Use of 511 Traveler Service system grows
by nearly 40 percent in 2008-09
Idaho residents statewide used the 511 Traveler Information Service nearly 40 percent more the past winter driving season than ever before. More than 2.1 million 511 system inquiries were recorded – the system includes high- and low-bandwidth Web capabilities, and a phone system. New this year is a mobile Web site for Internet-enabled cell phones.
“I attribute the great success to a team effort,” said ITD 511 system manager Alison Lantz. “It starts with the maintenance crews in the districts providing scheduled road condition reports twice daily on week days, once a day on weekends and holidays and as conditions change, seven days a week from November to April. They do an excellent job.”
The dedicated staff at the 24/7 State Communications Center in Meridian, along with staff in some districts, then take the road condition reports and enter the data and information about road closures, crashes and road conditions into the 511 system.
In some areas, Lantz says, the district maintenance crews really go the extra mile.
“For example, in District 4 the maintenance foremen have laptops (with wireless air cards for Internet service) mounted in their trucks and they update their own road reports between scheduled road report times.”
The Office of Communications also devoted considerable time and effort the past year to promote the 511 service to the media and others as a source for road condition information statewide. ITD Public Information Specialists Reed Hollinshead and June Sparks visited with Treasure Valley media outlets in late November and early December 2008, and every road condition or project-related news release included information about using the 511 system. In addition, radio and television spots were produced and sent statewide.
The communications office also initiated the most aggressive, far-reaching public outreach campaign since the system was introduced in an effort to explain its new features and increase use.
During the winter driving season of early November through the end of February, ITD’s 511 system recorded 2,114,115 Web and phone uses, easily eclipsing the previous high of 1.3 million the prior season. This also is a substantial improvement over the 349,000 recorded in the 2006-07 season.
The majority of those 511 uses this season came in December, when the Boise area experienced 20 inches of snow and the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area had more than 60 inches of snowfall.
Lantz adds that all 511 information – along with the Web and phone systems and software - is monitored continuously and corrected as needed. Lantz and staff try to respond promptly to all written or verbal comments from the public about the system.
In addition to winter-related reports, district staff members enter roadwork and commercial vehicle restrictions throughout the year. In districts 3, 5 and 6, for instance, axle load limits and/or speed restrictions have been implemented in some locations because of spring breakup.
Note: The high-bandwidth Web site currently uses the Internet Explorer browser, but will begin supporting the Firefox Web browser next week, which is faster than Explorer, according to Lantz, and should enhance system capabilities.