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68 3.6.1 Automated Telephone Information should always be provided. Even though participants are sat- about Transit isfied with UTA information provided by customer service, they would like access to information (i.e., recorded infor- In terms of the participants' information needs, the infor- mation) in off-hours. mation most requested is about schedules and trip planning. Specifically, information is requested regarding finding a route, finding services near a particular address, how to reach 3.6.2 Transit Information on 511 a certain destination, bus/train status, and bus/train sched- Hardly any of the focus group participants drive. This is ules. Participants used two sources to obtain this informa- significant in terms of interpreting the participants' com- tion: the Internet (the UTA website) and the UTA customer ments about, and reactions to, the Utah 511 system. Two of service telephone line. However, a few participants men- the six participants had heard of Utah 511--one person had tioned that they obtain better information by calling cus- used it once and the other person is a frequent user. They tomer service rather than trying to obtain the information heard about 511 on a commercial radio advertisement and via the UTA website. saw it in the telephone book. Participants felt that 511 has None of the participants had experience with a transit IVR. very low visibility in their area, and a newcomer would be un- The two concerns raised about IVR systems in general were likely to learn about it. This response is critical in understand- that voice recognition can be a problem and it is sometimes ing if 511 is indeed easier to remember and market (two of the hard to reach an operator with whom to speak. original rationales for providing transit on 511 systems). The study team demonstrated a transit IVR--the Portland, Of the two Utah 511 users, neither is very satisfied with the OR, Tri-Met IVR, which provides a variety of rider informa- system. Their criticisms of the system included that the voice tion and customer service (503-238-7433). The study team recognition does not work well, the transit information pro- played each menu selection on the Tri-Met IVR, which is as vided is not accurate, the menu is not friendly, and the traffic follows: information is out of date when compared to traffic informa- tion provided over the radio. One of the participants familiar 1. TransitTracker (this is the Tri-Met real-time information with 511 questioned how 511 obtains traffic information. system) arrival times for buses and trains; The study team demonstrated Utah's 511 system, which 2. Latest service alerts; provides information on traffic and transit (866-511-8824). 3. Live trip planning assistance; The study team played each menu selection on Utah's 511 4. Comments/suggestions, security concerns, or problems system, which is as follows: with a ticket vending machine; 5. Lost/found; 1. Traffic, 6. Fare information; and 2. Public transit, 7. Administrative offices. 3. Road conditions, 4. Ferries, and After running through all of the menu items, the arrival 5. Surrounding states. times menu item (No. 1) was demonstrated. After this demon- stration, the study team ran through the menu items one The study team played all of the public transit menu selec- more time. tions, which are as follows: Participants were supportive of a transit IVR, although sev- eral people commented that "everything works okay now." 1. Buses, This statement was interpreted to mean that the participants 2. TRAX light rail, were satisfied with calling customer service to obtain infor- 3. Flextrans, and mation they needed. An interest was expressed in real-time 4. Rideshare. information, with a caveat that it "has to be accurate." Gen- erally, participants liked the Tri-Met IVR, especially the menu Each public transit menu selection on 511 had pre- and availability of real-time information. However, a few par- recorded general information about each of these services. ticipants commented that this IVR did not mention how to From anywhere in the public transit menu, a 511 user can reach an operator. say "connect me" to effect a call transfer to UTA's customer Overall, participants are willing to use an IVR rather than service line. ask their question of an operator as long as the IVR informa- When asked how the current 511 system could be improved, tion is accurate and comprehensive. However, the participants the participants offered that the information on the 511 sys- do feel that the option to transfer to an operator if needed tem should be more up to date and accurate, and the voice
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69 recognition should be more sophisticated (including sensitiv- mation on both the UTA customer service line and 511. Fur- ity to background noise). Further, a concern was expressed ther, participants said that providing access to 511 from the regarding the lack of a live operator and the fact that a cus- UTA customer service line, and vice versa, would be a good tomer cannot obtain schedule or trip planning information feature. Overall, most participants would transfer to UTA directly from 511. from 511, and some would support using traffic and transit Participants felt that the ability to transfer to UTA from the information for general trip planning. There was a consensus 511 system is critical. Another comment regarding the transit on the theoretical value of linking and merging traffic and aspect of the 511 system is that any 511 system should have transit information (theoretical because few of the partici- transit information. These comments support several of the pants drive), because some UTA services operate on roads original rationales for providing transit on 511. However, par- that are monitored by 511. This clearly supports the last ticipants did not feel that 511 is more visible or easy to remem- rationale for providing transit on 511--consolidating transit ber than the UTA phone number, which is "RIDE-UTA." This and traffic information on a single phone system. phone number was thought to be memorable and very visible Although generally supportive of the concept of transit (there is a sign at each stop that has the RIDE-UTA phone information on 511, the participants noted that there was no number). These comments do not support the two original real incentive for them to call 511 at this point--they would rationales that 511 is indeed easier to remember and market. prefer to continue calling UTA directly since 511 does not Even though participants did not do a lot of driving, they offer anything of value to them (this excludes traffic informa- were positive about the idea of integrated transit and traffic tion since most of the participants do not drive) that UTA available in one place, or having both traffic and transit infor- does not already provide.