Avoid the nightmare of navigating Bay Area transit and traffic by checking out 511 before setting out on your trip.
511 offers free transit, traffic and even parking information that is easily accessed online, by phone or even with a smart phone app.
"The purpose is to provide transportation information for the nine-county Bay Area 24/7," Kit Powis, 511 communications manager, explained. "It's free and accessible to anyone in the Bay Area."
511 was launched in 2003 as a public program coordinated by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The group works with the California Highway Patrol, California Department of Transportation and roughly 30 transit agencies to provide up-to-the-minute transit and travel information.
Information provided includes a complete list of bus and train schedules and departure times, as well as information on traffic, ridesharing, vanpooling, carpooling, bicycling and parking.
"You can actually get on 511.org and get information about parking and parking rates," Powis said. "There is real-time information available for parking garages in San Francisco. You can also get rates and locations for the rest of the Bay Area."
Several transit agencies, including BART, SFMTA/Muni, SamTrans and AC Transit, offer real-time information about their trains and buses.
"(511) helps people plan their transportation around the Bay Area, especially for daily planning or weekend trips," Powis said. "For the transit users, it helps them determine when they need to finish work or finish their cup of coffee to jump on the train. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of moving around the Bay Area."
The service allows users to choose alternate forms of transportation, such as transit, if roadways are bogged down with heavy traffic.
"We can provide people with alternatives so maybe they don't have to drive somewhere," Powis said. "This will help people manage the roadway so that we have fewer cars on a particular route or fewer cars in general. It allows people to make those transportation decisions that are best for them."
In addition to the abundance of information for individual travelers, 511 offers free consultation services to help companies improve transportation choices for employees.
"If they have a lot of folks commuting from a particular area into their work site, we have people on staff who can help them get people into vanpools or carpools," Powis said. "Our team can help an employer navigate all these issues for putting together a transportation program for their particular work site."
The 511 consultants know about incentives available to employers who set up alternate transportation for employees. Consultants can also recommend options, such as guaranteed rides home, if an employee misses their scheduled ride.
"(511) provides transportation information for the Bay Area in a single source for the public to access," Powis said. "It's easy to use and it's free."
Commuters or employers may access 511 at 511.org or by calling 511 from any Bay Area phone. Follow 511 on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @511sfbay. Employers who would like a free company consultation should go to 511.org and click on Rideshare, Employers and Contact.
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