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511 Travel Information Line Improvements


511 can’t understand me. Why not and what’s being done about it?

The voice activation system of 511 is sensitive enough to pick up voices and background noise. Callers with a radios on, in a room with other conversations going on, or other background noise may not be understood.

If rolling up the windows or turning down the music doesn’t help, another option is for callers to use the 511 touch-tone option. Simply press the pound sign (#) once in the system and you are directed which buttons to push for the information wanted.

No matter what I do, or how I say it, I can’t get the 511 system to give me information about State Route 16. Why?

There are two menus available to get information about traffic on 511.

  • “Incidents” – provides information about roadway conditions and construction anywhere in Washington.
  • “Traffic” – gives real-time traffic information for highways in Seattle and I-5 in central Tacoma only.

Sometimes callers don’t realize they’re in the Traffic menu. An integrated menu selection is being tested in the touch-tone option of 511, which takes the guesswork out of which menu to pick.

Why are there two separate menus for traffic conditions?

  • Information provided in “Incidents” is fed into a computer software system by WSDOT employees. Travel Alerts Web page 
  • Information provided in “Traffic” is picked up from detector loops in the pavement of the highways. At this point, information from the loops are only available on 511 in the Seattle area and I-5 through Tacoma.  This information is also seen on the flow map.

What are the different types of information that can be found on 511?

511 offers information for a variety of travel topics, including: 

  • WSDOT Ferries
  • Mountain pass conditions
  • Roadway conditions and construction information anywhere in the state
  • Real-time traffic information for Seattle highways and I-5 in Central Tacoma
  • 511 for Oregon

In addition, through the voice-activated side of 511, callers can get additional information such as:

  • Express lane status
  • Public Transit telephone numbers
  • Passenger rail telephone numbers 
  • Airline telephone numbers
  • Travel telephone numbers for adjacent states, provinces and cities
  • Weather

Is it safe to call 511 while driving my car?

If possible, have a passenger make the call. If you must call while driving, follow Washington law and use a hands-free device.

Nationwide research has shown that there are many things that can distract a driver, such as food, music, children, passengers, cell phones, etc. So be careful and don’t let yourself get distracted.

Comments or Suggestions?

We want to hear from you. We know the system isn’t perfect but we think it’s getting better all of the time. We credit the improvements to your ideas. Let us know what you think. Email