What is a 511 Traffic System?

Date posted: 09/05/2012

by Melissa Crumish on
in Safety & Driving

4392 What is a 511 Traffic System?

The 511 traffic system allows you to access up-to-the-minute road information via phone or Web for your particular state or city.

There are no statewide blanket reports. Instead, through 511 you can access information for specific routes on weather, road conditions, traffic, and public transportation interruptions.

The History of 511 Traffic Systems

Before the 511 system was implemented, there were more than 300 different phone numbers for travelers to call for information about road closures, weather, and traffic situations. Instead of assisting, the wealth of numbers only confused.

Realizing a need to simplify the system, the Department of Transportation (DOT) petitioned the Federal Communications System (FCC) to designate one uniform number to dial for road updates and weather information.

In July of 2000, the FCC designated 511 for traffic update service. This system, while still evolving, currently services the following states and metropolitan areas:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • ARTIMIS (Northern Kentucky – Cincinnati)
  • Colorado
  • Eastern Sierras, California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Inland Empire (Southern California)
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Los Angeles
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Sacramento – Northern California
  • St. Louis
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

How the 511 Traffic System Works by Phone

You can access the voice-activated system for your state or area by dialing 511. A voice will then prompt you on how to fetch your desired information. Depending on your state or area, you may have access to all or some of the following reports:

  • Amber alerts
  • Weather conditions
  • Travel times on interstates and main traffic routes
  • Road construction updates
  • Real-time traffic reports
  • Bridge and tunnel information
  • Rest area and welcome center locations and amenities
  • Public transportation information
  • Access to 511 systems for neighboring states

All basic travel information is free. Some 511 systems may charge a small fee to access information on special events, parking, route planning and general tourist information (dining, lodging, attractions). You will be alerted of any charges before accessing.

511 on the Web

Some states and cities also have 511 Web pages. Many online sites, in addition to the information listed above, also offer maps with camera icons. By clicking the icon you can access a live roadside camera view of a particular section, allowing you to instantly gauge the current traffic situation.

In addition, some states and cities now offer 511 Smartphone apps.

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