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42 counties. The total size of the CATS service area is 445 square tomers to call 511, only to be transferred out of 511 to CATS miles, with a population of about 681,000. CATS is currently customer service. planning a regional transit system which will include bus rapid transit, light rail, commuter rail, and expanded bus service Outlook. Overall, CATS is positive about 511, but does within a six-county area. (40) not seem to view the system as being of any real consequence The North Carolina statewide 511 system is operated by to them. They have no specific objectives they are trying to the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the accomplish with 511, rather, they simply wanted to be a good system became operational in August 2004. CATS appears as regional partner and get involved. CATS summed up their one of several transit agencies listed under the buses option 511 participation as "painless and not a big deal." They did in the main menu selection for public transportation. Infor- not identify any reasons why other transit agencies should not mation and options related to CATS are limited to a short, participate in 511. The only advice offered to other transit recorded message identifying the phone number and hours agencies is that if they (the transit agency) don't have their of operation for CATS' own staffed customer service phone own IVR, and if their 511 sponsor is willing to add transit IVR line and an option to transfer to that service. functionality, 511 might be a real resource and opportunity In addition to their staffed customer service, CATS oper- for them. ates their own IVR system. CATS reports that 90% of their total incoming customer service calls are handled by the IVR, San Diego 511 with only 10% requiring attention from a call taker. CATS IVR information includes scheduled bus arrival times, infor- The San Diego regional 511 system covers San Diego County, mation on transit hubs and the routes they serve, information CA, and it became operational in February 2007. The area on the guaranteed ride home (general description and arrang- MPO, SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) ing a ride), and information on other transit services (vanpool, led a partnership of public agencies in developing, and now paratransit, fares and passes, locations of printed bus sched- operating, the regional 511 system. Partner agencies include ules, and lost and found). the California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Transportation, Metropolitan Transit System (MTS), North Rationale for participation. CATS' motivation for par- County Transit District (NCTD), and San Diego SAFE (Service ticipating in the 511 system was to "have a place at the table" Authority for Freeway Emergencies). San Diego 511 provides and to be a good, supportive partner to the 511 implementer, up-to-the-minute information on traffic conditions, incidents the North Carolina Department of Transportation. They did and driving times, schedule, route and fare information for not hope or expect that 511 would impact their own cus- San Diego public transportation services, carpool and vanpool tomer service call volumes. CATS reports that no potential referrals, bicycling information and more. negatives were considered when they were evaluating the 511 Historically, the San Diego region utilized several trans- participation decision. portation telephone information services, a multimodal sys- tem operated by the California Department of Transportation Impacts. CATS has not noticed any impacts related to (Caltrans) as well as two dedicated transit-only information their participation in 511. Although they have seen no statis- lines. The Caltrans system was called 1-800-COMMUTE, tics from the 511 system, they guessed that transfers from 511 and the San Diego system was only one of numerous regional probably account for less than 1% of their total incoming cus- 1-800-COMMUTE systems they operated around the state. tomer service calls. CATS does not contribute financially to Transit information on 1-800-COMMUTE was limited to the 511 system in any manner. transfers to transit customer information lines. The San Diego CATS does not see 511 as any sort of substitute for their 511 system replaced the 1-800-COMMUTE system, which own IVR. Their IVR has real-time access to their scheduling is no longer operational in San Diego, although it continues database, which supports their scheduled arrival times fea- to be used in regions in California that do not yet have 511, ture. They indicated that the 511 sponsors "won't pay for" including Los Angeles. that capability on 511 and even if they would, CATS wouldn't The two consolidated (multi-agency), regional transit infor- feel comfortable turning that responsibility over to 511. mation phone systems consist of an IVR called "Info Express," and another, staffed information service called the "Regional Issues. CATS indicated that the only issue that came up Transit Information Office," which strictly features live oper- when they were arranging their participation with the 511 ator support. Both of these systems continue to operate, and sponsor was the question of whether CATS would list the 511 call transfer options out of 511 lead to them. number on their printed materials. CATS declined to do so, Public transportation is a main menu option on the San feeling that there was no point in encouraging their cus- Diego regional 511 system. Menu and submenu options

