Call 511 - Frequently Asked Questions

GENERAL SYSTEM QUESTIONS

Is 511 really free?
How do I get help?
How do I give my feedback on the 511 service?
How do I use the system if I am hearing-impaired?
How do I use the system if I am speech-impaired?
What if the system is busy when I call?
Why do I not reach the 511 System when I dial 511?
When should I call 911?

MY 511

How do I learn more about and get help with MY 511?

511 DRIVING TIMESSM

In the 511 Driving Times feature, what can I say as my origin or destination?
For which cities can I better refine my starting or ending point? What are their "refine points"?
Where are driving times available?

TRAFFIC CONDITIONS

For which highways, bridges, cities and hot spots can I obtain traffic condition information?
Is there a way to receive traffic incident information on a smaller scale, so that I don't have to listen to all the incidents on a roadway when I am only traveling on it for a short distance?
Why didn't 511 tell me about the incident that slowed my trip?

511 DEPARTURE TIMES (REAL-TIME TRANSIT)

How do I learn more about and get help with 511 Departure Times?

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Which public transportation agencies are included in 511?
Which paratransit agencies are included in 511?
What if I don't know which transit or paratransit agency I need?
Why was I transferred to the wrong public transportation agency?
How do I prevent from being transferred to a public transportation agency?
What do I do when I need public transportation information after hours?
All I want to do is talk to a live operator. What do I do?

GENERAL SYSTEM QUESTIONS

Is 511 really free?
Yes. 511 does not charge for any feature on the 511 phone service or 511.org. In some cases, depending on your wireless agreement, you may receive charges from your mobile phone company. For example, wireless plans that bill for local calls such as from area code, 415, to area code, 510, may receive local tariff charges when dialing 511. If your plan does not include local tariff charges, then your 511 calls will continue to only cost you the minutes used during your calls. Additionally, if you sign up for MY 511 alerts, charges may be incurred when receiving text message alerts. Consult your wireless agreement or contact your wireless provider to understand whether you will incur these charges.

How do I get help?
If you ever need help during your call, just say, "Help" or "What are my choices?" at any time to hear your options for the current menu. To return to a previous menu, say, "Go back." To start over, say "Main Menu."

How do I give my feedback on the 511 service?
The best way to give feedback is to use the suggestions form. An alternate way to give feedback is to press 77 at any time during your call, and the 511 system will prompt you to leave a recorded message. Periodically, we will offer phone surveys on the system as a way to get feedback.

How do I use the system if I am hearing-impaired?
Hearing-impaired callers can dial 711 and access all of the 511 transportation information. 711 is the national three-digit number for access to Telecommunication Relay Services (TRS). Callers dial 711 and ask the operator to connect them to the 511 service. Once connected, the 711 operator acts as a go-between, relaying callers' requests for travel information to the 511 system and then providing system responses back to the callers.

How do I use the system if I am speech-impaired?
Speech-impaired callers can use the touch-tone back-up system to access all of the 511 transportation information. To use touch-tone selections just press "0" at each menu. The system will list the menu options with a corresponding number. You simply press the number that matches your choice. Every time you reach a new menu or choice, you must press zero to hear the touch-tone options, but once you've learned the touch-tones, there is no need to press zero to hear the list of choices; just enter your selection. The number to enter will correspond to the order that the menu options are presented. For example, if you are listening to the Traffic menu and want to use 511 Driving Times, you will hear it listed as the second item. Therefore, by pressing 2 you will gain access to 511 Driving Times. The only time this will not work is where we have long lists such as with transit and paratransit agencies or a list of cities in Traffic Conditions. These lists begin at 10 as opposed to one. Consequently, to access AC Transit (the first item in the long list) in Public Transportation Agencies, press 10. View a complete list of touch-tone options here.

What if the system is busy when I call?
The system may be experiencing an unusually high volume of calls when you called, so the best advice is simply to call back. We are monitoring call volumes, and if we need to increase system capacity, we will do so.

Why do I not reach the 511 System when I dial 511?
There are two main reasons why you might not reach the 511 System when dialing it.

1) Your telephone company currently does not provide access to 511. MTC has diligently worked on providing 511 on all local phone services. We currently provide 511 access for approximately 95% of the Bay Area. If you can't connect to 511 with your provider, you can alternatively dial 888-500-INFO (888-500-4636) toll free.

