511 Virginia - Frequently Asked Questions

What is 511?

511 is a one-stop resource for all the information you need to make statewide traveling as easy and reliable as possible. Using state-of-the art technology, 511 provides you with real-time traffic information anywhere you are, anytime you need them.

In Virginia, there are three ways to access 511 information. You can use the 511virginia.org website or call 511 from any land line or mobile phone. You can also use our 511 VDOT app for iOS and Android devices.

Through the website, you can also sign-up to receive personalized info sent directly to your e-mail or mobile device as a text message.

Where does the information originate?

The Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) Transportation Operations Centers (TOCs) provide road and highway information to 511. 

The TOCs receive this information from a variety of sources, including VDOT safety service crews, VDOT construction crews, traffic cameras, pavement sensors, the Virginia State Police and citizens.

Weather updates come from the National Weather Service.

How often is the information updated?

The traffic cameras are live. Emergency road conditions are updated as soon as the TOCs or state police learn of an incident.

Other information, such as upcoming construction projects, is updated as soon as the TOCs are notified. Upcoming construction zones and bridge openings are posted 24-hours in advance.

What is the purpose of this service?

511 provides users real time, accurate information about road conditions, traffic congestion and highway construction projects.

What is the history of 511?

Before 511, there were more than 300 phone numbers providing highway information nationwide. 

Sound confusing? It was. 

On March 8, 1999, the U.S. Department of Transportation petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to designate a nationwide three-digit telephone number for traveler information.

The FCC designated 511 as the national traveler information number. Virginia’s 511 system began in the Shenandoah Valley in 2000 and went statewide in early 2005.

What devices does the app work on?

It is for Android and iOS based Smartphone. It also works on tablets running the Android and iOS operating systems however, Wi-Fi only tablets will have limited functionality due to having limited GPS capabilities.

Note: We are currently having problems on US Cellular Smartphones in the southwest region of Virginia. We are working with the carrier and hope to have the issue resolved soon.

What is the status of 511 nationwide?

For a current list of participating states, visit deploy511.org.

How does the information available from 511 differ from the travel information I get from radio and television?

511 gives you more control over your travel information than a 30-second traffic report. You don’t have to wait to see if the traffic report will cover your planned route. Just tell the 511 system what road you are traveling on or what route you are interested in, and you’ll get personalized traffic information.

How can I help make the system better?

The easiest way is to use it. The more you use the system, the more we learn about what’s important to you. If you have a specific suggestion about how we can improve the service, fill out this form. We appreciate your feedback.

What if I have additional questions?

Just ask. Click here to send us your question.

511 Web

How do I use the map?

The map is supplied by Google, with 511 information placed in layers on top of it. Simply use the map as you would any Google map and click on the icons for more information.

How are travel times calculated?

Travel times are provided through third party distributors, collected by anonymous traffic probes and vehicle location readers.

How do I set up several favorite cameras?

Cameras and all personalization options are managed through the My 511 link on the bar at the top of the page. Simply click the start next to an active video stream and it will be listed as a favorite camera. Note: If you had previously signed up for a personalized version of the old 511Virginia.org, you must re-register for your settings to take effect in the new version.

How do I sign up for text alerts and email alerts?

Those can be set up through the My 511 tab.

Can I see traffic cameras?

Yes, and now in streaming video. Just zoom in on the map to the area you are interested in and click on the camera icons.

What do the circles mean on the map?

When the map is zoomed out to a statewide or regional level, the circles indicate that there is more than one incident/camera/etc. in that area. Zoom in and you will see the individual items.

Can I save a route and have 511 tell me what delays (planned road work and incidents) will be on my route?

Yes. Use the personalization under My 511 to set up an account and program your routes. Not all roads have data associated with them, but interstates and major primary routes do.

On Twitter, what is the difference between VaDOT and 511?

@VaDot is the agency's Twitter feed with news and information about Virginia transportation. @511 is VDOT’s 511 Twitter feed which receives data from the 511 system.

511 Phone

What is the 511 Virginia phone system?

It is an interactive, voice-activated traffic information system that you can access by calling 511 from your land line or cell phone within Virginia. To be safe, do not use a hand-held cell phone while driving. Instead, use a hands-free accessory so you can keep both hands on the wheel. Or better yet, call when you are stopped at one of VDOT’s safety rest areas.

How can I access the 511 Virginia Telephone system?

Just dial 511 from any phone — land line or cellular — in Virginia. If you are outside Virginia, call 1-866-MY511VA (1-866-695-1182).

Did the phone system change recently?

VDOT continually works to improve the 511 phone system’s performance based on citizen feedback and usage statistics.  On November 20, 2013 VDOT released a new version, which provides improved speech recognition and menu navigation.  This release provides improved performance with Bluetooth connected devices, cellular handsets (not on speaker) and landlines (including speakerphone).  At the top menu callers will only be able to ask for Interstates, bridges, or tunnels.  To access other routes in Virginia, callers should first say or press 1, and then ask for their desired route.  To access general information for cities and counties, callers should first say or press 3, and then ask for the desired city or county.

Speaking clearly and patiently with minimal background noise will provide the best experience for callers. 

Are there shortcuts for navigating through the system quickly?

