January 3, 2010 in News

DOT trying to speed up its Web site

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Clicking on the Washington State Department of Transportation Web site at times may feel like traveling in the slow lane.

The site has become so popular that downloading page views can take a long time, especially during snowstorms or busy travel days.

DOT officials acknowledge the Web site is in high demand, and they have been working to speed things up.

They’ve made a number of improvements since last year, when site traffic jammed up with six million page views in one day during a West Side snowstorm.

“It’s just a matter of volume,” said Melanie Coon, a DOT spokeswoman. “It’s the volume of users who are trying to access information at the same time.”

Problems can also come from other parts of the data stream, including the type of browser on a user’s computer.

The DOT Web site appears to respond more quickly through the browsers Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, for example, based on newsroom testing.

On Windows Internet Explorer, checking mountain pass conditions or going to “statewide traveler information” often takes 15 to 20 seconds to load.

While that doesn’t sound like a lot of time, for regular Web users it probably feels like an eternity.

Download speeds were instantaneous on the other two browsers under the newsroom comparison.

DOT’s Web site manager said the agency’s technical team has been working to improve download speeds and access to agency information.

Improvements last summer doubled the site’s capacity, said Jeremy Bertrand, Web manager for DOT.

The site also uses offsite tools, including Twitter, YouTube, Blogger, RSS feeds, Flickr and FriendFeed. Those connections offer the chance for users to customize how they receive information.

Traffic on the Web site averages about 1million page views a day but often increases dramatically during storms, flooding and school holidays.

Snow on Snoqualmie and other mountain passes increases Web traffic, too.

“The public is really relying on this as a tool,” Coon said.

Bertrand said the agency wants the traveling public to become informed so people can get to their destinations in a safe and timely way.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is warning bus riders to be cautious when exiting buses.

Twice in December riders were struck and injured walking into moving traffic after getting off buses.

A 16-year-old boy was hurt just outside Airway Heights on Wednesday when he looped around the front of the bus and was struck by a Ford Explorer. The injuries were not serious. Another teen was hurt doing the same thing on Hawthorne Road in early December.

“Sheriff’s traffic investigators urge bus patrons to wait until the bus leaves the stop before attempting to cross the roadway, and then to use a crosswalk,” said Sgt. Dave Reagan in a press release.

The Stevens County vehicle licensing office will be closed the second and third Mondays of each month because of staffing cuts, according to Auditor Tim Gray.

In addition, the recording desk will be closed from noon to 1 p.m. every other Friday.

Gray urged vehicle owners to renew their licenses online at dol.wa.gov.

Construction work on a new parking lot at Washington Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard will cause lane and parking closures Tuesday through Friday, city officials said.


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