Links 511 Service With Hearing-, Speech-Impaired Travelers
711 Relay Delivers On-demand Traffic, Transit,
Carpool, Bike News
and speech-impaired people can now use the Bay Area's popular new
511 traffic and traveler information service by dialing another
easy-to-remember, three-digit number - 711. The breakthrough is the
result of a partnership between the Metropolitan Transportation
Commission (MTC), which developed and manages the Bay Area 511
service, and the California Relay Service, which operates the 711
service for hearing- or speech-impaired callers. The toll-free 711
number replaced the old 800-735-2929 number previously used by
hearing- and speech-impaired Californians.
Dialing 711 will connect callers
to the California Relay Service, which provides access to TTY
machines (or TDDs for telecommunications devices for the deaf) that
allow hearing- and speech-impaired persons to communicate directly
with voice phone users. Callers simply ask for 511 service and
inform the 711 operators exactly what travel information they want -
from traffic conditions to transit schedules to carpool or bicycling
information. The 711 operators will access the data from the 511
system and relay it to hearing- or speech-impaired callers
throughout the Bay Area.
"I'm very excited that 511 is
now accessible to the speech- and hearing-impaired community with
the completion of the link with 711, the California Relay
Service," said Janet Abelson, El Cerrito City Councilmember and
chair of MTC's Elderly and Disabled Advisory Committee.
Ann Flemer, MTC's deputy director
for operations echoed Abelson's comments, saying, "We're really
pleased to have the 711-to-511 relay in place. MTC is committed to
improving mobility for all Bay Area residents, and this partnership
brings the power of the 511 system to thousands more people."
MTC introduced the 511 service,
with a companion Web portal at <www.511.org>, in December 2002
to provide up-to-the-minute, on-demand information for transit
riders, drivers, carpoolers, vanpoolers, and bicyclists throughout
the Bay Area. The Bay Area's 511 service is the first comprehensive
service of its kind in California, and has served as a model for
other regions that will be launching their own 511 systems.
"If you're a driver, 511 will
tell you if there's a delay or road closure, and you can decide to
take an alternate route or leave a little later," explained
project manager Emily Van Wagner of MTC. "Public transit riders
can find out which route to take; when the next bus, train, or ferry
is scheduled to run; or how much the fare will be." Van Wagner
went on to describe the flexibility of the 511 service. While the
default mode is a state-of-the-art, voice-enabled phone system,
there's a traditional touch-tone option as well - just press
"0" at each menu prompt. This makes 511 convenient for
callers who can hear but have difficulty speaking.
MTC's online transit planning and
information service - now available at www.transitinfo.org - is
being expanded to cover all Bay Area transit operators and will
migrate to the 511.org web site this spring. Also available later
this year - via both phone and Web - will be a service providing
actual travel times from point to point along key freeway routes.
The Bay Area rollout of the 511
service is the result of a partnership between MTC, the California
Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the California Highway
Patrol (CHP), dozens of the region's transit and paratransit
operators, and RIDES for Bay Area Commuters Inc - which supplies
carpooling, vanpooling, bicycling, and other commute option
information, including information about transportation to airports.
Much of the 511 system's traffic information is provided directly
via CHP reports, allowing 511 to tell drivers about an incident
MTC and its public and private
partners began developing the 511 system for the Bay Area in 2000,
when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted exclusive
use of the 511 phone number to state and local transportation
departments to distribute traveler information. The FCC in 2000 also
mandated that all telecommunications carriers in the U.S. implement
711 service to make access to Telecommunications Relay Services
quick and convenient.