Using a sophisticated voice-recognition system, 511 allows you to navigate completely hands-free. You also can interrupt the main menu at anytime to request an Interstate, Bridge or Tunnel—there’s no need to wait for the system to finish a question before you answer.

For even faster and more efficient navigation, use the following commands:

  • To go back to the main menu say "Main menu"
  • To repeat information say "Repeat"
  • To get help say "Help" Interrupt (barge-in) the system - once you know what questions will be asked, you can answer as soon as the system starts asking them. You do not need to wait for the system to finish the question before answering.  Note at the main menu you can only ask for a specific menu, Interstate, bridge, or tunnel information.  To access other routes in Virginia, users will have to first say 1 and then ask for their desired route
  • Other information can be found by asking for or pressing the corresponding number from the main menu:

1 – Route-specific highway information

2 – Major Bridges/Tunnels

3 – Cities and Counties

4 – Transit

5 – Reach the Beach

6 – Tourism

7 – Other State 511 systems

8 – Welcome Centers and Rest Areas

 
What can I do when the system cannot recognize what I am saying?

If the system is having problems recognizing your voice, try the following:

  • Speak as clearly as possible
  • Minimize background noise
  • 511 Virginia allows you to provide touch-tone input at various stages of your call
  • Ask for help at any time by saying “Help” — the system automatically gives help specific to the question just asked
  • Go online to www.511virginia.org or download VDOT’s mobile app for Android or iPhone/iPad.


What kinds of information are available on the 511 Virginia service?

Just about anything you need when traveling throughout Virginia. Information includes:

  • Select emergency alerts
  • Travel times on all interstates and select major arterial roadways
  • Real-time traffic conditions
  • Bridge and tunnel information
  • Reach the Beach information
  • Weather conditions
  • Access to other state 511 systems
  • Safety rest area and welcome center locations and amenities
  • Local transit information

VDOT regularly updates the information available on the service, so there’s really no need for you to look anywhere else for travel information.

How often is information updated on the 511 Virginia phone service?

Emergency road conditions and traffic information are updated as soon as our Local Offices (TOCs) learn of an incident or congestion problem. Other information, like upcoming construction projects or transit schedule changes, is updated as soon as the VDOT TOCs are notified.

What does each call cost?

Calling 511 is free. The only thing you’ll have to pay for are any airtime minutes or roaming charges (if applicable) charged by your wireless carrier.

When can I call 511 Virginia? 

The system is always available.

What language does 511 Virginia understand and speak? 

The system is programmed to respond to North American English. While common accents will most likely be understood, the system may not recognize callers with unusual speech patterns.

What is 511’s relationship to 911?

511 is a traveler information number. 911 is for true emergencies that require police or medical attention. Use 511 whenever you want. Use 911 for any emergency requiring police, fire or rescue.

Why can’t I connect to the 511 Virginia phone system?

All land line and wireless carriers provide access to 511 Virginia though the 511 dialing code. 

Some office telephone systems (PBXs) may need to be reprogrammed to allow the three-digit 511 code.

If you dial 511 from your office and get a fast busy signal, check with your office manager or telephone system administrator to ensure that 511 is allowed through your PBX.

If you are unable to dial 511, access the service by dialing 866-MY511VA (1-866-695-1182).

 

511 Smartphone App

What devices does the app work on?

It is for Android and iOS based smartphones. It also works on tablets running the Android and iOS operating systems  however, Wi-Fi only tablets will have limited functionality due to having limited GPS capabilities.

** We are currently having problems on US Cellular Smartphones in the southwest region of Virginia. We are working with the carrier and hope to have the issue resolved soon.

What does the app do for me?

The app is designed to give you the same real time traffic information on incidents and construction that is provided on the website, delivered in an easy to read format on your mobile device. 

Can I plan a route on the app?

No. VDOT recognizes that there are many tools available in the market for trip planning. 

Can I use the app while driving?

The app works in both basic and passenger modes. Basic mode is designed for the driver to "set it and forget it". The basic mode will give audio information about incidents and construction. The passenger mode is designed to be operated by someone else in the vehicle, information comes in both visual and audio alerts, is especially useful in providing real time traffic information along your selected route.

Remember: operating the app while driving may result in a traffic ticket!

What else is on the app?

You can also see VDOT's network of traffic cameras on the app. Again, do not do this while driving!

VDOT has also offered its new “Reach the Beach” program on the mobile app.

Technical Questions

To bring you the best mobile and on-line experience, the 511 traffic information website requires certain technology. If you are experiencing performance issues or have difficulty reaching the 511 site, verify:

  • That you are using a compatible browser:
  • Your browser is not in compatibility mode. This can be done by looking in the address bar of your browser for an icon that looks a torn piece of paper. Compatibility mode is designed to view websites in older versions of IE. This could make your IE8 or IE9 browser perform like an IE7 browser and make the site unavailable.
  • You are using the most recent version of Adobe flash, upgrade at http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/


Additionally, if you are accessing the website from a corporate or government network, contact your IT / security team and ask them to allow video over "Port 1935."

If video is not allowed over this port, you will be unable to access the traffic cameras on the website.

Users interested in VDOT’s new mobile app for either the iOS or Android should note that  iOS 5.0 or higher or Droid 2.3 or higher.

If you continue to experience issues contact us here.

 

Page last modified: May 27, 2014