Fremont frustrated with Google Maps directions to cut through neighborhood

Fremont city leaders said navigation apps such as Google Maps may be directing drivers to break traffic laws. Last month, the city received a high number of complaints from neighbors about freeway traffic being sent on short-cuts through residential neighborhoods.

Navigation apps have been creating problems for Fremont neighborhoods for years directing regional commuters off northbound 680 onto surface streets.

“We have thousands of cars that are coming through our streets and that’s affecting the local quality of life,” said Fremont Vice Mayor Raj Salwan.

The city implemented turn restrictions during peak commute periods thinking the apps would adjust the driving directions. They thought the issue had been resolved but it wasn't.

“What happened Google changed their algorithm and that algorithm directed more traffic through this neighborhood,” said Salwan. “They did not take into account some of the changes we had made.”

City leaders said last month, Google Maps directed commuters to make illegal turns, telling drivers to go straight onto 680 from Luzon Street, essentially breaking the law.
“I think it's not right,” said Salwan. “I think technology has outpaced what we can regulate and so maybe we look at legislation by the state so not only our city but all the cities around here don't have cut through freeway traffic.”

Residents who live nearby on Via Sombrio shared their frustration and shared video of gridlock in their neighborhoods.

“I can't get to my own house,” said Ravija Signh of Fremont. “I can see it but I can't reach it because there are so many cars here.”

“Frankly irritated more and frustrated because this should not happen,” said Arun Agrawal of Fremont. “People should stay on 680.”

Police issued 500 tickets in the area alone last year. City leaders are hoping to meet with Google executives but haven't been successful. They may now turn to state legislators for help, saying the back roads aren't designed for regional traffic.

“When we have a big semi that comes out and damages our road that's something we won't be able to recoup,” said Salwan. “We are constantly spending more and more money fixing the streets and it's really affecting our quality of life here.”

KTVU reached out to Google for a statement and did not get a response. Traffic has been uncharacteristically light in the new year. 

City officials aren't sure if Google Maps fixed the problem or if people are still on holiday and vacation mode. The city is hoping to form a partnership with Google like it has with Waze.