23 August 2017

[Maps] Google Maps Traffic Records The Eclipse

Sometimes it's more interesting to take an indirect look at something amazing. And, as amazing as watching Monday's total solar eclipse was, Google's live mapping of everything that moves under the sun brought an unexpected surprise.

Nobody wired is unfamiliar with Google Maps's traffic layer. It's useful in getting the idea of how tied up a place is and for enabling anxiety in getting from Out 122nd Way to the Woodburn to view the eclipse.

No need to take my word for it, just ask my wife.

After the event (and finally home from a three-hour trip from Woodburn back to town) I was checking in on line and caught a posting from a Facebook friend, Mike Selvaggio, which showed a screenshot of the southeastern United States in Google Maps with Traffic turned on, and the following explanation:
Easy way to identify where the eclipse path has been... Just look at a traffic map of the U.S. (as for us out west, we are *still* on our way home at 4mph.)
... and there, dawdling downward and rightward from Saint Louis, a handful of stretches of interstate highway along a curving path into South Carolina stood out in slow-n-go orange and traffic-jam red within a remarkably tight corridor.

As anyone who tried to make it home in a hurry from the mid-Willamette Valley knew that day, getting there was surprisingly easy. Apparently, everyone who was going had gotten there and was just waiting for the event. Going back, though ... well, picture it's like if the State Fair or the Aerosmith concert had gotten out, only 750,000 other people went and they all hit the road at the same time. For us, an 18-mile trip from Woodburn to Oregon City along Highway 99E was done at about 6 miles per hour on the average. A historic traffic jam to match the celestial event; no shit, there we were.

Mike's observation lit a fire and, before too much more time had transpired, I fired up Gmaps and turned on the traffic and did three screenshots of my own, stretching from Oregon to South Carolina, transcontinentally. And this is what I got:

The road network out here in the Great American West is sparser, but it still provided enough points to make a line. I do note that some jammy areas exist a little to one side; well, humans are a swarming thing. We aren't neat and don't obey the discipline an eclipse's umbra is; outliers are a thing.

But it's all close enough for jazz, and makes Gmaps traffic layer an indirect lens through which to view the eclipse all across the country. There isn't a stone you don't drop that doesn't make a ripple. 

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