Mass511 is not new. From the best I can tell, the 511 traffic information service has been around for years, but in 2010 the free service went on steroids.

I didn't know much about Mass511 until today. Okay, I didn't know anything about Mass511 until after seeing a blue highway sign promoting it for the umpteenth-million time I decided to look into it.

What exactly is Mass511?



Mass511 is a lot of things, really. Before 2010, it was a phone line that commuters could call to get updated traffic information, the latest road closures, and so forth.

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The service has grown since then. According to a piece in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette dated April 2010, John Bernardi, then vice president of Sendza, brought 511 into the digital age.

The paper reported that "a local startup company is teaming up with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to improve and expand the state's 511 traffic information line – so commuters can get real-time traffic updates for major highways on their cellphones."

That was fairly radical technology 12 years ago – at least for people of my age who still recall using fold-up paper maps from the gas station to get from here to there.

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At the time, some 40 states had similar 511 free traffic lines. Who knew? My source for traffic information was the late Tony "Spy in the Sky" DiBiasio.

Today, Mass511 is a series of roadside sensors and cameras and stuff that monitor traffic. The information is reported out to motorists via computers, apps, and cellphones.

To think, some people still have a flip phone.

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