Metro’s mobile app — downloaded over 200,000 times and update coming soon!

Go Metro start-up screen

Go Metro v2.2.4 on iPhones

Hi Readers,

This is a quick update on our mobile app, Go Metro Los Angeles. The app recently surpassed 220,000 downloads. The device breakdown is roughly:

  • Over 100,000 times by Android devices
  • Over 120,000 times by iPhone/iPad devices

Additionally, 15 percent of all Apple downloads are from international customers (top countries: Canada, Australia, Germany, UK, France), while seven percent of all Android downloads are from international customers (top countries: Korea, Australia, UK, Mexico, Canada).

A new update of the app will be available for download the week of June 24th with these improvements:

  • Nextrip Rail Info (real-time rail arrivals)
  • June 2013 'shake-up' schedules (scheduled data automatically displays when cell data or wifi is not available)
  • Larger walking distance of up to one mile (by customer request – we heard you)
  • and some user interface revisions

I am including a few preview screen shots of the updated app showing Rail real time arrivals and scheduled arrivals. Work will also begin on Version 3.0 (a brand new version) of the app in July 2013, with a tentative release for Spring 2014.

The app integrates data, design, functionality, and real-time news from many Metro departments: Service Development & Performance Analysis, Creative Services Design Studio, Customer Relations, COO's Office, Construction Relations, Metro Library, Media Relations and Bicycle Planning. The app is designed and managed by Communications Web & Mobile Group.

Real time rail arrivals

Real time rail arrivals

Scheduled rail arrivals

Scheduled rail arrivals

 

Nextrip for Metro Rail now available; please let us know what you think

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Nextrip on an iPhone. Click above to visit Nextrip’s desktop version for Metro Rail.

The Nextrip program that currently provides real-time arrival information for bus service has been expanded to include real-time arrivals for Metro Rail.

There are multiple ways to access the Nextrip real-time train arrival information. It can be viewed on the web, via smart phone browser, by texting a Metro bus stop ID number to 41411 and via telephone by dialing 511 and saying, “Nextrip.” (A Nextrip Rail app is in development.) And coming up soon, electronic signs on the train platforms will show real-time arrival information rather than the scheduled arrival times displayed now.

While the program continues to roll out, riders should give themselves extra time to ensure they don’t miss the train. The service is brand new and still being tweaked. As always, let us know what you think. Is it working for you?

If using a smart phone to access real-time rail info, remember to enable Nextrip to use your current location if it asks. The Nextrip mobile site also allows you how to look up arrival times at all rail stations: on a smartphone, click on “menu,” then “select specific stop” and then select “Los Angeles Rail” from the next list. At that point, select the Metro Rail line and then select a station.

Science + Art = A beautiful way to learn

Artists and Nerds (respectfully and fondly) united last week at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's “From Data to Discovery” conference on the Caltech campus in Pasadena. The one day event hosted by JPL, the Arts Center and Caltech focused on using visualizations to communicate complex topics. Such visualizations are a great way to engage the uninitiated!

The speaker list of big data divas included Jeff Heer, of Stanford, who showed off innovative data visualization platforms such as D3: Data-Driven Documents, which is a robust javascript tool kit for creating data visualizations, and Data Wrangler, which appears to be nothing short of a life saver for anyone who has to clean data sets. Dr. Heer also recommended that anyone interested in data visualization should look online for his class at Stanford called CS448b.

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Visualization of migration from California 1995-2000 by Stanford InfoViz

Jeff Thor, a self-described data artist and co-founder of The Office for Creative Research discussed his “Ooooo-Ahhhh” philosophy. He stressed that a successful visual not only draws audiences in with interesting visuals (Ooooo), but then makes you think with the data that it represents (Ahhhhh). He showed one of his early projects, a visualization called Just Landed, which represents tweets where people have written “just landed” and ties them to where they are from (according to their profiles). It’s a very cool effect.

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Still from Jeff Thor's Just Landed

Attending the conference is giving metro ideas on how they might share some of the robust data within the agency. New ways to explain complex transportation issues are always helpful. Any reader requests for data visualizations? We may not have the time or the skills to fill your requests, but you can help us brainstorm!

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Jacarandas in bloom around Beckman Auditorium

The conference was hosted at the Beckman Auditorium, a beautiful mid-century modern design, (1964 Edward Durrell Stone), currently surrounded by beautiful blooming jacaranda trees. I recommend a visit before the flowers wither. The campus is accessible from several bus lines, including the Pasadena ARTS 10 bus, Metro's 177 bus or the Gold Line Lake Avenue station to the 485 bus headed south. Exit at California Avenue and walk two blocks east to reach campus.

