The Future of Traffic Congestion at Your Fingertips

TC has once again expanded its award-winning 511 traveler information service by adding a new Web-based feature that allows motorists to estimate the length of a trip in terms of minutes and hours before they hit the road.

By John Goodwin
Published: March, 2007 

Dubbed Predict-a-TripSM,the new feature builds on the popular 511 Driving TimesSM service by using historical information on freeway traffic speeds and driving times to provide point-to-point forecasts for about 90 percent of the BayArea freeway network. Predict-a-TripSM is available free of charge on the 511 Traffic page at, but is not available through the 511 phone service.

Introduced by MTC in 2004, 511 Driving TimesSM calculates how long it will take to get from Point A to Point B given current traffic conditions and incidents. Travelers can access this info via the phone and the Web, and via freeway message signs, which display estimates for reaching key destinations. Travelers access the Driving TimesSM service more than 140,000 times each month, and the most requested enhancement by far has been a trip-forecasting tool. Now with Predict-a-TripSM, users can select a Driving Times route on the interactive 511 traffic map, and then choose the day of the week and the time of the day they plan to travel. There is also a text-based method of accessing the information.

Predict-a-TripSM is particularly helpful for motorists planning trips that are not part of their normal routine. This is great for people who may be planning dinner at a hot new restaurant, or who are catching a flight out of SFO or maybe going to a job interview, said Project Manager Benjamin McKeever. If you’re thinking of moving to a different part of the Bay Area, Predict-a-TripSM can even help estimate the length of your morning and evening commutes.

The Driving TimesSM system taps data from dashboard-mounted FasTrak® toll tags (which, in addition to facilitating electronic toll collection, do double-duty as traffic probes, with the information scrambled to protect the identity of the driver). The FasTrak® data is augmented with data from radar sensors alongside freeways and subpavement loop sensors. Predict-a-TripSM accesses historical traffic flows based on the day of the week, the time of day and whether a holiday is involved.

If you know it’s going to be bad out there, you can plan to take public transit instead of driving, said McKeever. Another 511 Web tool – the TakeTransit Trip PlannerSM — provides personalized itineraries for transit riders. Other interactive features of the 511 Web site include a ridematching tool for prospective carpoolers and BikeMapperSM, which displays possible bicycle routes between two points.