NEWS: SLOCOG's Call Box Reduction Plan is Moving Forward
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Contact: Anna Devers / / (805) 781-4462

SLOCOG's Call Box Reduction Plan is Moving Forward

San Luis Obispo County, Calif. (January 26, 2021) – Yesterday, the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) began removing call boxes along selected sections of U.S. Highway 101, State Route 46, and State Route 1 in the San Luis Obispo region, and will continue to do so through mid- February. This change was brought about by an analysis of current usage reflecting a significant decrease in call volume, as recommended by the SLOCOG Call Box Reduction Plan.
Since Fiscal Year 1996-97, SLOCOG has served as the Service Authority for Freeway Emergencies (SAFE) for San Luis Obispo County and is responsible for the installation, operation, and administration of 161 highway emergency call boxes. Call box use in the region has drastically declined, by 90 percent over the last 20 years (peak use), and the cost to maintain the call box system has increased over time (i.e., largely due to cellular service upgrades).  
Declining use coupled with the rapid advancement of cellular technology, increased personal cell phone ownership, and the cost to maintain the system led to the SLOCOG Board’s decision to approve reducing the region’s call box system by 75 percent, from 161 call boxes to 41, on August 5, 2020. Some call boxes will remain because they receive a higher-than-average volume of calls, typically in extremely remote areas or areas where cellular reception is poor or nonexistent. This reduction will save the region approximately $500,000 over the next five years.
This removal effort is not new to California. Many SAFEs throughout the state have initiated call box reduction plans followed by systematic call box removals, including our neighbors in Santa Barbara County. “Technology is evolving,” said SLOCOG Transportation Planner Tim Gillham. “Based on a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, 96 percent of people now own cell phones and don’t rely on a roadside call box for emergencies like they once did. Having said that, safety is our number one priority and we have chosen to keep call boxes in key locations where topography makes signal strength less reliable or the call volume reflects a need.”
Please see SLOCOG’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document for further details.
The San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) is an association of local governments in the San Luis Obispo County Region. Its members include all 7 cities (Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, and San Luis Obispo) as well as unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County. The central purpose of SLOCOG is to examine common regional problems and suggest solutions. SLOCOG provides transportation planning and funding for the region, and serves as a forum for the study and resolution of regional issues. In addition to preparing the region’s long-range transportation plan, SLOCOG plans and provides funding for public transit services, highway and roadway improvements, and other alternative methods of transportation.
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