With simple options indicating on free-flowing traffic, a moderate traffic jam, or very heavy traffic, Palestinian drivers can choose to take alternative routes.
A new app for mobile phones can warn Palestinian drivers of traffic jams at Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“The occupation affects the Palestinian people in all aspects and denies them of many rights. One of them is the right to move freely,” said app developer Basel Sader, 20, a student from east Jerusalem. “This app may not be able to provide them with the freedom of movement, but it can make their lives easier.”
The free app, called “Azmeh” (traffic jam in Arabic), was launched in recent weeks and is available on both Apple and Android-based devices. It can be found in app stores alongside other navigational apps, like the Israeli app Waze.
The app is based, much like Waze, on crowdsourcing. It allows drivers to post updates on the state of traffic at a checkpoint or a roadblock based on several simple options.
For example, when a Palestinian driver coming from Ramallah wants to cross the Qalandiya checkpoint into Jerusalem, he will see one of three options on the app: A green car indicating free-flowing traffic, a yellow car for a moderate traffic jam, and a red car that would tell the driver of very heavy traffic.
A driver already at the checkpoint could choose one of the three options, leading the app to update other drivers so they could take alternative routes.
Unlike Waze, the app doesn’t time the traffic jams, or offer alternative routes. It is also based on 2G, on which the Palestinian mobile network operates. An upgrade of the Palestinian network to 3G is expected soon, which would allow the app to improve its performance and capabilities.
Milna Ansari, a student from East Jerusalem who goes to the Birzeit University in Ramallah, drives through the Qalandiya checkpoint every day.
“I check the status (on the app) every morning when I wake up and based on that I decide which way to take, and if there is heavy traffic, I try to go through another checkpoint,” she said, adding that she updates the app herself whenever she drives through one of the checkpoints.
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