Traffic is kind of like a smelly, noisy, annoying neighbor to be put up with — you really really really don’t like it, but it’s not going anywhere and neither are you. So you end up going to great lengths to avoid traffic whenever possible, whether it means taking transit, using apps such as Waze or tuning in to traffic reports.
For those of you wondering right now “do people even still watch TV traffic reports?,” the answer is a decided ‘yes.’ Because traffic reports don’t just tell you that something is happening, they provide the kind of details often missing in a lot of mapping apps. Is a delay caused by a water main break? An accident? Police activity? The televised reports also explain how much longer a situation is likely to last and they can give the big picture (literally, with helicopter footage), giving people a chance to plan ahead before embarking on a commute.
So with that in mind, I met with Ginger Chan, news and traffic reporter for KTLA5 and KIIS FM, to get a feel for what it takes to help keep L.A. moving. And what it takes is collecting A LOT of information and parceling it out on the fly in 20- to 30-second digestible bits designed to make morning commutes easier.
Ginger’s day begins at 3 a.m. and the first thing she does is check SigAlerts, email and social media to see if there are any developing situations that could cause delays on the streets. Her traffic segments actually start around 4 a.m. Once on air, Ginger will usually be at the main set, but once the day gets going and news start flowing, she moves to her mini-set to continue her traffic segments. This allows her to have a quieter workspace to process incoming information from her various sources and producers.
The news anchors check in with Ginger every 10 to fifteen minutes, and she’ll provide a quick update on existing traffic or developing situations. Ginger’s mini-set also doubles as a radio broadcasting booth, and in between TV segments she provides the traffic reports for On-Air with Ryan Seacrest on KIIS FM. When not on air, Ginger combs through more information to identify upcoming public events or construction activities that might impact commuters. Things like freeway closures or big conventions that attract thousands of people are sure to impact traffic, and she’ll incorporate these advance warnings into her reports to help get the news out as early as possible.
As you can imagine, all of this makes for a very hectic morning. Not only is Ginger checking frequently with both TV and radio producers so as not to miss her segments, she’s creating her reports as she goes based on the ever-changing nature of L.A. traffic. And this is just dealing with normal traffic — luckily, the day I visited was fairly calm. I wouldn’t want to see how crazy things get when there’s an overturned truck, a wildfire along a freeway or a multiple-car accident!
And of course, if the traffic is bad — as it usually is in L.A. — Ginger will also work into her reports some of the travel options that might help commuters get to work, such as ridesharing or taking public transit. To that end, she’s found Metro’s own Twitter feed to be quite helpful. “I definitely check Metro’s Twitter,” Ginger said. “When I see info about a bus detour, it means there could be further traffic in the area that I need to look into. And if there’s a train delay or something, I’ll know it means more people may be looking to drive…and I could advise them to try carpooling or bicycling!”
It might seem unusual that a traffic reporter would cover public transit — and until recently it was unusual. But these days it’s not just about driving anymore. “It’s all about giving people more options so they don’t have to be stuck in traffic,” Ginger says. “Even though I see lots of people start riding buses and trains, traffic in Los Angeles has maintained — there’s just too many cars. So I feel like it’s my responsibility to keep people informed about the choices they have, whether it’s taking a different route or maybe trying out the train for the first time.”
But does Ginger ride transit? Due to her crazy early start time, she usually has to drive to work — although her hours guarantee that she’ll skip rush hour traffic! — but she reveals that she takes transit when she can. “My son loves the train! And my family also does a lot of walking to explore neighborhoods,” she says.
And though her day officially ends around late morning, Ginger’s constantly thinking of different ways to get around the city. “People think it’s kind of weird, but I’m always asking everyone I meet where they live and how they get to work. It helps me visualize commute patterns. It’s just something I think about a lot because I really can’t stand being trapped in traffic. I hate it! So being able to help people avoid traffic and get to where they’re going is something I really enjoy.”
For Ginger, beating traffic isn’t just a job — it’s a way of life.
Categories: Go Metro