The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) this month added another new feature to the Bay Area’s 511 traveler information system by integrating two of the most popular 511 features — traffic conditions and real-time transit departure times — with Amazon’s virtual personal assistant, Alexa. Bay Area travelers can now get this information on any Alexa-enabled device, including an Echo, Dot or Tap.
Once an Alexa-enabled device is set up, transit riders simply go to the 511 SF Bay skill page on Amazon and click “Enable,” and then ask Alexa for departure times using their stop ID. Riders can enjoy an extra few minutes at home with the knowledge of when their next train or bus is departing. Riders can say things like, “Alexa, open 511 and get departures at stop 55569” or “Alexa, ask 511 for stop ID 55833.” 511 provides departure times for nearly 20 Bay Area transit agencies, including BART, Muni, Caltrain, AC Transit and more. Transit riders can look up their stop ID in the ‘Transit Departures’ tool on 511.org.
Drivers can ask Alexa for information about traffic conditions before heading out by saying the name of a Bay Area highway, bridge, city, or hotspot (such as an airport, stadium or landmark). The 511 SF Bay Alexa skill provides incidents, road closures, construction announcements and slowdowns. Drivers can say, for instance, “Alexa, open 511 and get traffic conditions on U.S. 101 North” or “Alexa, ask 511 for traffic conditions in the MacArthur Maze.” Traffic-condition locations available on Alexa can be found at 511.org.
“Today, travelers are using new devices and channels to receive information, and digital assistants are on the rise and gaining popularity. We are excited to be the first 511 program in the country to develop a skill for Amazon’s digital personal assistant, Alexa,” says Brooke Fotheringham, 511 Program Coordinator.
MTC in the coming months will explore the 511 system’s capabilities to accommodate other digital assistant platforms or enhancing existing features by introducing new personalization options.
Launched in 2002, the Bay Area’s award-winning 511 service is a one-stop phone and web source for up-to-the-minute traffic, transit, carpool, and parking information. The service is free of charge and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week from anywhere in the nine-county Bay Area. Call 511 or visit 511.org.
511 was developed with the mission to provide comprehensive, accurate, reliable and useful information to meet the needs of Bay Area travelers. The Bay Area 511 service is managed by a partnership of public agencies led by MTC, the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans. It is part of a national network of 511 services promoted by the United States Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems initiative.