The South Dakota Department of Transportation recently celebrated “511 Day” to honor the 27th activation anniversary of its 511 traveler information service.
[Above image by South Dakota DOT]
The agency noted in a statement that South Dakota helped pioneer the nation’s first statewide traveler information telephone service, dubbed #SAFE (#7223) in November 1996. In 2001, #SAFE became 5-1-1; a free service that provides real-time travel information 24/7, including road conditions, closures, construction, incidents, and weather forecasts.
The South Dakota DOT also operates a 511 website at https://sd511.org as well as the SDDOT 511 mobile application for both iOS and Android mobile device users.
The agency took note of some interesting statistics regarding its 511 service over the last two-plus decades:
- Its https://sd511.org website has recorded 25 million user engagements to date;
- The 511 South Dakota service has received over four million phone calls;
- There have been seven million SDDOT 511 mobile app user engagements and 325,000 SDDOT 511 mobile app downloads; and,
- The agency has sent out over three million My511SD alerts via email or text message.
Concurrently, many state departments of transportation across the country are revamping their 511 information service offerings based on the availability of new and different communication channels as well as changes in usage patterns.
For example, the Washington State Department of Transportation is deactivating the phone-based portion of its 511 information service on May 19 due falling demand. For example, in 2009, its 511 phone number received over 2.2 million calls – but by 2022, that number fell to less than 302,000 calls; an 86 percent decrease.
WSDOT pointed to a “number of likely reasons” for the decline in 511 calls – most of them due to new technologies, such as social media applications like Twitter and GPS-based mapping programs like Waze. Going forward, WSDOT’s 511 information service will be available online and via mobile applications.
Conversely, overall 511 system usage – especially in terms of visits to 511-dedicated website – is increasing in other parts of the country for a variety of reasons.
For example, in 2022, the Wyoming Department of Transportation said its 511 travel website – www.wyoroad.info – registered about 2.2 billion site visits for the year; the most “hits” in a calendar year since the department started tracking them several years ago.
Meanwhile, the Kansas Department of Transportation said it witnessed a major spike in its new KanDrive mobile phone application and the Kansas 511 phone system by motorists over the last two months of 2022.
Those usage spikes follow updates the agency made to both of them in October 2022, which included making the KanDrive app available to download as an App on Android and iPhone Operating System or iOS cell phones.
Meanwhile, the Idaho Transportation Department launched a new Idaho 511 App alongside an update to its 511 website, as well as a new version of the 511 mobile application to their mobile devices. However, the agency said the web address, 511.idaho.gov, and phone number, “dial 511,” stayed the same.
In June 2022, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation added live traffic video feeds to the state’s 511 travel information system, while in December 2021 the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation updated its 511PA travel information service to include the locations of electric vehicle chargers and all low bridges over state roads.
And in February 2021, the Arizona Department of Transportation added a new truck-navigation feature to its Traveler Information 511 website to help commercial vehicle operators more easily plan routes through the state.