If your telephone provider does not support 511, please call or write your vendor and ask when they will be implementing 511. You can view a form letter that requests 511 access for your company here. Also, please contact us with the name of your vendor in order to help us to become aware of your situation and allow us to lend support, if possible.

2) You are calling from a centralized phone system such as a Private Business Exchange (PBX). PBXs are systems that allow for four-digit calling within your business. MTC wants to ensure that you and your colleagues will enjoy access to 511. Therefore, you may need to take a few simple steps to program your PBX to allow for 511 calling. If you need assistance with any programming questions, please call your PBX vendor.

When should I call 911?
511 Freeway Assist provides only non-emergency roadside assistance. Visit the California Highway Patrol's site for information about when to call 911.

MY 511

How do I learn more about and get help with MY 511?
Visit the MY 511 frequently answered questions page for more information.

511 DRIVING TIMESSM

In the 511 Driving Times feature, what can I say as my origin or destination?
You can say a city, bridge, or hot spot. A hot spot is a location that generates or has a lot of traffic such as the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza or the San Francisco Airport. View a complete list of everything you can say as a Driving Times origin or destination.

What are the specific cities and refine points where I can better define my starting and/or ending point?
For some cities that have multiple freeways within their jurisdictions we have provided "refine points" so that you may better define your starting and ending point. This means instead of saying the city name you can say the refine point name directly and skip a step in the menu. For example, when the system asks for a starting point you may say, "880 at 98th Street" instead of simply saying "Oakland."

City Refine Points
San Francisco I-80 and 4th Street I-280 and 6th Street Golden Gate Bridge Toll Plaza I-280 and Highway 1
San Jose U.S. 101 and I-880 I-280 and I-680 U.S. 101 and Hwy 85 Hwy 17 and I-280/td>
Oakland I-880 and I-980 98th Ave. and I-880> Hwy 13 and I-580 Hwy 13 and Hwy 24
Fremont Mission Blvd and I-880 Mission Blvd and I-680 Hwy 84 and I-880  
Hayward Hwy 92 and I-880 Hwy 238 and I-580    
Milpitas Hwy 237 and I-880 I-680 and E. Calaveras Blvd.    
Mountain View Moffett Field Hwy 85 and Hwy 237 I-280 and El Monte Road  
Santa Clara  U.S. 101 and Montague Expressway I-280 and Stevens Creek Blvd.    
Sunnyvale U.S. 101 and Lawrence Expressway U.S. 101 and Hwy 237 I-280 and Hwy 85  
Palo Alto U.S. 101 and Embarcadero I-280 and Page Mill Expressway    
Redwood City U.S. 101 and Whipple Ave. I-280 and Hwy 84    
San Mateo U.S. 101 and Hwy 92 I-280 and Hwy 92    
Richmond I-80 and Cutting Blvd. I-80 and Richmond Parkway Richmond Bridge Toll Plaza  
San Leandro I-880 and Davis Street I-580 and Estudillo Ave.    
Bay Bridge Bay Bridge – Oakland side Bay Bridge – San Francisco side    
Benicia Bridge Benicia Bridge – Benicia side Benicia Bridge – Martinez side    
Carquinez Bridge Carquinez Bridge – Vallejo side Carquinez Bridge – Crockett side    
Dumbarton Bridge Dumbarton Bridge – Fremont side Dumbarton Bridge – Menlo Park side    
Golden Gate Bridge Golden Gate Bridge – Marin side Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco side    
Richmond Bridge Richmond Bridge – Richmond side Richmond Bridge – San Rafael side    
San Mateo Bridge  San Mateo Bridge – Hayward side San Mateo Bridge – San Mateo side    

Where are driving times available?

We are continuously working to increase the coverage area for 511 Driving Times. To view current coverage, view the 511 Traffic Map with Driving Times. You can also view an overview of the Driving Times feature here.

TRAFFIC CONDITIONS

What are the specific highways, bridges, cities, and hot spots that I can say to get traffic condition information?
View a list of the highways, bridges, cities, and hot spots that you can say when requesting Traffic Condition information. Please note if you want to refine your search to one direction on a highway you can say, for example, I-80-East or U.S. 101-North.

Is there a way to hear traffic conditions for smaller areas so that I don't have to listen to all the incidents on a roadway when I am only traveling on it for a short distance?
There are two ways to refine your requests for Traffic Condition information. First, add your travel direction to your request. For example, instead of saying, "Interstate 80" say, "Interstate 80 West". This lets you hear only these incidents that affect traffic heading west on Interstate 80. You can also request Traffic Condition information for a particular city.

