BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Heavy traffic requires heavy monitoring.
“We’re already doing emails, and, of course, we’ve got a website and social media, that being Facebook,” said Vincent Creel, public affairs manager with the city of Biloxi. “But we needed something that people could get immediately and that was quick news for them. News on the go.”
One year ago for spring break weekend, Biloxi, with Creel’s prompting, brought online a traffic texting service to help drivers navigate congestion.
Close to 20 texts were sent just this weekend to update drivers on traffic conditions.
The public affairs team may send out the message, but the information comes from fire and police dispatchers.
“They’re the brains of the operation, the communications people,” Creel said. “We lose them, we’re in trouble.”
Creel said that while he would like to see many more subscribers, the program has been a success.
“We think that close to 8,000 people who have signed up for this, that’s a statement right there that they find this to be useful,” he said. “And, we’re at the highest we’ve been.”
The success has carried over throughout the year.
“It’s not just spring break. It could be Mardi Gras, it could be Cruisin’ the Coast, or it could be those daily situations that occur when they have to detour off Highway 90 or when traffic’s been backing up at White Avenue every day," Creel said.
Biloxi was the first on the Gulf Coast to utilize the system, but the city is one of 8,000 agencies across the country to use it.
The city sends out notices or alerts on incidents with significant impact.
“It’s not just a matter of telling them the train wreck is at Main Street,” Creel said. “It’s a matter of telling them, here’s what you need to know, and the challenge is doing all of that in 138 characters.”
The city plans to expand the service by hurricane season that would send emergency notifications to everyone using cellular technology - even those not signed in with the texting program.
The service costs the city $7,000 a year and includes unlimited text messages and unlimited subscribers.
It’s a free service, and to join, all you have to do is text “Biloxi” to 888-777.