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18 by Google. Google offers transit trip planning services in and the website (branded as Tripcheck.com). Figure 10 illus- a large number of cities and metropolitan areas throughout trates annual call volume and website visits from 20042007. the United States (e.g., the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area), offering travelers both public and private information dissemination outlets for transit information. 511 Telephone Traveler Information Systems A more detailed description of the needs of transit users On July 21, 2000, the FCC approved the three-digit 511 num- and the real-time information delivery offered by transit ber for traveler information. At that time, a number of state and agencies is available through the results of the TCRP Syn- regional telephone-based traveler information delivery systems thesis 68: Methods of Rider Communication (Schweiger were in operation. Since the designation of 511, deployment of 2006). new telephone traveler information systems has accelerated, and the conversion of existing systems to work using the 511 The use of traveler information systems varies and includes dialing code has expanded as well. As of June 2008, 42 public- peaks of heavy use and times when use is low. Discussions operated 511 phone systems in 33 states offered coverage to with the industry have revealed examples of success stories 128 million Americans (47% of the population). in which travelers were able to access information during major storms to maintain safe and efficient travel, as well as Figure 11 illustrates the current deployment status of 511 stories about times when traveler information systems fell phone systems throughout the United States. short of travelers' expectations. Summary of 511 Call Volumes Many times more traveler information is available to U.S. travelers in 2008 than was available in the early 1990s. None- In the spring of 2008, the total comprehensive number of theless, the technologies available today still present many 511 calls placed to all operational 511 systems in the United options for major improvements to traveler information. States exceeded the 100-million-call threshold for the first time. The call volumes received by the 42 operational sys- tems vary tremendously. Of the 100 million calls received, Summary Of Traveler Information Use more than 20 million were received by the 511 system serv- ing the approximately 7 million residents in the San Fran- The nature of Internet websites and 511 phone systems cisco, California, area. allow for tracking statistics to report system use. Often, agencies can track use patterns to understand when the When the volume of 511 calls is compared with the 128 system is being used, and what information travelers are million residents who have access to 511 throughout the seeking from the system. The 511 Deployment Coalition United States, or compared with an estimated 51 million tracks national call volumes from all active 511 phone sys- households (47% of an estimated 110 million households tems. When tracking website use, there is less consistency nationwide), the 511 call volume statistics appear low in pro- throughout the industry. Some systems track hits, but hits portion to the number of annual trips (planning processes are not always an accurate reference tool. Depending on often estimate five trips per household per day). A review the structure of the website, one page view may generate of user feedback and case studies, however, suggests that multiple hits. Additionally, websites may track page views, 511 systems play a critical role in travel information and that which also may not be an accurate representation of use. travelers find the information useful. Therefore, perhaps this If a site requires users to click several options to reach the role cannot be adequately defined simply by call volumes. on-screen map, the tracking would count each page viewed. An analogy can be drawn to a city park. Local cities spend Yet another web-tracking statistic is a "visit" or "user ses- considerable money on the upkeep and maintenance of city sion." This is most closely related to a number of phone parks and take considerable pride in their parks. Although calls. Each time a user visits a traveler information website parks play a specific role in the community, they are not used (and views one or more pages of information), it would be by everyone. Families with young children (as an example) treated as a "visit." may use the park weekly, although other residents may go years without using the park. Also, many parks are not used The National 511 Deployment Coalition is advancing regularly during winter months. This does not suggest that toward consistent tracking of the use of 511 cobranded web- the parks have a lack of value, but rather that city parks play sites; however, consistent statistics are not available for all one or several roles in the community, serving each resident states at this time. To introduce this section and give readers differently. The 511 call volume statistics suggests that 511 some perspective of the ratio of 511 phone use compared with plays a role in traveler information and that this role cannot traveler information websites use, statistics were tracked by solely be evaluated based on call volume statistics. Instead, Oregon DOT (ODOT) for the use of both the 511 phone system other performance measures are needed.

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19 FIGURE 10 Oregon DOT 511 phone and website use statistics (20042007). FIGURE 11 Current 511 phone system deployment status (as of February 21, 2008).