The second way to get more narrowly tailored information is to use 511 Driving Times. 511 Driving Times, regardless of whether your trip is within its coverage area, always provides you with traffic condition information customized for your specific trip. Therefore, if your trip is from San Francisco to San Jose, you will only hear traffic incidents for the section of U.S. 101 between the two cities. You will not hear incident information on U.S. 101 north of San Francisco or south of San Jose.

Why didn't 511 tell me about the incident that slowed my trip?
In areas where we have speed information, we only play incidents where the traffic is moving less than 40 miles per hour. 511 receives the majority of its incident information from the California Highway Patrol (CHP). The links to the CHP system result in incidents playing almost as soon as they are reported. If an incident wasn't on 511, it may be that you called before CHP had a chance to report it; maybe it was never reported on the CHP system; or traffic was not impacted and was not moving at less than 40 miles per hour. Regardless, 511 is working with CHP to ensure that all incidents are reported to the system in a timely manner.

511 DEPARTURE TIMES (REAL-TIME TRANSIT)

How do I learn more about and get help with 511 Departure Times?
Visit the 511 Departure Times frequently asked questions page for more information

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Which public transportation agencies are included in 511?
511 includes more than 40 public transportation agencies including eight out-of-region agencies that have routes connecting to Bay Area cities. View a list of agencies that you can request in the Public Transportation Agency menu here.

Which paratransit agencies are included in 511?
View a list of agencies that you can say in the Paratransit Agency menu here.

What if I don't know which transit or paratransit agency I need?
From the Transit Agencies menu (accessed by saying, "Transit Agencies" from the Main Menu or the Public Transportation menu) say, "I don't know." The system will respond with, "What city will you be traveling from?" Provide the city name, and 511 will give you a list of transit agencies that serve that city. Select the agency you want and the system will take you to that agency's menu where you can choose from the available options. If you do not select an option, the system will automatically provide you with the most-used agency for the city you requested.

Why was I transferred to the wrong public transportation agency?
It's possible that the 511 system may have misunderstood your selection. The best solution is to call 511 back. It's a free call, and it will only take seconds to make your selection again. If you select an agency and hear the system read back a different agency name, then before you are transferred out of 511, say "Stop," "Go Back," or Press 1 to stop the transfer and make your choice again.

How do I prevent being transferred to an agency that I do not want?
When you request a transit agency, 511 will confirm your request by repeating the agency name it thought you said. Listen to the name, and if it does not match your request, say, "Stop" or "Go back". The system will then provide you with another opportunity to say the transit agency you want.

What do I do when I need public transportation information after hours?
Since transit agencies have different operator hours, it's best that you become familiar with the hours of your preferred agency so you know when to call. If you need transit information after hours, you can always go to the Transit Page at 511.org to find schedules, maps, and other information including our Transit Trip Planner, which allows you to plan your transit trip between two Bay Area localities. Note that the 511 system will tell you the transit agency's hours of operation before transferring your call.

All I want to do is talk to a live operator. What do I do?
Just call 511 and ask for "Transit Agencies" and select the appropriate agency. Once you select the agency you want, you can choose to be transferred to that agency from the list of options. For example, saying "Information" at the AC Transit menu will result in a transfer to an AC Transit operator who can assist you with AC Transit schedules and trip planning. Please be advised that pressing "0" on the system will NOT connect you to an operator; it will instead connect you with our touch-tone system. The 511 service is an automated system and does not have an operator.

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Call 511 for Current Traffic Conditions- cell phone image

Call 511 for Current Traffic Conditions

Get real-time incident and congestion information for your route, including accidents, construction, and special events. Call 511 and say "Traffic Conditions."

 

511 Real-Time Departures

Stop waiting and wondering. Use 511 Departure Times to get free, up-to-the-minute departure predictions for SF Muni and BART. Call 511 and say “Departure Times” or get more information on Departure Times here.

 

MY 511

MY 511 is a free, personalized service on the phone and web that allows you to build your own 511.org home page or bypass phone menu options to get to your customized trip information even FASTER. Stay on top of your commute with personalized MY 511 text messages and e-mail alerts. To learn more and to sign up, go to MY511.org.

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