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511 Encourages Transit Riders to Get “Real” This Fall

Messaging announcing more agencies being added to 511 Real-Time Departures

Real-Time Transit Departure and Stop ID using 511 Mobile

November 2012
The Bay Area’s 511 Traveler Information Service has a message for transit riders this fall: instead of waiting and wondering, get real – as in real-time transit information. 511 has substantially expanded the free real-time transit offerings in recent months, and is making it easier than ever to find out when your next bus or train is departing, in real time.

“Real-time information from 511 gives transit users peace of mind knowing when their bus or train will arrive at their destination,” said Jim Macrae, 511 Senior Program Coordinator.  “People can spend more time at work or shopping and less time waiting and wondering.”

Real-time departures are currently available for BART, AC Transit, San Francisco Muni, WestCAT, the Broadway Shuttle in Oakland and the Dumbarton Express, offering information for more than over 200 routes. A team at MTC is working to incorporate more transit systems into the real-time network in 2013, including SamTrans, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), Caltrain, and Golden Gate Transit.

Customer demand for real-time information has continued to grow. In the past few months, 511 received more than 350,000 phone calls, over 15,000 web user sessions and over 25,000 mobile requests each month for just real-time departure information. This has added to the increasing volume and success of 511 as a whole, as demonstrated by the more than 650,000 calls, over 2 million web user sessions and over 100,000 mobile requests for information per month.

MTC has made it easy to access real-time information from 511 using your phone, computer or mobile device.  And, all of these services are free to the public.

On the Web

There are two places within 511’s web pages where you can get real-time departure predictions. Go to and use the Real-Time Transit Departures tool in the lower left-hand side of the page, or go to the transit page and click on the Real-Time Departures tab at the top of the page and use the dropdown menus to select your agency, route, direction and stop. You will see up to three predictions for the specific route you requested, as well as all other routes that serve your stop. You can save time by saving your trips — which you can do by registering with

On the Phone

On the phone, just say "Departure Times" at the main menu. By entering your Stop ID via voice or the key pad, you will instantly get three real-time departure predictions for each route that serves your stop. You can find Stop ID numbers displayed on signs at your particular stop or, if you don’t know your Stop ID, the automated system will lead you through voice prompts to help you find the Stop ID for your bus stop or train station.

Real-Time Departures on Mobile

The 511 mobile website also includes the Real-Time Transit Departures tool. With this tool you can enter or lookup your Stop ID number and receive real-time departure predictions for each route that serves your stop. You can always bookmark the resulting page of departure predictions so that you can instantly load predictions for your stop whenever you need them.

Text for Departure Times

You can also request and receive transit departure times by SMS/texting and using your Stop ID. By sending a simple text message, you can receive a response message that includes predictions for each route that serves your stop. Go to to learn more.

Real-Time with MY 511

People who register with MY 511 can create and save the real-time departures for select transit trips on a personalized 511 home page. And, by signing up for MY 511, you’ll reach a personalized phone menu whenever you call 511 and bypass menu options to immediately hear real-time transit departures for your next bus or train.

“We probably have the most advanced system in the nation for collecting and publishing real-time information, in terms of the number of transit agencies and routes covered and the number of channels used to get the information out there,” said Macrae.

Real-time information was first introduced to the Bay Area by 511 in 2005 and featured information for San Francisco Muni’s Metro Line and the historic F-Line. After a successful launch, Muni buses were added to the system in 2008. More agencies followed including BART, WestCAT, AC Transit, the Broadway Shuttle and the Dumbarton Express.