Published August 21, 2007
Volume 15, Number 8

511: Your Source for Bay Area Transit and Travel information

Need to know if there is an accident on the Altamont Pass? Want to join a vanpool? Want to take BART to a baseball game but do not have a train schedule? Get the information you need from 511.

511 is a free phone and Web service that consolidates Bay Area transportation information into a one-stop resource. 511 provides up-to-the-minute information on traffic conditions, accidents and driving times, transit schedules, route and fare information, carpool and vanpool referral services and other alternative travel options such as bicycling. Simply dial 511 on a telephone or access www.511.org online to take advantage of these services.

Transit Information
The Bay Area has many public transportation systems to help you get to your destination. By phone or Web access, you can get information on transit providers, schedules, fares and service announcements. By accessing the 511.org website, and clicking on the Transit tab, you’ll fine additional tools and information to help you plan your travels.

For example, the 511 TakeTransit Trip Planner provides you with transit routes, fares, and schedules for whatever destination you choose. By answering a few questions about where you are going and when you are traveling, the Trip Planner will provide you with a detailed itinerary and calculate your total trip cost and travel time. This tool works in conjunction with the Popular Destinations tool, also found on the Transit webpage. You can search by city or a destination category such as travel hubs, museums, shopping, sport and event venues, and more. Once a selection is made, it links to the Trip Planner tool, which will provide the itinerary for that specific trip.

Also on the Transit website are links to schedules, routes, maps and fares for each transit agency, disabled and senior services information, and Translink Card ordering.

TransLink is a reloadable smart card to pay for transit fares on all AC Transit and Dumbarton Express buses and all Golden Gate Transit and Ferry routes. The credit card-sized TransLink card keeps track of its value and automatically deducts the correct fare (including discounts and transfers) for every transit trip. You can buy a card or add value online, on the phone, at dozens of retail locations, at transit agency ticket offices or at transit stations.

Later this year, BART, Muni and Caltrain are scheduled to join TransLink, followed by SamTrans and Santa Clara VTA. Eventually all Bay Area transit agencies will accept TransLink.

Traffic Information
Whether you are on the phone or on the Web, you can get real-time traffic information from 511. If stuck in traffic, just dial 5-1-1 and say “Traffic” to get the latest information on your commute route. If online, click on the Traffic tab, and you will see the Traffic and Driving Times Map where you can get instant information on all freeways in the nine-county Bay Area region. Click anywhere on the map and find out more details on drive-times, the current speed of traffic, accident or construction reports, and in some areas, real-time streaming video of the selected freeway.

The new Predict-a-Trip is another great online traffic tool where you can query your travel time for certain days of the week and hours of the day via different routes. For example, if you wanted to find out how long it would take to drive from Pleasanton to Alameda on a Tuesday at 3:45 p.m., Predict-a-Trip will show you the typical drive time, via various routes at typical driving speeds for that route, and total miles.

Coming soon, the My 511 online tool will allow you to customize your travel routes and personalize 511 Traffic features and tools for faster information. This tool is currently being tested on the 511.org website for you to try.

511 Rideshare is a free service that helps commuters find other drivers who wish to carpool or vanpool to work. Qualifying carpools can cross Bay Area toll bridges free of charge during commute hours, and those new to ridesharing may qualify for financial incentives or subsidies.

The 511 RideMatch Service is a free Web and phone service that helps match solo commuters with carpools or vanpools. By providing your contact information, your typical arrival and departure times from work, and your preference to drive only, ride only or both, you will instantly receive your Match List with names and contact information for commuters in your area.

In July, the Rideshare program added a CO2 emissions feature to its online Commute Calculator. Now, this tool not only calculates the cost of driving to work alone, but also calculates the amount of emission produced by driving solo. There is also a vehicle class comparison and an estimate of cost savings by carpooling.

According to 511 Regional Rideshare Program spokesperson Kit Powis, Bay Area commuters travel an average of 149 million miles per day, generating some six tons of greenhouse gases. “By joining a carpool or vanpool, commuters can help reduce emissions and ease the increasing problem of overcrowded highways,” says Powis.

Also available on the Rideshare page is information for employers about ways to promote ridesharing at their workplaces such as the Guaranteed Ride Home program and other helpful information.

The Bicycling page on the 511 website serves as a resource for bicycling commuters and recreational cyclists. The bicycling page provides information about purchasing a bike, safety tips, bike maps, tips for taking bikes on buses, ferries and trains operated by over 20 different regional transit providers. They include the following agencies that serve or provide connections to Hacienda: AC Transit, Altamont Commuter Express, BART, County Connection, Tri-Delta Transit and LAVTA Wheels.

Similar to Rideshare, 511 offers Bike Buddy Matching, a service that connects bikers for commuting or weekend rides, and matches experienced bikers with new bikers who need bicycling tips and to learn bike routes.

The BikeMapper online tool works similar to the Trip Planner in that it asks a few questions about your trip, then provides all possible bike routes within the area you specify.

Also on the Bicycling page are announcements about events such as the annual Bike to Work Day, bike classes and other cycling activities.

Bicycling information is also available via the 511 telephone service. Simply say “511”when prompted and a live operator can provide the same information found on the website, with the exception of the BikeMapper tool.

Additional Information and Services
511 has much more information and services available either by phone or online, such as FasTrak, the automated toll payment system that allows drivers to cruise through Bay Area toll plazas at up to 25 miles per hour. Get information and announcements about Spare-the-Air days, surveys, and participation in transit research.

Online, you’ll find links to many other resources including airports, car sharing programs, local travel information services, 511 programs outside the Bay Area, and Bay Area tourist information such as links to local convention and visitors bureaus and Chambers of Commerce.

511 is an invaluable resource to commuters and travelers throughout the Bay Area. Before your next commute to work or trip to an event, call 511 or visit www.511.org to make your travels easier and more enjoyable.


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