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KEYE’s Timesaver Traffic Tracker hits Austin’s streets

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 27, 2013

Austin traffic stinks — and it’s only getting worse.

Our city has the fourth worst traffic congestion in the nation, according to INRIX, a company that collects and analyzes traffic information data. Each year, INRIX says, Austinites waste 38 hours sitting in traffic — up 8 percent in just one year.

Rather than whining about it, the KEYE news team has set out to find solutions. Front and center in the station’s efforts is the brand-new Timesaver Traffic Tracker, the most technologically advanced news-gathering tool rolled out by an Austin media outlet in recent memory.

A sport-utility vehicle equipped with five cameras — one mounted inside and four outside on the roof — the Timesaver Traffic Tracker hits the streets each morning, broadcasting live video of traffic hot spots as it’s being driven across Central Texas.

“Traffic is the No. 1 issue in this town,” news director Greg Turchetta said. “We need a traffic answer. We’re hanging our hat on that.”

Reporter Ashley Roberts and videographer Ben Pollchik hop in the Timesaver Traffic Tracker at about 4:30 each morning, spending the next four to five hours in search of traffic headaches. They team up with in-studio traffic anchor Erica Harpold for updates about every 10 minutes during the “KEYE-TV Morning News” from 5 to 7 a.m., then periodically from 7 to 9 a.m. during the “CBS Morning Show.”

“People really love what we’re doing,” Harpold said. “We’ve heard that from day one.”

Roberts said the Timesaver Traffic Tracker, which has been on the road for about a month now, has shown just how quickly traffic data can become outdated.

“We’re more accurate. We’re your eyes on the ground,” she said. “When other people are saying a wreck’s still out there and lanes are closed, we’ve got a live picture that shows that’s not the case anymore. It happens a lot.”

Turchetta said the station’s commitment to traffic coverage extends into its evening newscasts at 5, 6 and 10 p.m., too, as well as those on its sister station, Telemundo Austin. Viewers who tune in will find regular stories from both Harpold and Roberts focusing on everything from out-of-sync traffic lights to accident-prone intersections to proposed road improvements.

“Growing up in Austin, I remember when you used to be able to go up and down MoPac any time of day without hitting traffic,” Harpold said. “That’s not the case anymore. We need all the help we can get.”

View more photos of the Timesaver Traffic Tracker

Related:Ericka Miller joins KEYE as weekend anchor