James Wright and Ginny Crowson on Minnesota 511
Q Why are you looking to enhance these services? What are some of the benefits for the states in implementing these services?
A-Wright Hoping to provide a safer and less congested road system by providing advanced travel information to public.
A-Crowson Same response as Jim's, plus enhancing these services helps us better meet the public demand and expectation for government to provide traveler information. Benefits include directing traffic from unsafe roads; helping reduce traffic congestion; enhancing customer communication; and, building public-private partnerships.
Q What benefits does speech technology provide you in this effort?
A-Wright Speech technology eliminates the need for a large call center to receive and answer all calls. Speech technology should also make the calls shorter as people reach their information faster.
A-Crowson In addition to Jim's response, I would add the speech technology also adds another dimension of safety for travelers using 511 while en-route with their cell phones.
Q How would you envision expanding these services?
A-Wright Expanding nationwide with a goal of providing service to 95% of the population by 2010.
A-Crowson We hope to expand Minnesota's service to offer weather information, connections to other states, more detailed transit information, some level of commercial vehicle information, and potentially some amount of tourism related information.
Q Did you do any testing of the services and if you did what did the tests show?
A-Crowson We had just under one week of beta testing for Minnesota's service. We discovered that voice recognition is a factor of both design and speech technology. We continue to refine both based on actual user input.
Q Will the information be available to folks in any of these states or is it just for a particular state? For example, if I am in Kentucky and driving to Minnesota will I be able to get information about Minnesota while I am in Kentucky?
A-Wright The national goal is to have a consistent set of information services available throughout the nation. Strategies are being worked on to either transfer calls across borders or transfer information.
A-Crowson 511 is being designed to allow travelers to dial just that number for information on any state. As more states implement 511, we'll expand our system in Minnesota to provide callers with either a direct connection to those other states, or at least a 10-digit phone number to dial separately.
Q Who paid for these enhanced services?
A-Wright Generally paid by public sector.
A-Crowson Minnesota is part of an 8-state consortium that is sharing the cost of $950,000 to design and develop the system. In addition to Minnesota, the participating states are Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Vermont.
Q Will there be any charges to users of these services? How about to local governments?
A-Wright If a set of premium or personalized services are offered there may be user charges.
A-Crowson The service is provided free of charge to the public today. Cell phone users will pay for normal airtime and roaming charges according to their wireless service contracts. Premium or personalized services (i.e. hotel reservations, car rental services, etc.) would likely be charged a user fee. Local governments are not charged anything in Minnesota for 511 service.
Q What roads will the service provide information? Interstates? State? Local?
A-Wright Ultimately 160,000 miles of the national highway system will be covered. In the early stages information will be available on corridors and regionally.
A-Crowson Minnesota's 511 service provides information on state routes only. This includes interstates, US highways and state roadways. Q Who will provide the information?
A-Wright Generally the information will be provided by the public sector.
A-Crowson Using its Condition Acquisition and Reporting System (CARS), Mn/DOT collects and disseminates information about highway traffic, incidents, construction and road weather conditions. Q How long did it take you to implement this project?
A-Wright The national initiative began in December of 2000.
A-Crowson It took Minnesota six months to design, develop and launch its system.