Massey Tunnel app offers commuters instant traffic updates for often-choked route

It was the dead of winter and exam time when Christopher Powroznik, a University of British Columbia student and Delta, B.C., resident, had finally had enough.

Powroznik, 23, must travel though the often congested Massey Tunnel — which connects Delta and Richmond — every time he commutes to UBC. 

"There was a two-hour delay and I almost missed an exam," Powroznik told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's On The Coast.

Traffic in the tunnel is so inconsistent, he says, that he can't trust he'll get to school on time. Powroznik says he even started sleeping in his car at the university if he had to attend something important the next morning.

"[The tunnel] completely dictates when I'm supposed to leave the house [and] when I'm allowed to come home," said Powroznik, who lives in the community of Ladner, a short drive from the tunnel.

So, six months ago, he decided to create a way to present real-time traffic conditions for the Massey Tunnel. 

Combining data from DriveBC's live traffic cams, and different live map applications, he created the Is The Massey Tunnel Okay? app.

"My mom saw me using it. She asked if she could have a copy. ... So I made, like, a really, really nice one," Powroznik said.

The app — which is free — has been popularly received.

"I released it out [to the public] and it blew up like crazy. First day, a thousand downloads," he said.

Ben Nelms/CBC

He said he's getting emails from reviewers asking whether he can make one for the Alex Fraser Bridge, and even a request for an app to monitor a congested highway in the United States.

"It tells me that there's an untapped market," he said. "People just want more and more apps because the thing that's useful ... is it takes two seconds to check."

But not all of the reaction to Powroznik's app has been positive, with some people accusing him of politicizing the tunnel, he said. 

Shortly after it took office in 2017, B.C.'s NDP government cancelled plans by the former Liberal government for a 10-lane bridge to replace the 60-year-old tunnel. The most recent proposal to ease congestion in the busy Metro Vancouver route is for a twin tunnel

"One [comment] that really turned me the wrong way is someone said I don't even live in Ladner, I'm a politician who is going to be running in an upcoming election, which is not true at all," he said. 

"I did not make this for any political reasons whatsoever, but people interpret what they want."

Powroznik says he doesn't have a solution for the busy route, but he's happy if his app gets conversation flowing. 

"You know, people go into the Massey Tunnel every [day], and the conversation kind of died down. But I feel like I brought it back [with the app]," he said.