Another tool in the online tool box for Bay Area transit riders: train crowding predictions

Interesting news release from our friends at BART in the Bay Area on a new feature that predicts train crowding. The release is below — what'cha think, L.A. riders? A feature you would like to see here?

Visitors to the BART website and mobile site can now get a snapshot of estimated crowding levels on trains when they plan a trip.

The beta version of the estimated crowding feature launched Tuesday. When you use the BART QuickPlanner, your trip plan will show an icon with three heads, two heads or one head – indicating “heavy crowding expected,” “moderate crowding expected,” or “light crowding expected.”

The new feature is a response in part to record ridership levels on BART, giving riders another tool to find a train with more space, if they have flexibility to make their trip a little earlier or later.

The crowding level estimates are based on historic data; BART’s web team worked closely with BART’s scheduling department to coordinate the new feature in an effort to give riders more choices.

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Is Spring Street’s green bike lane really a problem for the film industry?

Cyclists using Spring St.'s green bike lane. Photo by Jances Certeza.

Cyclists using Spring St.’s green bike lane. Photo by Jances Certeza.

There’s been and still is a constant quarrel between the film industry, city officials, and the residents of Downtown LA over just what’s to become of Spring Street’s green bike lane.

For those unaware, in 2011 the city of Los Angeles painted green 1.5 miles of Spring Street’s bike lane to encourage more Angelenos to start cycling. The idea was openly embraced by many of the businesses along the lane, and was seen by residents and the cycling community as a forward step for the Downtown neighborhood in its goal to become a more livable space.

Those in the film industry however want it gone, arguing that the bright green lanes would be distracting for viewers in shots, and would be difficult and costly to digitally remove…

Within the public discourse many attacked such an argument, stating that it would be easy to remove the green, and that the paint should stay. One reader at Streetsblog decided to disprove such an argument and take on the task of digitally removing the green from the lanes himself. According to Streetsblog, “It took the editor all of about twenty seconds to remove the green.” Watch the video below to see how the editor easily removes the bright green from his video shot.

Metro featured in high-profile Google ad during Grammys

A woman steps inside a Metro train in a new Google ad.

A woman steps inside a Metro train in a new Google ad.

A commercial for Google that aired during the recent Grammy Award Show prominently featured Los Angeles Metro Rail. The ad showcased different scenarios with people in various cities using the new Google Now product. While people in other cities are shown checking the weather or looking up restaurants, the creative team behind the commercial chose to feature Metro Rail and a fashionable transit customer to represent Los Angeles.

Inclusion in this high-profile ad speaks approvingly of Metro’s rebranding and creative services work including maps, mobile apps and overall communications encouraging people to Go Metro.

The favorable ad was seen by 28.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen and reported by the Los Angeles Times–the second-largest audience for the recording industry’s annual awards show in the last 20 years.

New Google product demonstrating how users can check Metro Rail train times

New Google product demonstrating how users can check Metro Rail train times.

Metro Board considers contract to have cell phone equipment installed in Red and Purple Line station areas

The Metro Board will be considering a contract this month that would bring cell phone and wi-fi service to the subway system in Los Angeles. The Metro staff report on the contract is above.

Once installed, cell service would be available throughout the public areas of the Red and Purple Lines — i.e. the station areas — and the underground portions of the Blue, Expo and Gold lines. The service would serve a dual purpose: it would enhance public safety by making it much easier to reach police while underground and it could also attract new riders who want to be online during their commute or public transit trips.

The contract is with a firm named InSite Wireless. Under the contract, InSite would install the necessary infrastructure and then charge individual cell phone carriers a fee to have their equipment and signal placed underground. Metro, in turn, would make a minimum of $360,000 a year in revenue from those deals — a typical type of arrangement in the transit world.

As for the cell phone carriers, they have a pretty good incentive to put their signal underground — if they don’t do it, one of their competitors may. And in the cell phone business, having the largest service area is a pretty big draw for prospective customers.

The contract will first be considered by the Metro Board’s Executive Management Committee on Thursday. It would then likely go to the full Board for their consideration at their meeting on Feb. 28.

If approved, it would take about two years to get the equipment installed in the tunnels, the challenge being that the subway runs most of the day and night. Cell phone service would be completed first with wi-fi coming later; keep in mind that the internet can be accessed via cell signals.