San Diego County residents now have a free tool in the palm of their hands to help them avoid traffic headaches.
Friday, regional leaders unveiled the 511 San Diego mobile application – the only app of its kind in the nation that offers commuters info about all things traffic, including real-time traffic alerts and traffic camera views, FasTrak tolling prices, and Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) bus schedules and fare prices. Through the app, users can find advance notifications of conditions that cause traffic jams, such as lane closures or stalled vehicles, and alternate routes to get around traffic incidents. The text-to-speech function of the app allows users to receive the information without looking at their smartphone screens. (Screen shots of the app are available under the Downloads section of the project web page.)
“People who download the 511 San Diego app, in effect, will have a crystal ball for traffic information,“ SANDAG Second Vice Chair and Poway Mayor Don Higginson said. “For the first time, commuters now have access to integrated traffic data that was previously fragmented and available only to traffic operations managers.”
For ten weeks through July 18, those who download the 511 app can enter prize drawings via the app. The grand prize will be an iPad worth $400. Other prizes include monthly transit passes and toll credits for use on the I-15 Express Lanes.
The free 511 San Diego app covers freeways throughout the region and includes enhanced information for the I-15 corridor (both the freeway and local streets along the freeway) because the I-15 is one of two pilot sites selected nationwide to test the concept of Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) as a tool to reduce traffic congestion. The I-15 portion of the app leverages the integration of real-time traffic information from multiple government sources and travel modes, such as freeway ramp meters, road sensors, and street traffic signals, to generate travel time predictions. These forecasts are based on sophisticated algorithms.
The 511 San Diego app was developed as part of the I-15 ICM pilot project, and it was implemented by multi-agency collaboration between SANDAG, Caltrans, MTS, North County Transit District (NCTD), and the cities of San Diego, Escondido, and Poway. Completion of the ICM system was made possible by an $8.7 million federal grant awarded to the San Diego region in a competitive process.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation selected the San Diego region as one of two ICM pilot sites in the nation (the other is Dallas, Texas). The local pilot project covers a 20-mile section of I-15 stretching from just north of SR 52 in San Diego to SR 78 in Escondido, including the state-of-the-art I-15 Express Lanes and major arterial routes on either side of the freeway. The objective of the pilot program is to demonstrate that integration and management of multimodal traffic information across jurisdictional boundaries can optimize the overall efficiency of the transportation system.
In addition to the 511 San Diego app, there are other aspects of the ICM project that help to smooth traffic flow.
- The ICM system has the ability to coordinate use of the I-15 Express Lanes with freeway signs, 511 traveler information(phone, web, and app), ramp meters, and arterial signals.
- During an incident on I-15 during peak commute periods, timing of traffic signals and ramp meters can be adjusted to better manage traffic entering or exiting the freeway system.
- Advance notification of traffic conditions is broadcast simultaneously through multiple platforms. For example, if a major accident backs up traffic on I-15 for miles, and the Express Lanes are opened to all motorists to relieve the congestion, travelers would be notified via freeway signs and the 511 system.
The ICM and 511 San Diego app are both works in progress. Future upgrades to the app will include real-time transit information and also may include transit parking information, as well as personalized, audible text messages regarding travel times and travel route options. The long-term goal is to create ICM systems along other regional corridors and encourage private sector interest in developing traffic information apps.