The People Behind the Voices of KQED's Traffic Reports

Commuters listening to KQED radio have come to know the friendly voices of traffic reporters Joe McConnell and Julie Deppish. They deliver 30-second traffic reports as often as six times an hour on KQED-FM.

Over the years, Bay Curious has received a number of questions for Joe and Julie, like this one from Trish Taylor of Redwood City:

How do traffic reporters receive the info they report as if they can see the incidents in real time, all over the Bay Area?

Trish is especially curious how they know about the debris that sometimes winds up blocking a lane — from the expected, like a ladder or mattress, to the less expected, like a porta-potty, boat or even a herd of cows.

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We took the question to McConnell, who laid out how he and other traffic reporters at Total Traffic & Weather Network do their work.

  • California Highway Patrol Traffic Incident Website: McConnell tracks incidents happening around the Bay Area by filtering for information coming from the Golden Gate communication center. He finds the specifics about what is in the road on the details page for each incident.
  • SigAlert: This interactive map, owned and operated by Total Traffic & Weather Network, shows the approximate speed at which cars are traveling on specific roads. A SigAlert is also a general term used by the California Highway Patrol.
  • Caltrans QuickMap: Similar to SigAlert, but with finer detail, McConnell says. It's especially good for seeing traffic flow on smaller highways and some local streets, and it allows you to customize what you want to see on an interactive map.
  • Live Traffic Cameras: Sometimes seeing is still the best way to know how traffic is moving. McConnell monitors a few live cameras in traffic-prone areas.
  • Total Traffic's Internal Software: In addition to the above sources, producers at the Total Traffic & Weather Network use some proprietary programs to track the roadways. Sometimes people on the road will also call in to report the traffic to the traffic reporters.

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But tracking the roadways wasn't always this easy. Read our explainer to learn how collecting and disseminating traffic data has gone from helicopters in the sky to apps in our hands.

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