PennDOT, the PTC and PEMA worked with ILOG to implement the 511PAConnect program. When activated, the agencies draw the boundaries of the queue on a map, and activate a customized webpage that gives drivers the latest information about the closure. To let travelers know that they are in the area of a specific closure, 511PAConnect works with
FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert & Warning System
, which can send emergency alerts to capable phones, advising impacted travelers to visit
Travelers do not need an app to use 511PAConnect – they just visit the dynamic closure website that is provided in the emergency alert. For drivers who wish to register for updates for the event, a brief questionnaire is presented to help the agencies be aware of who is in the traffic jam, how many persons are in each vehicle, any special needs or emergency information, and the type of vehicle they are driving. Drivers can also communicate other relevant information such as fuel level, problems with occupant comfort such as heat or cold issues, and physical needs such as food, water or medication. This helps the responding agencies to direct resources and help to where they are most needed.
Mary Farrell, president of Information Logistics, sees 511PAConnect as a real step forward in informing and protecting motorists caught in significant traffic events. “If I were stuck in an hours-long jam, I would feel much safer knowing what was happening directly from the agency and knowing they knew what was happening with me,” Farrell explained. “Traveler feedback is the only way to be sure to understand the needs of those stuck in the problem area.”
511PAConnect has already proven to be a valuable tool to establish bi-directional communication between agencies and motorists. There are currently several ways for travelers to receive information on closures, including radio traffic updates and traveler advisories. 511PAConnect is unique in that it allows agencies to establish a direct line of communication with the travelers who are a part of the closure. 511PAConnect also gives motorists a customized website with agency-provided updates that are reliable and accurate.
During three recent events, responding agencies were able to provide updates to the event website and text or phone messages to registered users regularly, typically every fifteen minutes – thus providing timely information and reducing calls to the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s operations center.
The 511PAConnect product will continue to grow and be enhanced with new features as needs and preferences are identified through its continued use. While the Pennsylvania agencies are making the most of on-demand registration for events, the system is also capable of distributing messages to pre-registered users. Agencies, utilities, and companies that want to reach out to a fixed population or geographic region could have users sign up for IRIS, and then only activate the messaging function when necessary. This gives clients quick access to their user base, and allows constituents to receive information in the way they feel most comfortable.
Information Logistics selected
for location services for the system. LocationSmart is a worldwide leader in cloud location services for enterprise, government and consumer applications. LocationSmart services help enhance resource allocation efforts by Pennsylvania authorities and it provides location context to the status updates received by motorists regarding traffic patterns, roadside assistance ETAs and more.
For areas with poor cell phone coverage or widespread loss of power, ILOG also offers IRIS Tactical Devices – portable units that create hotspots that can be used to provide access to public-facing IRIS webpages. Although a user’s cell phone may not have connectivity, IRIS Tactical Devices can work independently over cell or satellite-based internet communications to be sure that constituents have access to critical information.
IRIS can also be integrated with ILOG’s GeoTalker Mobile Apps. Users running GeoTalker apps for traffic information can additionally be warned when they are nearing or have entered an area where an IRIS event is active, and they can be prompted to register immediately.
For more information about IRIS or 511PAConnect, please contact John L. Farrell, Product Management Director, at