An Awesome Municipal Service: Go 511!

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I drive a decently new car–a 2006. It has the “technology package” of the time with bluetooth phone and voice dialing commands.  But it doesn’t have traffic or anything fancy like that.

I live in Los Angeles.

I ALWAYS want to know the traffic.  

I’ve tried using Siri over my car phone bluetooth.  The connection doesn’t always work and if you ask Siri about traffic it shows you a map.  I think that is a very poor experience. Siri doesn’t seem to know that if I am using Bluetooth it should read me everything. It reads more if I have a head set plugged in.  For traffic though, it always shows a map.

I know a lot of this gets better in iOS 6. 

I don’t want directions every where I am going or to program in destinations as I drive around. I just want to quickly know what I’m getting into or decide to do my own mental routing around it.

Go 511 does this perfectly for me.  After seeing a dozen billboards it finally occurred to me what a great solution this is. I press the dial-button on my steering wheel and from there it it’s all interactive voice response. I can ask about any freeway, hear about traffic and get travel times between major spots.  I can ask about freeways not on my route, if I think I might get over there later.

In one word: awesome.

What really surprises me is that Go511 is a municipal service, provided by LA SAFE, which is run by the Board of Directors of the LA Metropolitan Transit Authority. No offense intended here, but local municipal technology projects are not usually great.

This one is because if found a common problem and solved it elegantly. There are dozens of apps and website for traffic, but a voice-activated one I can use safely in my car is the clear winner.

Try it out when you’re in LA–you’ll enjoy it.

Have you seen other great traffic systems? Or seen other great municipal tech projects? Please share!