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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Do you use the 511 System?

    I am interested in your experiences with the 511 - Traffic Information Service that exists (in theory) throughout the USA. In some places, like the San Francisco Bay area, one can get access to some pretty sophisticated data. Here in Las Vegas, the information seems pretty limited.

    Here was a response from Moderator Bob:
    I haven't used it in other states yet, but I have used it here in Arizona more than once and received up-to-date information on highway conditions that proved valuable (calls are routed to ADOT). Last week, I called to see how the fires were affecting traffic on I-17 as I left for my Utah trip. You seem to have to inquire specifically about each road you are interested in -- I didn't notice that there was an "alert" system for closures (such as the unexpected one I discovered for SR264 at Tuba City). Maybe there is and I just wasn't listening for that option, or even if AZ doesn't have that feature, perhaps other states do. Anyway, I use it and like it. I'll have to call back and see if they do have that "alert" notification option

    If you dial 511 in your home town -- I would really like to know kinds of road condition information is available to you. And further, whether or not this is a help or a hinderance on the road.

    Thanks,

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 07-10-2005 at 04:21 PM. Reason: Content Added

  2. Default Re-checked today

    I checked back today to see if the Arizona version of this program has an overall alert notification system that would list all closures or restrictions -- it does not. You have to request information on the specific roads you are interested in. I asked today about the closure on SR264 I mentioned in my first response, and it stated the exact location and when it would re-open.

    For Arizona, 5-1-1 also provides information on transit systems, airports, specific metro regions (Phoenix and Tucson probably) and also has a link to the State's Tourism Office.

    It is easy to use from the road from the standpoint that you navigate the system using voice commands -- but that may also be a problem as it seems to be very background-noise sensitive. Even just moving your fingers on the handset or breathing noise seems to confuse it. At least it did today -- or perhaps my connection was not optimum. Bob

  3. #3
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default 511 on speed dial!

    Even though I have a network of people at work I could call upon at any time to find road conditions, I'd rather not tie up the lines with my road inquiries.

    I have found that the AZ 511 system is more than helpful. At times though, the voice activated system can be a blessing and a hendrance. A blessing because if I am driving and need info regarding a situation ahead of me, it allows me to get the info without having to look at my phone, thus making it a bit safer. It can also be a hendrance because if there are any other noises around, or you do not enunciate clearly, your choices can be misread, and this can make a caller very frustrated (I have been in that situation myself).

    I have also used 511 up in Washington via my AZ based cell (apparantly they have updated the system since I moved down, because it used to be that if you were calling from an out of state number, it wouldn't go through) while my parents were driving me back to Sea-Tac from Wenatchee via US2. We got into the Puget Sound area and wanted to find out if the 405 was clear. Washington's system uses both voice and tone menues, which is nice when you are a passenger. I could press what option I wanted, rather than make everyone be very quiet.

    Needless to say, 511 is on speed dial, whether my roadtrip is just to the grocery store, cross country, or back to the airport after a lazy weekend in good ol' Washington.

    (I do think though that there should be a option to connect to a live operator regarding non-highway conditions, but at the same time, it might be more of a problem...)

    Well, there's my 411 on the 511!
    -Brad M.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Thanks for the intel

    Quote Originally Posted by Cascadia4-brad m
    Even though I have a network of people at work I could call upon at any time to find road conditions, I'd rather not tie up the lines with my road inquiries.
    You do have an insider access!
    I have found that the AZ 511 system is more than helpful. At times though, the voice activated system can be a blessing and a hendrance. A blessing because if I am driving and need info regarding a situation ahead of me, it allows me to get the info without having to look at my phone, thus making it a bit safer. It can also be a hendrance because if there are any other noises around, or you do not enunciate clearly, your choices can be misread, and this can make a caller very frustrated (I have been in that situation myself).
    Well, that is two thumbs-up for the Arizona system. Personally, when I have tested it in California and Nevada, it drives me slightly insane because of the lack of detailed info. But I am very happy to learn new tricks of the road and thank you for this intel.

    Mark

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default

    In the past, I've only used it when I've been traveling over the passes and want to know about chains, etc. So today I played with it. Here in WA, as Brad said, you can do the voice menu or press numbers. On my cellphone connection, I had no problems with the voice menu even with my radio playing in the background.