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43 within the public transportation portion of 511 consist of the regional, consolidated staffed transit information customer the following: service call center, or to various service- and subject-specific live operators (e.g., lost and found for trolleys). Service dis- Buses; ruption information is not posted on 511, but it is included A selection for lost and found transfers to a San Diego on the regional transit IVR. Transit Store operator; An automated trip planner transfers to the Info Ex- Rationale for participation. MTS cited the following press IVR; three main motivations for their participation in 511: A departure times selection provides automated, real- time vehicle departure time estimates by route, direction, They wanted to be involved in this regional, multimodal and stop, for some bus routes; and system, and they wanted to keep a "place at the table." An operator selection provides a transfer to the Re- They were interested in providing customers an alternative, gional Transit Information Office, which is the regional, easy-to-use phone number, especially for visitors and new- operator-only (staffed) transit information line. comers to the region. A trolleys option with call transfers only, either to a lost They wanted to provide callers in North San Diego County and found or general trolley operator; with a means to make a toll-free, regional transit infor- A Coaster commuter rail service option for call transfers mation call. With the demise of the previous, multimodal only, either to a lost and found, special events, or general telephone information system (1-800-COMMUTE), and Coaster operator; the fact that North San Diego County has a different area A paratransit option that transfers calls to individual ser- code, 511 provided that service. vice providers, referenced by city or agency name; and A commuter trains option that transfers calls to any of sev- When developing their 511 strategy, MTS indicated that eral different commuter rail providers. they considered the following potential negative aspects of 511 participation: Recently, the real-time vehicle departure feature was added and although operational, has not been formally announced or The possibility that call volumes into their own customer advertised. SANDAG, the regional 511 sponsor, estimates that information phone systems would increase, and the times are (as of October 2007) about 70% accurate. They The possible inconvenience to their customers who might note that they have found that the voice recognition on 511 is call 511 only to find out that they needed to transfer to a challenged by cell phone calls made from noisy environments, transit-specific phone system for the information sought. such as some transit stops, and that the touch tone option on 511 works very effectively for the departure times feature. MTS was quick to point out that neither of these potential concerns materialized. When asked why they thought that their Metropolitan Transit System (San Diego). The Metro- call volumes might increase as a result of 511 participation, politan Transit System Provision of MTS provides bus and they indicated that this was presented as a virtual certainty, and rail services directly or through contract with public or pri- seemed to be the "common wisdom" expounded at an early, vate operators in San Diego, CA. The MTS service area is ap- national 511 Coalition meeting. The logic seemed to be that proximately 218 sq mi and includes a population of about 511 would make it so easy to get transit information, there 1.1 million. MTS passenger services include light rail oper- would be a flood of new calls. MTS indicated that over time, ated by San Diego Trolley on three lines with a total of 53 sta- their thinking on potential call volume increases associated tions and 53.5 total miles, 82 fixed bus routes that are operated with 511 participation has evolved. They now view any poten- by contractors (including the San Diego Transit Corporation), tial new transit interest stimulated by 511 as a good thing. and paratransit service provided by MTS Access and ADA Suburban Paratransit. Total annual MTS ridership is about Impacts. MTS indicated that they noticed no 511 impacts 86 million passengers. (41) thus far, other than some relatively minor 511-related cost Information on MTS services is included on the 511 sys- expenditures. MTS does not directly contribute funding to tem, all under the main menu selection for public transporta- 511 operation, but they did devote some staff time in 511- tion. MTS information on 511 is of two types (1) real-time related meetings and spent some money adding 511 references vehicle departure time estimates for select bus routes (the sys- to some of their printed materials. On all MTS informational tem is being expanded to other bus routes and other services, materials, "511" appears and, depending on the context, it is e.g., light rail); and (2) call transfers, either to the regional, sometimes accompanied by other transit telephone informa- consolidated transit IVR (e.g., for automated trip planning), tion numbers.

