Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014

Traffic, We’ve Got Your Number – It’s 511

by  Guest
Issue Date: 07/2009

Southern California 511, a free traveler information service accessible by phone and online, launched in June. Now, you can be your own traffic reporter!

[Click on photos to read captions.]

If you have a computer or a phone, you never have to be stuck in traffic again. Alright, never might be going too far, but your life as a traveler in Southern California just got a whole lot easier thanks to the launch of Southern California 511 on June 10.

Southern California 511 is a free phone number and website ( that provides traffic, transit and commuter information to travelers in Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties. (Bike riders, there’s even info for you!) The system is sponsored by the Los Angles County Service Authority for Freeway Emergencies in partnership with Caltrans, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), the Orange County Transportation Authority, the Ventura County Transportation Commission, and the California Highway Patrol.

District 7’s role in 511 is to provide real-time traffic data and road information, such as traffic speed, travel times, photos from CCTVs, and the text on changeable message signs. The data is updated every 30 seconds, so travelers get the most recent information available. No more waiting for traffic reports – you create a customized traffic report for yourself.

The kickoff event was held at Union Station, and featured speakers from the partner agencies and demos of the 511 phone service and the go511 website. About 60 people attended.

“Over the years, Caltrans has built a comprehensive detection, surveillance and management system that collects real-time data on the freeways so the we can effectively monitor, operate and manage the system,” said Deputy Director of Operations Frank Quon at the kickoff. “We’re pleased to be able to contribute that data to Southern California 511.”

The idea behind 511 is that accurate, reliable information empowers you to make smart transportation choices, which allows you to avoid delays and reduces congestion. Let’s say, for example, you’re headed to LAX. You call 511, request traffic information, and learn that the San Diego Freeway (I-405) is crawling and the Harbor Freeway (SR-110) is moving at 50 miles per hour. Chances are, you’ll steer clear of I-405 and hop on SR-110.

Although similar systems are in place all over the U.S., the travel information 511 provides is particularly vital in heavily congested regions like Southern California.

“Building new freeways is not the way to beat traffic,” said Metro Chairman Ara Najarian. “We don’t have the money or the land. But thanks to freeway monitoring and other technology, we do have real-time information on traffic bottlenecks so we can avoid getting stuck. We can also steer commuters to carpools and vanpools.”

Both the 511 phone service and website are being fine-tuned. In the coming months, new features will be added, such as accessibility on mobile devices and Spanish voice recognition. In the meantime, travelers are encouraged to use the system before and during their trips (remember: hands-free cell calls only) and leave feedback suggesting improvements.

So, the next time you’re tempted to kvetch about congestion, don’t complain – go 511 and outsmart traffic.


â–  Listen to a 511 phone call requesting traffic info [audio clip]

â–  Southern California 511 website:

â–  More about the history and function of 511: