3tcam.com/houston on their cell phone’s web browser.

Once the application is downloaded, drivers can choose to view near real-time traffic images from any of the cameras along their route and can even program keys on their phone to quickly access their favorites.

“This is something that isn’t dependent on having a morning news show to offer traffic to commuters,” said Roger Bare, vice president and general manager of KHCW (a Tribune station). “This service gives people real-time traffic information anytime, anywhere and should prove to be popular with local commuters.”