Get the Scoop on 511

Metro Atlanta commuters know what it’s like to be on the way to work when traffic suddenly comes to a crawl, or even worse, stops. It can be frustrating and cause workers to be late. Luckily, there are some innovative tools to help avoid traffic or find a new route once in it. You learned about Georgia NaviGAtor in my last blog entry, but did you know there’s a service you can call on your phone from anywhere in the state to get real-time traffic and other travel information? It takes intelligent transportation to a new level and is as simple as 1-2-3, or in this case, having your carpool partner dial 511.

This free phone service, run by the Georgia Department of Transportation, provides Georgians with real-time traffic and travel information and allows you to request roadside assistance 24 hours a day from HERO (in metro Atlanta) or other emergency services. Since its launch in 2007, Georgia’s 511 has been called 4.75 million times, at an average of about 4,500 calls each day. The all-time record occurred during the September 2009 floods in metro Atlanta when more than 39,000 calls came in from people trying to navigate around flooded roads.

The U.S. Department of Transportation came up with and petitioned for this three-digit dialing code back in 1999 because at the time, there were more than 300 travel information numbers across the country. With the creation of 511, states and local agencies are still responsible for their own systems, but now travelers only need to know one number for use anywhere in the U.S., like 911.

Georgia decided to make an extensive 511 system that provides residents across the state with not only traffic information, but also with the ability to easily connect with travel and tourism resources from MARTA and major airports to the Georgia Department of Economic Development and even The Clean Air Campaign. Unlike systems in many other states, Georgia’s 511 travel information system also provides access to live operators 24 hours a day and has the ability to offer estimated travel times in metro Atlanta. This system, which is one of the most utilized 511 services in the country, has proven so successful that it has received various awards, including recognition by the Intelligent Transportation Society of Georgia as the most significant transportation technology advancement of 2007. It also received an honorable mention by the Federal Highway Administration during the 2008 Excellence in Highway Design Awards.

With all of these resources and capabilities, Georgia’s 511 service can be helpful for any driver in the state and those passing through, but it serves as an especially handy resource for commuters, who on a daily basis look for faster and safer trips. For example, drivers can use 511 to find out about construction and traffic conditions en route and decide if they need extra time or want to take an alternative path. Also, when a major accident occurs, it’s better for drivers to avoid that area for safety reasons and regional mobility since a backup behind an incident increases the likelihood of a secondary crash.

Has calling 511 helped you? Tell us your story!

For more information about 511, visit or try it yourself by calling 5-1-1 from any phone in Georgia. Save it in the contacts folder of your cell phone. Or, for those of you with an iPhone, get the 511 app when it’s released on November 29. Apps should be available soon after for Android and Blackberry. Look for the release announcement at


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