The 511 Deployment Coalition undertook the case study to provide decision-makers and planners information about the costs of 511 based on the experience of current 511 deployers. The sites vary widely in their attributes and the business model adopted for deployment, and thus, they provide a picture of the range of deployments that can be encountered. In 2005-2006, overall costs were collected for the nine 511 systems according to their planning and design phase, implementation phase, and first year of ongoing operations and maintenance (O&M) phase. An analysis of cost information from the 511 sites offers valuable insights on the need for investment in the marketing of 511 traveler information systems.
Higher call volume leads to greater system efficiency of 511 systems because O&M costs can be distributed over many callers. Despite this fact, marketing and evaluation was the smallest cost category in almost every 511 deployment studied. The case study's authors suggest that deployers use marketing as an effective tool to attract travelers and leverage benefits from their 511 system technology investment. Recommendations that emerged from the case study include:
- Make aggressive use of marketing to increase call volume.
- Take advantage of marketing paid for by others. For example, the Utah Department of Transportation launched their 511 deployment as part of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
- Continue to keep customers aware of the 511 service and utility after the system has been launched.
- Consider the use of specialized marketing channels to boost usage of the 511 service. For example, Southeast Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale area) used Spanish language television and radio to promote its bilingual 511 service.
- Understand that marketing costs vary widely based on the size of the service area, range of 511 content being promoted, and other factors. In general, the marketing cost in a metropolitan area, with expensive media markets, will be higher than in rural areas with less costly markets.
As an example of this lesson, Southeast Florida had $417,965 in marketing and evaluation costs, or 27% of its overall cost of deployment. This can be attributed to the significant resources it has spent promoting its system to various audiences, including Spanish language advertising. Southeast Florida also has one of the most efficient systems because it can distribute its costs over many callers--on average 172,785 per month.
The experience of the nine 511 systems suggest that use of marketing can increase call volume, leading to lower O&M costs per call. Deployers should include appropriate marketing efforts in their 511 deployment plans to positively impact a major ITS goal: enhance customer satisfaction.
This lesson shows that by making an investment in marketing in addition to labor, equipment and telecommunication, a 511 deployer can stimulate growth and maximize the return on its technology investment. This is an important lesson to bear in mind because the marketing budget is often the first to be trimmed when planners look at ways to cut the costs of a 511 deployment.
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