One of the oldest, and easiest, ways to get traffic updates is from the radio. When I first became a traffic reporter back in the 1970s, WOR and WCBS-AM were the only stations with traffic helicopters. Most other broadcasters listened to these two stations and made a few phone calls to put together their traffic reports. On Dec. 3, 1979, that changed when a company called Shadow Traffic debuted on the New York City airwaves. When it began broadcasting from an office building overlooking Route 22 in Union, New Jersey most of the major radio stations in the market were clients.
Today, radio is still a primary means to get traffic updates since the medium is ideally suited to the automobile. The majority of stations have traffic reports during rush hours and several provide updates around the clock, seven days a week. In New Jersey, depending on where you're located, here are the stations that air reports all the time.
WKXW describes themselves as "Proud to be New Jersey" and their traffic reports cover the entire state. Their updates air every 15 minutes at approximately :03, :18, :33 and :48 minutes past the hour. During rush hours the station has two reporters for each update; one covering New Jersey North and the other covering New Jersey South. The station can be heard in most of the state with the exception of the far northern portion at 101.5 FM.
SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY
Philadelphia's only all-news station can be found at 1060 on the AM dial. Their updates air on the twos at :02, :12, :22, :32, :42 and :52 minutes past the hour. Traffic coverage on the station includes southern New Jersey as well as the Philadelphia-area in Pennsylvania and northern Delaware.
Satellite radio listeners will find Philadelphia-area traffic reports on Channel 132 every ten minutes on the 5s. This channel is shared with updates for Boston and Pittsburgh. Immediately following each city's traffic reports are local weather updates provided by The Weather Channel.
NORTHERN NEW JERSEY
1010 WINS was New York City's first all-news station and continues that format today. WINS has live traffic updates on the ones at :01, :11, :21, :31, :41 and :51. WINS tends to focus their traffic information on New York City and the immediate suburbs surrounding the city. Live weather updates are provided around-the-clock from AccuWeather.
Like its sister station, WINS, Newsradio 880 has traffic updates at all hours of the day and night. The reports on WCBS air on eights at :08, :18, :28, :38, :48 and :58. Each report is immediately followed by a weather update which can be especially helpful when bad weather makes traffic difficult. WCBS covers more of the suburban areas in northern and central New Jersey.
WEMP is New York's newest all-news station. It debuted this summer and promotes its traffic reports as "easy to understand." The reports can be heard on the fives around the clock at :05, :15, :25, :35, :45 and :55. Weather updates immediately follow each report.
New York has a channel dedicated to New York traffic and weather. You'll find it on Channel 133.
As I noted earlier, many stations within New Jersey have traffic reports during rush hours. One advantage of the suburban stations is that they tend to focus on a smaller area so they provide more details on their local area than is possible on the larger stations. I'll tell you more about these suburban stations in a future update.
*In the interests of full disclosure, I currently work part-time as a traffic reporter for Metro Traffic and can be heard on WINS, WKXW and WRCN.
From time-to-time, I'll also include some guest traffic tips from transportation pros in region. Our first comes from Ed Kalegi. Ed is a traffic reporter and can be heard on the following radio stations: WBBR, WRNJ, WOBM-AM, WABC, WKXW, WBZO, and SiriusXM's New York traffic channel.
Route 130 and Avoiding the Turnpike Bottleneck
It's inevitable...you’re driving south on the New Jersey Turnpike on a Friday night (and most other nights) and you pass Exit 9. The dread starts building, you know it's coming, and then there’s the sign: only two miles to Exit 8A. You approach 8A and the brake lights start lighting up like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. You’re almost there: the car/truck merge...one of the most consistent but most avoidable delays in New Jersey.
The key is Route 130, a roadway that doesn’t get much notoriety and is not as well traveled as its cousins. True, there are traffic lights and in some places many of them, but on those nights and Saturday mornings when it seems everyone from Montreal to Brooklyn is headed to Six Flags, the unheralded 130 is a great way to avoid the mess. It's a simple maneuver of leaving the Turnpike at Exit 9, followed by a very brief stay on Route 18 north to Route 1 south. Two miles later on Route 1 will be the beginning of Route 130. You’ll then bypass the nightmare on the Turnpike and catch back up with the toll road at Exit 7 in Bordentown.