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8 CHAPTER 1 Overview The telephone number reserved by the Federal Communica- In 1999, the U.S. DOT petitioned the FCC to designate a nation- tions Commission (FCC) for local telephone traveler informa- wide three-digit telephone number for traveler information. At the time, over 300 different telephone numbers were found tion is 511. Many states and regions around the country have to be providing some sort of highway- or public-transportation- implemented 511 telephone systems for communicating trav- related information to the public. On July 21, 2000, the FCC des- eler and transit information. This project investigated national ignated 511 as the national travel information number. The FCC experience with transit content and information on 511 tele- ruling leaves nearly all implementation issues and schedules to state phone information systems (this project did not investigate the and local agencies and telecommunications carriers. There are no "co-branded" 511 websites that many 511 administrators have federal requirements and no mandated way to pay for 511. Consis- tent with the national designation of 511, the FCC expected that implemented). This study included the following: transportation agencies would provide the traveling public with a quality service that has a degree of uniformity across the country. An examination of transit agency customer information strategies and the role of call centers in those strategies, Very few of the 511 systems currently in operation through- Call center technologies and techniques utilized outside out the United States provide an option for a caller to speak the transit industry, with a live operator. Most of the systems are entirely automated Experiences of transit agencies with 511 telephone systems, and provide information either through voice recordings or Experiences of 511 system administrators with transit con- computer-synthesized voice. The national 511 Deployment tent, and Coalition guidance recommends that all roadway information Transit customer perceptions of automated telephone be automated. Their guidelines generally assume automated information in general and 511 in particular. approaches to 511.(2) However, the details of 511 implemen- tation are left to local implementers. There is no mandate that This report synthesizes the results of these investigations to 511 systems cannot include operators. Guidance from the 511 provide a comprehensive picture of the state of the practice and Deployment Coalition recommends that every 511 system presents conclusions and recommendations that will assist include, at a minimum, the following information for every both transit agencies and 511 system administrators in making transit agency within the 511 service area: decisions about transit content on 511. Chapter 1 of this report provides an overview of the research A description of the agency's service area, study. Chapter 2 summarizes the research methodology. Chap- Schedule and fare information, ter 3 presents the study findings. Chapter 4 presents conclusions Information about service disruptions, and and recommendations. A connection (call transfer) to the agency's customer service center. 1.1 Background Some transit systems expressed concern that 511 deploy- The 511 telephone number is intended to become the na- ments could affect their call-center operations with a significant tionwide, multimodal transportation (transit and traffic) increase in calls, that is, from calls transferred from the 511 sys- telephone information resource. These systems are designed tem to their call center. The concern was that these additional to provide improved customer information for travelers, in- calls could either necessitate hiring additional staff members cluding transit customers. The following excerpt is from the (thereby increasing costs) or result in degraded service quality May 2005, 511 National Progress Report (1): and customer complaints.