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20 Geographic Spread of 511 Call Volumes Factors Influencing Call Volumes To present a summary of the volume of calls received to indi- In general, the degree to which consumers use a technology vidual 511 phone systems and illustrate the variations in call application is a combination of the need for the application volumes, Figure 12 presents the total call volumes in the 12 and the level at which the application satisfies that need. It months from April 2007 to March 2008. Systems that were appears that 511 use follows this pattern: not operational for those 12 months or for which statistics are not available are shown as blanks on the map. San Francisco's 511 system receives far more calls than any other 511 system. The San Francisco system offers Based on the 12-month call volumes shown in Figure 12, a combination of real-time traffic and event informa- several observations appear as follows: tion as well as detailed transit information. The major- ity of phone requests are for traffic information and the The 511 systems disseminating content needed on a daily majority of website requests are for transit informa- basis receive the highest call volumes. The San Francisco tion (Kuester 2006). The large population base, strong system contains real-time traffic reports (travel times) and tourism market, and geographic limitations on access links to real-time transit information, as well as detailed points to the city (i.e., the San Francisco Bay) create a reports of daily construction activities (all items described definite need for traveler information during each com- in chapter five as lacking in many other 511 systems). mute period. The San Francisco 511 telephone system is Typically, the states with larger populations, instances marketed throughout the area, including marketing to of inclement winter weather, and mountain passes promote users dialing 511 to access transit information. receive larger call volumes. The Washington State 511 system received more A correlation exists between congestion and call vol- than 2 million calls from April, 2007 to April, 2008. umes. San Francisco, Miami, and Seattle typically Approximately 462,000 calls (22% of the annual calls) rank in the 15 most congested cities referenced in the were received in December 2007, a month when consid- "Annual Urban Mobility Report" published by the erable flooding and winter storms occurred throughout Texas Transportation Institute, and the Texas A&M Washington State (National 511 Deployment Coalition University System (http://mobility.tamu.edu/). 2008). FIGURE 12 Total 511 call volumes from April 2007March 2008.

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21 FIGURE 13 Percent increase in call volumes from Summer 2007 to Winter 2008. The Massachusetts 511 system operated by season. Major metropolitan areas remain relatively unchanged MassHighways is another large call volume system. between seasons, although popular tourist areas or areas where MassHighways has been operating a real-time traveler summer weather patterns pose more challenges than winter information phone number as part of the SmartTraveler risks (e.g., flooding, thunderstorms, hurricanes) experience network since 1993. The MassHighway phone system more calls in the summer months. This pattern of call volumes has received a total of 62 million calls, with recent aver- is best summarized by the statement that while the data assem- ages near 575,000 calls per month. The MassHighways bly and information creation is constant, the demand for real- system uses several sources for traffic information and time traveler information is event (or crisis) driven. offers links to transit information. The detailed con- tent, large population base of the Boston area and lim- Figure 13 illustrates the percent increase in call volumes ited options for routes to key destinations such as the from summer months to winter months. For this illustration, airport and downtown area appear to be contributors to call volumes were summed for the months of June and July the large call volumes (MassHighway 2007). to compute typical summer volumes, and for the months of The Colorado 511 phone system offers weather and January and February to compute typical winter values. driving condition information statewide, including numerous mountain passes, accessing key mountain The results presented in Figure 13 are not surprising. destinations. Of the nearly 2 million calls received The northern states and mountainous states show the larg- from the April, 2007 to April, 2008, 1,450,000 were est increase in call volumes between summer and winter received in the four months of December through seasons. March (National 511 Deployment Coalition 2008). Synthesis of How 511 Phone Systems Are Used Seasonal variations in 511 call volumes occur throughout the United States. Based on the data, it appears that primarily In addition to purely examining the call volumes, this study rural areas or mountainous areas receive considerably more examined available information about the actual use of 511 511 calls during the winter season than they do in the summer phone systems.

