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Waze’s crazy routing over a 32% grade road is driving residents nuts


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It’s a common story: small towns and residents living on once-quiet streets are sometimes annoyed by the influx of traffic that Waze, traffic wayfinding apps, and ride-hailing services have wrought.


But residents along Baxter Street in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood—reportedly one of the steepest streets in America (comprising two major hills)—are now banding together to try to change local traffic patterns. Neighbors have contacted city officials and Waze’s parent company, Google, to try to mitigate the problem.


They believe that a lot of drivers are using Baxter as a way to avoid Glendale Boulevard, a nearby thoroughfare.


According to a Wednesday report in the Los Angeles Times, locals say that they’ve noticed an uptick in serious accidents.


“The car came through our garden, went through two fences, and ended up backwards hanging over our driveway,” resident Jason Luther told the paper.


“Rain is a huge problem,” another resident, Robbie Adams, said. “People start skidding and spinning. We had our garden wall knocked down twice, and my wife’s car got hit in our own driveway. I’ve seen five or six cars smash into other cars, and it’s getting worse.”


The street, which dates back to 1872, has a 32-percent grade—more than double what current city law allows for today.


In 2003, the Times described the street this way: “Unsuspecting motorists gasp when they reach the crest and discover the roadway in front of them has dropped out of sight and there is nothing but empty space in front of their car’s hood.”


A decade later, Los Angeles magazine noted:

"Baxter later became a proving ground for automobiles, as manufacturers staged elaborate stunts to demonstrate their vehicles’ power. In one such event in 1916, a four-wheel-drive truck loaded with 4,300 pounds of baled hay groaned its way up the grade, pausing twice for newspaper cameras. Nearly 100 years later, Baxter Street continues to bewilder uncertain drivers and confound elongated vehicles."


Adams also told the Times that the neighbors had sent a letter to Waze, suggesting that the street be removed entirely.


“They said they couldn’t do that because it involves changing the algorithm of the app in a weird way,” he said.


Google did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.


UPDATE 11:16pm ET: Genevieve Park, a Google spokeswoman, emailed Ars a statement.


"Google Maps models the ever-changing real world by mapping for ground truth," the company said. "This means that our map reflects any measures taken by local agencies to protect their citizens—for example, blocking off a steep road, or implementing turn restrictions. Should the local agency decide to restrict Baxter Street, this change will be taken into account when routing drivers through the Los Angeles area."


She did not respond to Ars' follow-up question as to why Google could not simply act of its own accord, without waiting for the city.


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