    Like Bob mentioned, you have to ask about each specific road. Quite often, it will also ask you to clarify which area of road. For example, I wanted to know road conditions on Hwy 12 and it asked me if I meant on the Western or Eastern portion. When I asked about traffic conditions on I-5, I had to specificy north-bound or south-bond or HOV lane north-bound or HOV lane south-bond. I think it's cool that it gets that specific but, at the same time, it would be frustrating if you have several roads to check.

    I wish it did have some kind of "list all driving alerts" option so you could just choose that and listen for anything on your route but I couldn't find that option if it was there.

    Anyway, here's all the options they list:
    * Washington State Ferries
    * Traffic Incidents (must select specific road)
    * Traffic Congestion, mainly for the great King County area (must select specific road)
    * Mountain Pass
    * Express Lane
    * Public Transit phone numbers
    * Passenger Rail phone numbers
    * Airline phone numbers
    * Travel info (to get info from surrounding states and provinces)
    * Weather

    To be honest, I hadn't realized there was that much information available on this number. I've added it to my speed dial and will be using it more often! Thanks for bringing this service to my attention.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Québec, Montreal, Arizona, California, France
    Posts
    761

    Default 511 in Qc

    I know this thread was for American posters but I'll add my 2 cents. I've used it once here, I wanted to know how the traffic was in Montreal. It said that all the bridges were loaded (duh)... It worked pretty well but I never called back because the bridges are always like parking lots in Montreal any time of the day;-) Montreal is the only city where you get traffic, Quebec City traffic only lasts ½ hour because all the govt employees work from 8 to 4. However, some people I know use the 511 function regularly and they all seem to enjoy that feature.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Some interesting wrinkles in California

    Quote Originally Posted by Gen
    I know this thread was for American posters but I'll add my 2 cents.
    Nope, this is an info gathering thread -- and you have the information I want.

    I have actually learned about a new wrinkle being implemented in California that is kind of cool. There are sensors imbedded in the roadways on certain key highways that measure changes in the electrical voltage that is triggered when vehicles pass over them (which establish vehicle speeds). This data is then sent to central computers that provide information on how heavy the congestion is. A visual example of this can be seen by looking at the freeways and other highways in the San Diego area. The same system is in place in the San Francisco bay area and includes a little program that estimates travel time between two points, (on-ramps and exits).

    The San Diego 511 system also allows callers to locate the specific locations of buses and trains using GPS equipment mounted in the vehicles. Another version of this GPS-related traffic-tracking system is in place in parts of Riverside and San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties. What I like about this system, is that the little black icons (on the maps) indicate road-cam camera locations and one can see the current conditions at hundreds of locations.

    Have you used it yet?

    Mark

  8. #8
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Speed Sensors in AZ

    Quote Originally Posted by Editor

    I have actually learned about a new wrinkle being implemented in California that is kind of cool. There are sensors imbedded in the roadways on certain key highways that measure changes in the electrical voltage that is triggered when vehicles pass over them (which establish vehicle speeds). This data is then sent to central computers that provide information on how heavy the congestion is. A visual example of this can be seen by looking at the freeways and other highways in the San Diego area. The same system is in place in the San Francisco bay area and includes a little program that estimates travel time between two points, (on-ramps and exits).

    Mark
    Two websites, www.az511.com and www.traffic.com actually use similar technologies. Arizona's is a little more primitive. Our speed sensors, as far as I know, consist of sensors laid into the pavement, and sonic sensors, which utilize a sort of echo radar to determine how fast vehicles were traveling.

    Both also let you get detailed info (via the web only) on accidents both on and off major freeways. The AZ 511 site also lets you click and read the displays on any active electronic signs placed on highways. Which is nice because you can click and see if they are telling drivers ON the freeway if there is flooding, ice, etc.

    Traffic.com also includes estimated travel times between set points such as interchanges. (traffic.com serves many major cities nation wide, including Seattle, etc.)

    Unfortunately, they haven't come up with a system here letting me locate the exact location of busses (cause I'd use it daily... I am a temporary transit rider!).

    Unfortunately, all we get with our traffic cams are still images, usually several minutes old.

    Brad M.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Western/Central Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,703

    Default Washington DC 511

    I tried to use 511 out of where I was staying in Fredericksburg, VA, but all I received was an error message. FWIW, this was on an assumption as I didn't see any signs posted that there actually was 511 in this area, though it is a bedroom community for Washington, DC.

    As an aside, has anyone ever gotten useful information from those AM 1610 traffic advisories...before being in the situation that caused the sign to light up?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default

    Everytime I turn to 1610, I just get a recorded message telling me to keep listening for updates. I guess I've been lucky to never be traveling when something road-worthy is going on?

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