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44 MTS was asked if the existence of the San Diego 511 system to the Riverside County line and west to the Orange County changed their view on their own IVR system, the regional Info line. The area includes the unincorporated communities of Express automated phone system. MTS stated that they would Fallbrook and Ramona, as well as Camp Pendleton, a Marine consider shifting their IVR functions to 511 when it becomes Corps base. Other cities in the service area include Solana comparable in functionality to Info Express. However, shift- Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, and San Marcos. ing services does not offer much benefit to MTS since they The total population of the NCTD service area is more than already made a considerable investment in the Info Express 800,000. NCTD operates a total of 221 vehicles with 149 system and the potential savings associated with shifting IVR buses, 28 commuter rail vehicles, and 44 demand-response to 511 would be limited to operations and maintenance. vehicles. (42) Information on NCTD services is included on the 511 Issues. Overall, MTS seemed to have no major issues or system and listed under the main menu selection for public concerns with 511, or the process to develop it. However, they transportation. NCTD information on 511 is of two types did briefly note that they believe the regional 511 planning (1) real-time vehicle departure time estimates for a subset process might have been better executed. They felt that there of the bus fleet and (2) call transfers, either to the regional, was lots of "hurry up and wait" time, punctuated with peri- consolidated transit IVR, Info Express (e.g., for automated ods when very quick decisions from the participating agen- trip planning), the regional, consolidated staffed transit infor- cies were required, sometimes without enough deliberation. mation customer service call center, or to their own customer MTS also noted that they felt the San Diego 511 vendor could service call takers. have, earlier in the process, shown greater sensitivity to the NCTD did not change many of their promotional materi- unique needs and preferences of the San Diego region, rather als to include the 511 phone number but does plan to do so in than starting with a 511 model developed for another region. the future. They feel that reeducating their customers on 511 Outlook. Overall, MTS views their 511 participation quite will be a challenge, since the previous regional, multimodal positively. With 511, their customers are provided an alterna- transportation information number (1-800-COMMUTE) is tive, easy-to-remember phone number. MTS participation in deeply engrained in the minds of their customers. They describe 511 discussions strengthened and maintained their commit- this process of reorienting callers to 511 as a "sea change." ment to regional transportation efforts. Most significantly, 511 provided a toll-free transit information number for North Rationale for participation. NCTD pointed to the fol- County. Their previous toll-free number was eliminated with lowing factors as motivating their participation in the regional the demise of the pre-511, regional transportation informa- 511 system: tion phone system (1-800-COMMUTE). They wanted to be a part of this major, regional, multi- Overall, MTS encouraged other transit agencies to at least participate in regional 511 discussions in order to "make sure modal traveler information resource, and they wanted to that transit is at the table, that its issues are considered" and keep a "place at the table." to "make sure they are a gracious participant in the process to They wanted to be a good, supportive partner to the agen- plan and develop 511, regardless of who the lead 511 agency cies deploying 511. is." The only other insight MTS offered that could be con- They hoped that, in the long run, some of their customer strued as suggestions for other transit agencies is that, even if service calls would be diverted to 511. the other transit agencies believe that calls to their customer They wanted to provide customers with an alternative, service line will go up as a result of 511 then they should try easy-to-remember phone number. to view this increased interest in transit as a positive thing and They observed the success of 511 in the San Francisco Bay an opportunity. Area, wanted San Diego to achieve similar success, and The only change in 511 participation that MTS is pursu- NCTD to be a part of it. ing is to expand the real-time vehicle departure feature to add additional bus routes and other services like light and Overall, NCTD stated that "there was no reason to say no commuter rail. to 511 and there was no cost to us. We were a willing partici- pant all the way." NCTD said that none of the potential dis- North County Transit District. North County Transit advantages associated with 511 participation that the research District (NCTD) provides fixed-route and demand-response team asked them about in the interview played any part in (general public and paratransit) bus, commuter rail, and-- their decision to join 511. They said they had "no real reser- starting in December 2007--light rail service in northern San vations and were optimistic." Diego County. NCTD's geographical service area encom- passes 1,020 sq mi of northern San Diego County extending Impacts. Overall, NCTD has not yet identified any changes from Del Mar in the south, northeasterly to Escondido, north as a result of their participation in 511, although they feel that