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22 In a survey of Montana 511 users (Western Transportation Synthesis of 511 System User Feedback and Institute 2004), survey participants were asked when they Experiences called the 511 phone system. The survey response showed the following: A number of agencies have conducted formal or informal surveys of users' perceptions and experiences with 511 68% of responders called 511 before the start of the trip phone systems. The results of these analyses are summa- 7% called 511 during the trip rized as follows: 25% called 511 both before and during the trip In 2004, callers to the San Francisco Bay Area 511 system This suggests that 511 is most often thought of as a source rated the overall satisfaction to be an average of 92.3%. for pre-trip information, and that 511 is less likely to influ- In a 2003 survey, Montana 511 callers identified satisfac- ence trips already under way. tion with the 511 system to be 90.3%. In a 2003 survey, 99% of callers to the Virginia 511 ser- The same Montana survey asked responders how they are vice in the I-81 Corridor indicated they would call the most likely to respond if the 511 system informs them of system again. poor travel conditions. The responders indicated they were In 2005, Arizona 511 customer satisfaction was identified most likely to change the departure times. Responders also as 71%. indicated, however, they were likely to alter their route or In 2005, Washington 511 customer satisfaction was 68%. cancel their trip based on the information. Comparison of User Satisfaction and Frequency of Use In 2005, 21% of the participants in a Washington State survey noted that they modified their trip based on informa- In the Montana detailed 511 customer survey conducted in tion received from 511 the last time they called the 511 phone 2003, survey responders were asked to rank their satisfaction system. Although 21% may not seem like a large value, it with several components of the 511 system on a scale of 1 represents a considerable change in travel patterns, espe- to 5 (1--not satisfied, 5--very satisfied). The average of all cially considering that the question specifically asked about responses ranked all components of the 511 system at 4 or the last time the responder called 511 (as opposed to ask- above (either satisfied or very satisfied). The highest ranking ing whether they have ever modified their trip based on 511 component of the 511 system was the "Usefulness of the Ser- information) (Washington State Department of Transporta- vice," which received an average score of 4.45. However, the tion 2005). same survey asked those responders who had used 511 how many times they used the system in the past 6 months (from In the same Washington State 511 survey, 87% of January 2003 through June 2003). The number of times each responders indicated that they are likely or very likely to caller used 511 are summarized in Figure 14. use 511 again. Washington State Department of Trans- portation (WSDOT) tracks the caller identification (ID) Summary of 511 System Content of incoming 511 calls. Roughly 50% of incoming calls include a caller ID value and can be used to measure When callers use 511 phone systems, they receive audio whether callers are repeat callers. WSDOT has found that messages or are linked to additional services such as transit typically 55% to 60% of the calls with caller ID are callers or tourism call centers. Therefore, the type of information who make at least two calls per month to 511. Some rural and level of detail that can be relayed to a caller is limited by cellular providers deliver a caller ID related to a cell tower what a caller can understand without any illustrative refer- and therefore the number of repeat callers may appear to ences (as opposed to Internet sites that may convey images, be higher than the actual number. A caller, however, also maps, or other visual displays) and can retain in memory. may call from his home phone, work phone, or cell phone, and therefore the use of caller ID may underestimate repeat Based on a review of the content of operational 511 phone calls. Repeat caller use of the 511 system indicates satisfac- systems, the content of 511 systems typically fits into one of tion and regular use of the system, rather than spontane- the following categories (this categorization of content does ously experimenting with the system. not imply menu options; for example, one menu tree in a 511 system may disseminate traffic and road conditions): Surveys of users of the San Francisco Bay Area 511 (Travel Info) system show that callers are frequently repeat Reports of events and alerts causing some impact to callers to the system (Metropolitan Transportation Commis- the road sion 2004). About 55% of callers indicated that they altered Reports of existing current traffic situations their trip in some way based on information received from Reports of weather or road conditions the 511 system. Transit information

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23 FIGURE 14 Montana survey results on the number of times callers used 511. (January 2003Summer 2003). 511 Reports of Events and Alerts tative descriptions of the flow along segments of road (e.g., stop-and-go traffic, slow traffic, or free-flowing traffic). The most common information that is disseminated over 511 Also, the Florida DOT (FDOT) operates the My Florida phone systems includes notification of construction, crashes, clo- 511 system, which allows users to establish an account and sures, or other events. 511 phone systems work well to describe predefine up to 10 different routes (profiles). These profiles the route, starting point, and ending point of the event. can be accessed when the user dials 511 to receive real- time traffic information. Although construction and maintenance activities are offered on every 511 system, only a few 511 phone systems Outside of these and a few other example systems, little tested appeared to have detailed construction and main- information has been disseminated on 511 phone systems tenance activities with daily impacts reported (e.g., most about the current traffic flow situation. report general summaries such as "intermittent lane clo- sures from June 1August 15"). 511 Reports of Weather or Road Conditions 511 Reports of Existing Traffic Situations Reports of weather and road conditions are common on 511 phone systems, particularly in states where severe weather A few 511 phone systems disseminate current traffic con- events occur frequently. The road condition reports are ditions in the form of travel times, speeds, or a qualitative typically either manual entries describing the pavement description of the speed of flow (e.g., "slow traffic" or "free conditions reported by the DOT, or detailed forecasts of con- flowing traffic"). However, the nature of the 511 call cre- ditions based on atmospheric and pavement models. Based ates challenges for dissemination of traffic reports (unlike on survey results, only a few 511 phone systems disseminate Internet websites that are conducive to colored maps to detailed route-specific forecasts of weather conditions. illustrate speeds and travel times). An example of a 511 phone system operating traffic reports is the San Francisco 511 Reports of Transit Information Bay Area 511. Callers to the system may select origin and destination locations and hear travel times. Another exam- Most often, 511 phone systems link to existing transit ple is the Minnesota 511 phone system that presents quali- phone numbers that offer either live operators or recorded