511 Phone Service FAQ

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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.

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.

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 "*8" at the beginning of your call. The system will list the menu options with a corresponding number. You simply press the number that matches your choice. Once you've learned the touch-tones, there is no need to press *8 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 at the Main Menu and want to use 511 Driving Times®, you will hear it listed as the third item. Therefore, by pressing 3 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 Transit Agencies, press 10. View a complete list of touch-tone options here.

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.

There are three 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. 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.
  3. You are calling from outside the nine county Bay Area, which includes Alameda and Contra Costa in the East Bay; Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma in the North Bay; San Francisco and San Mateo on the Peninsula; and Santa Clara County. If you are calling from outside of these counties, you can still reach 511 by dialing 888-500-INFO (888-500-4636) toll free.

You can call 888-500-4636 to access all of the same traveler information you would get by calling 511.

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

When prompted for a starting or ending point within 511 Driving Times®, you can request a city, bridge, or hot spot. You can view all available starting and ending points here.

You can say a city, bridge, or hotspot. A hotspot 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 511 Driving Times® origin or destination.

For some cities that have multiple freeways within their jurisdictions we have provided "refined points" so that you may better define your starting and ending point. This means instead of saying the city name you can say the refined 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."
Refined Points for Cities:
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
  • CA-87 and CA-85
  • I-880 and I-980
  • 98th Ave. and I-880
  • Hwy 13 and I-580
  • Hwy 13 and Hwy 24
  • Mission Blvd and I-880
  • Mission Blvd and I-680
  • Hwy 84 and I-880
  • US-101 and Broadway
  • I-280 and Trousdale Rd
  • Hwy 92 and I-880
  • Hwy 238 and I-580
  • 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
Redwood City
  • U.S. 101 and Whipple Ave.
  • I-280 and Hwy 84
  • I-80 and Cutting Blvd.
  • I-80 and Richmond Parkway
  • Richmond Bridge Toll Plaza
San Leandro
  • I-880 and Davis Street
  • I-80 and Richmond Parkway
  • I-580 and Estudillo Ave.
San Mateo
  • U.S. 101 and Hwy 92
  • I-280 and Hwy 92
Santa Clara
  • U.S. 101 and Montague Expressway
  • I-280 and Stevens Creek Blvd.
  • U.S. 101 and Lawrence Expressway
  • U.S. 101 and Hwy 237
  • I-280 and Hwy 85
  • I-205 and Tracy Blvd
  • I-205 and W 11th St
Refined points for bridges:
Bay Bridge
  • Bay Bridge - Oakland side
  • Bay Bridge - San Francisco side
Benicia Bridge
  • Benicia Bridge - Benicia side
  • Benicia Bridge - Martinez side
Caldecott Tunnel
  • Caldecott Tunnel-Orinda side
  • Caldecott Tunnel-Oakland 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 San Rafael Bridge
  • Richmond San Rafael Bridge - Richmond side
  • Richmond San Rafael Bridge - San Rafael side
San Mateo Bridge
  • San Mateo Bridge - Hayward side
  • San Mateo Bridge - San Mateo side

View a list of the highways, bridges, cities, and hotspots 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.

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 the 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®. For example, 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.

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 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.

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 511.org to find maps, and other information, which allows you to plan your transit trip between two Bay Area localities.

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," "Go back" or press *9. The system will then provide you with another opportunity to say the transit agency you want.

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 *9 to stop the transfer and make your choice again.

From the Transit Agencies menu (accessed by saying, "Transit Agencies" or "Paratransit" from the Main Menu or the Public Transportation menu) say, "List" for a list of all agencies. You can also search by city by saying "Cities." 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.

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.

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 "Operator" 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. The 511 service is an automated system and does not have an operator.

The best way to give feedback is to use the suggestions form. An alternate way to give feedback is to press *7 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.

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