San Francisco’s 511 traveler information service adds emergency text alerts

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The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has announced the newest addition to its award-winning 511 SF Bay service with the launch of a text-based mass notification feature for travelers in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area of California.

The existing 511 SF Bay service is a one-stop phone and web source for up-to-the-minute traffic, transit, carpool, vanpool, and bicycling information, which is free of charge and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from anywhere in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. The 511 SF Bay service is managed by a partnership of public agencies led by MTC, the California Highway Patrol, Bay Area transit agencies, and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

Known as 511 Emergency Alerts, the new addition to the service will inform users, who opt-in to receive alert messages, of transportation emergencies including freeway closures and severe transit disruptions. The new 511 Emergency Alerts service is powered by Nixle, a unit of Massachusetts-based Everbridge Inc., and a leader in mass notification systems, which allows 511 to provide alerts using a reliable and consistent service. Customers who opt-in will receive accurate and timely information gathered from various government sources and sent directly to their mobile devices, free of charge, via SMS text messages. The emergency text alerts will complement the free traveler information 511 SF Bay already provides on its website, phone service, via social media on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as through open data feeds.

“A high-magnitude earthquake, tsunami, terrorist attack or other catastrophe likely would have a significant impact on roadways and transit systems alike,” noted Janet Banner, MTC’s 511 program manager. “We’re using the latest technology to increase travelers’ awareness of how transportation is affected during large-scale emergencies. The 511 service’s accurate and timely delivery of information during an emergency will help protect travelers’ safety, and help them understand their transportation options and to adjust travel plans accordingly if necessary.”

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Adam joined the company in 1994, and has been News Editor of TTT since 2009. In his other role as Circulation Manager, he helped create the original Traffic Technology International distribution list 23 years ago, and has been working on it ever since. Outside of work, he is a keen fisherman, runs a drumming band, and plays an ancient version of cricket.

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