511 brings road info to Kansas drivers

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JANET HAMOUS
With the summer travel season upon us, plenty of people will be hitting the roads for a little getaway. Kansas 511 is ready to help make the trip a little smoother. 

Kansas 511 is a new travel information system from the Kansas Department of Transportation. 

By dialing 511 inside Kansas or 1-866-511-KDOT anywhere in the U.S., travelers can get specific road conditions, construction detours and travel weather information for the Kansas State Highway System and the Kansas Turnpike.

Information is available all day, every day. The call is free from a land line phone. For most wireless users, the call will count against their cellular minutes, but no roaming fee should be involved.

As has been evident with recent spring storms, the weather in Kansas can change very quickly. With updates every 15 minutes, Kansas 511 can be a resource to help keep travelers informed about changing conditions.

Road-condition information is entered by KDOT crews across the state. The same road condition information is also available on the internet through KDOT’s Kanroad system at www.kanroad.org.

Q&A about 511…

Q. What is 511?

A. 511 is the new, easy-to-remember telephone number for travel information that provides access, anytime and anywhere to accurate, up-to-the minute information about local/state highways, current travel conditions, and public transportation options.

Q. How was 511 established?

A. In July 2000, the Federal Communications Commission ruled in favor of a petition filed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and assigned 511 to government entities for both land line and wireless telephone services as an abbreviated dialing code for travel information services.

The goal is for each state to have 511, with similar information available in all states, and the different 511 state systems to become inter-connected.

Q. How does 511 benefit travelers and the transportation community?

A. 511 creates an opportunity to better serve customers by providing more and better information with easier access for the caller (one number nationwide).

511 provides a consistent approach to delivering travel information across America and puts a “face” on ITS and transportation operations

By having the best information available and by having access to travel options, travelers can make better and safer choices that will help balance the demand on today’s multimodal transportation systems:

n weather alerts for dangerous storms can alert drivers to get off highways and take life-saving actions.

n provides internal value to DOT and Highway Patrol personnel;

n increases safety, thereby saving lives.

Q. What kind of travel information does 511 provide?

A. Highway information, which may include weather and road conditions, road closures and major delays, and traffic updates, is considered basic 511 information.

States may also opt to include premium 511 information such as additional travel information from the private sector.

Q. How does 511 work?

A. To use 511, motorists will simply dial 511 from a land line or cellular phone and be connected to a computerized voice message system. The system will offer voice response or touch-tone options for users to request road specific travel information and conditions.

511 information may also be accessed at the accompanying Web addresses:

n www.kanroad.org

n www.safetravelusa.com

Q. When is it available?

A. 511 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Q. Is the Road Condition Hotline (1-800-585-ROAD) still available?

A. No, 511 has replaced the Road Condition Hotline.

Q. Is there a charge for 511?

A. Basic travel information (weather and road conditions) is free (or no more than the cost of a local call) for land line telephone users.

Cellular phone users will incur the usual fees associated with any cellular call by their service provider, e.g. air time, depending on the caller’s service plan.

Q. When was 511 deployed in Kansas?

A. The first phase of the 511 system in Kansas was publicly deployed Jan. 15-the 17th statewide 511 system deployed in the U.S. In addition, five metropolitan or regional areas in the United States also offer 511 services.

Phase I of 511 in Kansas will provide road-specific weather (current and forecast) and road-condition information via land line and cellular phones. Phase II will provide additional highway information such as road closures.

Kansas will be the ninth state to deploy 511 statewide.

Q. How much tax money is needed for developing 511 in Kansas?

A. The basic 511 system for Kansas cost $155,000, with $100,000 being paid by a Federal Highway Administration grant for 511 support assistance.

Q. What kind of response has 511 had so far?

A. About 121,000 plus calls have been received since the system was deployed. Call volumes have consistently been higher during periods of inclement weather.

The majority of comments are extremely positive-users like 511 and find it helpful, easy to use, and they like the option of voice or keypad commands.

Many callers said 511 is a great improvement over the Road Condition Hotline-511 is simpler, more complete and quicker to use. People like that they can request the specific information they need and want.

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