When this project began at least 300 telephone numbers existed for traveler information systems throughout the United States. To overcome the confusion caused by this array of traveler information numbers, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a national assignment of a singe easy-to remember three digit dialing code, N11. On July 21, 2000, the FCC assigned 511 as a the nationwide telephone number for ITS traveler information. It should be noted that the 511 number assigned to government entities is for both wireline and wireless telephone services. In addition, the USDOT provided up to $100,000 per application to assist in implementation of 511 systems. This funding was made available starting in FY2000 and is available for a three-year period. A total of up to $5 million in Federal funds has been made available for assistance with 511 conversions.
Several ENTERPRISE members and other states that are prospective members planned 511 deployments. ENTERPRISE states that are also CARS Pooled Fund members developed 511 voice responsive systems driven by fully automated XML linkages from statewide and multi-state traffic and travel event databases. NMSHTD may have funded additional CARS 511 software development on top of regular CARS Pooled Fund contributions.
This proposed ENTERPRISE project has complement that effort by dealing with the multitude of less technical issues surrounding 511 roll out. It also provided a platform for leveraging additional federal funding of $100,000 per state by adding to critical mass for actual deployment. Other ENTERPRISE states that are not CARS members or who are pursuing other 511 approaches may have also benefited as these findings apply to all 511 systems, e.g. Arizona’s HCRS.
At least two ENTERPRISE member states had already implemented statewide IVR (interactive voice response) traveler information services – Arizona and Minnesota. Other non-ENTERPRISE states had also gained experience implementing 511 services, including Missouri (Branson), Kentucky, Utah, the Greater Detroit Region, and the San Francisco Bay Area. With many other states and regions preparing for deployment, there was a great need for collective knowledge and deployment guidance in order to effectively use available funding.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), in conjunction with many other organizations including the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), with support from the USDOT, had established a 511 Deployment Coalition. The program kicked off in January 2001. The goal of the 511 Coalition was “the timely establishment of a national 511 traveler information service that is sustainable and provides value to users.” The intent was to implement 511 nationally using a bottom up approach facilitated by information sharing and a cooperative dialogue through the national associations represented on the Policy Committee.
Finally, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont were interested in joining in this effort with the ENTERPRISE states. Several Universities in New England pursued a joint study effort to research and evaluate similar regional implementation issues proposed by ENTERPRISE. Five specific tasks had been developed by NETC which provided the framework for research and evaluation and include the following:
– Define traveler information for the participating ENTERPRISE states.
– Research national and other state initiatives.
– Inventory ENTERPRISE states to determine the traveler information system that is available.
Review Federal/State/Regulatory Requirements.
– Review requirements in the ENTERPRISE states.
Identify Delivery Mechanisms
– List available technologies – Early adopters
Identify Business Plan for the Enterprise states
– Provide two to three alternatives. Make recommendations on a plan.
Proposed tasks addressed FCC issues, telecom issues, costs, revenues, content, sponsorship, quality control and standards efforts for rural areas. ENTERPRISE members had suggested that the group can better negotiate with the local phone monopolies using collective weight rather than individually.
The proposed strategy for this project was to contact states and other agencies that have experience in developing and deploying 511 traveler information services and to research available information. ENTERPRISE members provided the main input through a series of workshops and phone/email interactions. The knowledge gained from this process was assembled and evaluated to provide a joint plan of action addressing the major institutional/business model/geographic areas.