Getting from A to B via the Net

ON BLOGS

Ideas

November 25, 2007|By ANDREW RATNER

Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go, unless Grandma is blogging, that is.

Then she might advise a detour at the river based on what she's seeing on the highway administration bridge-cam and maybe a less woodsy route, too, given the fresh update on the live weather satellite image she's linked to.

With so many people traveling this season - today is forecast as the busiest travel day of the year - there's only so much relief that blogs can provide. But there is a wealth of real-time information available online.

For air travelers, the Federal Aviation Administration offers an online one-stop shop for flight delay information at www.fly.faa.gov.

Another resource is flightaware.com, an online flight tracking service for private and commercial air traffic. And The Travel Security blog, at travelsecurity.blogspot.com, focuses on news about airport safety procedures.

Don Brown, a retired air traffic controller, writes plainly and intelligibly on air travel at his blog gettheflick. He named it for a term that air traffic controllers use to describe the mental movie - or "flick" - of the web of flight paths moving about in their territory.

"Folks that know me well know that I'm not a technology wizard. As a matter of fact, a lot of my coworkers thought of me as anti-technology. Never mind that I was the only one shlepping (can a redneck say shlep?) a laptop back and forth to work everyday. ... I like technology just fine - when it works," he wrote on a post a week ago after being referenced on a piece on TheAtlantic.com. "It was working today. I wondered who was ringing my bell - making the "hit counter" on my site spin like the altimeter on the space shuttle. Lo and behold, it was James Fallows. Getting a lot of unexpected visits to your blog is always a good thing. Getting a mention from someone of James Fallows' caliber is like getting holiday leave on the day before Thanksgiving for a controller. (For the non-controllers, the day before Thanksgiving is normally the busiest day of the year. It's crazy-busy and you can't normally get leave.)"

For travelers who don't think they can have too much information, turbulenceforecast.com offers a computer-generated map that predicts the potential for bumpy air travel that day based on various factors such as jet stream, wind and altitude. A computer network administrator created the site after his own experiences rerouting trips to avoid choppy flights en route to visiting his girlfriend in Baltimore.

The Web site Travelocity dispatched a "Thanksgiving task force" to 10 of the nation's busiest airports to blog about everything from parking lot space to security delays at windowseat.travelocity.com.

"ATL - All is quiet in Atlanta this morning, with wait times all at less than 10 minutes, parking still open, and minimal delays. Christmas trees have been lit up in anticipation of the holiday travel rush, and a military welcome team at the arrivals gate is personally greeting all military personnel arriving home for the holiday," read its post from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Tuesday.

A record 27 million people are expected to fly during the 12 days around Thanksgiving, 4 percent more than last year, according to the Air Transit Association, an industry trade group.

Road warriors have their own online resources this week when trips of 50 miles or more increase by half, the federal transportation department says. Actually, the average long-distance trip (at least 50 miles) is shorter at Thanksgiving - 214 miles - than the average long-distance trip during the whole year - 261 miles. And long-distance travel around Christmas is longer still, an average of 275 miles, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The federal government's easy-to-navigate Wceb portal provides information on highway and rail conditions at usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel/Road.

Specific information on Maryland travel is available from the Federal Highway Administration at fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo/md.htmat, which also links to state highway departments and regional transportation councils, which offer their own live cams and information.

One source for shopping gas prices is http:--fueleconomy.gov/feg/gasprices/states/.

And the Web site thriftyfun.com (search: travel) offers a message board with tips on how to keep from going stir crazy in the car with kids.

As if there's a blog that can solve that.

andrew.ratner@baltsun.com

Andrew Ratner, a former technology reporter, is Today editor of The Sun.

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