MTC 511 Case Study
511.org is a free transportation information system for travelers in the San Francisco Bay Area, operated by the San Francisco Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the California Highway Patrol, and the California Department of Transportation. Commuters, visitors, and other residents in the nine-county Bay Area can call or visit the 511.org website around the clock for updated traffic, transit, parking, carpool, and bicycling information.
We can support more than double the number of users every day during morning and afternoon traffic spikes by running on AWS.”
Website and Communications Project Manager, MTC 511
To meet the needs of Bay Area travelers by providing around-the-clock traffic and transit information, MTC must ensure its 511.org website is highly available. “Our systems need to be in a highly reliable environment that provides consistent uptime,” says Alysha Nachtigall, website and communications project manager for 511 at MTC. “Tens of thousands of people rely on 511 every day to get where they need to go.”
MTC also sought to consolidate some of its separate 511 websites. For example, the 511 transit planner, traffic information, carpool, bicycling, and parking information sites were all hosted in different data centers. “We had multiple websites that weren’t integrated, which made it challenging to manage,” says Janet Banner, senior program manager for 511 at MTC. Additionally, the organization needed to better support website traffic spikes. “We often need to scale the sites to support usage spikes, which are caused by either planned or unplanned transportation disruptions such as bridge closures or weather events. During these spikes, our website usage more than doubles. Scaling each of those separate sites was inefficient and costly.”
Why Amazon Web Services
MTC was already running some of its 511 website back-end platform on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and wanted to expand its cloud usage. “We really liked the reliability and performance AWS offered, so we felt confident moving more of our platform to the cloud,” says Banner. MTC contracted with Civic Resource Group, an AWS Partner, to migrate its transit trip planner, traffic information, carpool, bicycling, and parking websites to Civic Resource Group’s CivicConnect platform, which runs on AWS. Civic Resource Group designed and implemented the full website architecture for 511.
The new 511 website runs on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances and takes advantage of Auto Scaling for automated compute capacity scaling based on user traffic. The site uses Elastic Load Balancing to automatically distribute incoming site traffic across Amazon EC2 instances, and the Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to scale the site’s database.
MTC uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets to capture static content and logging data for 511. In addition, the organization uses Amazon CloudFront as its global content delivery network and runs an open-source analytics server on the AWS Cloud.
MTC now has one unified website for 511.org, so Bay Area travelers have a single source for transit, traffic, carpool, bicycling, parking, and emergency information. “Our primary goal was to make 511.org a unified website, and we were able to do that by moving our entire platform to the AWS Cloud,” says Nachtigall. “As a result, it is much easier for us to manage the site and make updates and other changes.” MTC also anticipates long-term cost savings. “We definitely expect to significantly lower our operational costs by running our website completely on AWS,” says Banner.
By using AWS for the 511.org website, MTC can automatically scale to support thousands of additional customers during daily usage spikes. “We can support more than double the number of users every day during morning and afternoon traffic spikes by running on AWS,” says Nachtigall. “That’s very important during events like bridge closures, when many different media sources point to our website as the main place to go for alternative transportation information.”
MTC can also take a more agile approach to managing the 511.org site. “We can add servers, run development tests whenever we need to, and deliver new site features faster than before,” Nachtigall says. “We have more agility and flexibility, and we no longer have to wait for changes to happen in the data center.” MTC can also manage its data-analytics platform more easily. “Our distributed teams can manage our analytics platform remotely if they need to, which is something they couldn’t do previously,” says Nachtigall. “AWS is perfectly meeting our needs for 511.org. Being on AWS, we have the reliability and high availability we need to make sure our users are always getting the updated traveler information they need every day.”
About MTC 511
511.org is a free transportation information system for travelers in the San Francisco Bay Area, operated by the San Francisco Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the California Highway Patrol, and the California Department of Transportation.
AWS Services Used
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.
Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.
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AWS Auto Scaling monitors your applications and automatically adjusts capacity to maintain steady, predictable performance at the lowest possible cost.
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Amazon CloudFront is a fast content delivery network (CDN) service that securely delivers data, videos, applications, and APIs to customers globally with low latency, high transfer speeds, all within a developer-friendly environment.
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Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud.
Elastic Load Balancing
Elastic Load Balancing automatically distributes incoming application traffic across multiple targets, such as Amazon EC2 instances, containers, IP addresses, and Lambda functions.
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