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511 Traffic Information Moves Into Fast Lane. 26/4/04
Drivers in the Bay Area of California have become the first in the US to be offered point to point driving times in an urban environment. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has added on-demand, point-to-point driving times to its 511 phone service and new traffic Website, offering detailed information on traffic conditions through a toll-free 511 system.

Tapping data from toll transponders and constantly-updated information from Caltrans, the 511 Driving Times feature informs commuters the current travel time between cities or major landmarks in the Bay Area, and if there are any incidents on the route.

Over the next year, the service is expected to be expanded regionwide and will be available for all major Bay Area highways and bridges. "We're continuing to install equipment on more routes," explained Michael Berman, MTC's 511 Traffic Project Manager. "The next phase will include U.S. 101 from San Francisco to Santa Rosa, U.S. 101 and Interstate 280 on the Peninsula, the Dumbarton and San Mateo-Hayward bridges, and Interstate 580 from Albany to San Rafael."

To identify origin and destination points, callers say the name of city,landmarks, or highways such as "I-80" or "Nimitz Freeway." For larger cities, the automated operator will prompt callers to refine their starting and ending points for requested locations. 511 will then provide the current driving time between these points. The system also will provide an alternate route and its current drive time if an alternative is available.

"The most frustrating part about being stuck in traffic," noted MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler, "is not knowing how long you'll be there. If you want to know how late you're going to be for work, or when you're going to get home, you can just call 511 anytime, day or night. It's easy, and it's free. We're providing a level of service that hasn't even been attempted anywhere else. So we're prepared to deal with bugs in the system. We really want people to test drive 511 Driving Times and give us feedback on their experience. It will help make the system work better for everyone."

The service, originally launched in December 2002, currently receives over 45,000 calls per week.

In a separate move, Navteq, the US-based digital map provider, is hoping to launch its real-time traffic information service this Autumn to the North American market. The company is claiming a first in the provision of bespoke navigational information on the move and says that it will initially apply to selected regions and on only certain 2005 model vehicles.

For further information contact:
John Goodwin, +1-510-464-7862, or Randy Rentschler, +1-510-464-7858, both of Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)
or
Laura Richey of NAVTEQ, +1-312-894-7127, laura.richey@navteq.com , or Bob Richter for NAVTEQ, +1-212-802-8588, bob@richtermedia.com
 
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For further information contact:
Samir El-Hage, Engineering Director, ATT Group, Beirut. Tel: #961 1 273675, Mob: #961 3 721393, E-mail: selhage@attgroup.net