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10 CHAPTER 2 Research Approach This chapter describes the research approach used to carry tory established the basis for those comparisons by establish- out the study. The approach featured six major activities. The ing a comprehensive list of all operational 511 systems and a first four activities focused on understanding call center summary of transit participation on each system. strategies at transit and non-transit organizations and inves- The primary activity in developing the 511 system inven- tigating specific transit agencies' decisions and experiences tory was to call each operational 511 system and then docu- with 511 telephone traveler information systems. Based on ment the transit-related information, including transit menu the results of those early activities, the following two addi- items, general or basic transit information (e.g., current ser- tional research activities were identified, focusing on the two vice disruptions, services provided, service areas, hours of op- other primary transit 511 stakeholder groups: eration, telephone number for transit customer service, etc.), automated call transfer to transit agencies' customer service 1. The 511 system administrators (i.e., the organizations that lines, and real-time vehicle arrival/departure information. operate the 511 systems, which are not transit agencies in Operational 511 systems were identified in large part by con- all cases), and sulting the running list maintained by the national 511 De- 2. Transit users. ployment Coalition (, as of November 2007). However, since that list is updated only periodically, and since new 511 systems are coming on 2.1 Literature Review line every few months, the operational status of a number of The literature review was conducted primarily in support of 511 systems was also tracked by monitoring various publica- Task 1, which documented overall customer information tions, including daily and weekly transportation technology strategies utilized by transit agencies as well as specific call cen- e-mail newsletters. In fact, new 511 system launches and the ter strategies employed by transit in comparison to those em- research team's 511 inventory work continued through the ployed by private companies and other government organiza- writing of this report in March 2009. tions (e.g., Department of Motor Vehicles). The literature Because the calls to the 511 systems were made from out- review, including general (non-transit-specific) call center ref- side the service areas of the individual systems, it was nec- erences played a key role in the development of the interview essary to use the traditional 10-digit phone numbers, the questionnaire used to collect information for Tasks 1, 2, and so-called "back door" numbers in the 511 community, for 3 (the 29 transit agency case studies). Information was also ob- access to these services. Many of these numbers are listed tained from other sources including TCRP reports, relevant on the FHWA's 511 web page ( internet sites, and conference proceedings. Specific informa- locations/location_numbers.htm). tion was collected on 511 systems to determine system details, To obtain the most accurate and current information, as interoperability, and cost-benefit information. well as to establish first-hand familiarity, the research team felt it was important to review each operational 511 system directly, by calling it and working through the menu items. 2.2 National Inventory of The results of that research were cross-referenced against the Operational 511 Systems findings of the FTA in their own transit-related 511 inven- This inventory was conducted in support of Tasks 2 and 3, tory. The latest update of the FTA inventory work was com- which analyzed how transit agency call center approaches and pleted in July 2007 and is documented in "Profiles of 511 experience vary according to 511 participation. This inven- Traveler Information Services--Update 2007."(3)