After the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a dedicated phone number for real-time travel information services, the abbreviated 511 dialing code was founded in July 2000. The FCC reasoned that 511 services could reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and the inefficient use of fossil fuels. 511 would, in turn, improve traveler safety. In 2010, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) mandated a set of requirements for systems that deliver real-time traffic information to the public. States DOTs were asked to comply with this mandate by November 2014. Many states, in addition to maintaining websites, also have dedicated mobile apps and a social media presence (e.g., one or multiple Twitter accounts) that communicate data on traffic and road conditions. Analysis of 511 usage data indicated that the number of phone calls received has dropped sharply since the mid-2000s. Conversely, the amount of traffic handled by KYTC’s websites and mobile apps has increased. Like the phone system, websites and mobile apps garner the most traffic during the winter months. Discussions with KYTC 511 stakeholders revealed that phone system will be less relevant — although necessary to maintain, particularly in rural areas. There was significant consensus among KYTC stakeholders about the strengths of the state’s current approach to delivering traffic information, and a number of improvements were put forward to enhance it in the future. A survey of Kentucky drivers revealed that a majority get their traffic information through digital content providers. Services such as Google and Waze are popular for retrieving maps and driving directions, while television and radio play an important role still, especially for the provision of information during hazardous weather. Government-provided services (i.e., 511, TRIMARC) are less popular among drivers, and only garner a fraction of the traffic of online services and traditional media. Discussions with other state DOTs revealed that many other states are currently in the process of rethinking their 511 and traveler information systems. Many plan to retool these over the next 2–3 years. While there was agreement among state DOTs that they will continue to provide authoritative traveler information, how they carry out this mandate is somewhat unclear.

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The contents of this report reflect the views of the authors, who are responsible for the facts and accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the University of Kentucky, the Kentucky Transportation Center, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the United States Department of Transportation, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. The inclusion of manufacturer names or trade names is for identification purposes and should not be considered an endorsement.

© 2016 University of Kentucky, Kentucky Transportation Center

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