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.

Go Metro mobile app update and a few tips

A round-up of notes on Metro's mobile app – Go Metro Los Angeles. What? You didn't know Metro had a mobile app, go get it — it's FREE!

iPhone software update screen

iPhone software update screen

1. A new version is available for download for iPhones, iPads and Androids. If you already have the app, you should have received an update notice on your respective devices. Customers pointed out the last update had a strange error of displaying arrival times out of order. Metro mobile developers tracked down the bug and quickly fixed it — however, submitting changes to the App Store and waiting for approval is another story. We appreciate all the feedback coming in via the app, emails, Twitter and Facebook.

2. Metro's mobile app has been downloaded more than 100,000 times by mobile users. Last checked — just over 55,000+ downloads for Android devices and 57,000+ downloads for iPhone devices. If you currently have the app, I'd love to hear from you — what do you like and hate about the app? What would you like to see in the future?

3. There are no current plans to build a Windows or Blackberry version. Sorry Windows and BB users — this is not out of preference, but rather budget and resources. Our online metrics indicate both Windows and BB customers make up less than three percent of online usage. BTW: as of last month (Dec 2012), over 50 percent of all web traffic visiting metro.net is coming from a mobile device — almost equally split between Android and iOS.

Fret not, there are alternatives for Windows and Blackberry users — have you tried Metro's mobile website, m.metro.net?

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New version of Go Metro mobile app available for download today

There is a new version of Metro’s mobile app, Go Metro, available for download today in both the App Store at iTunes and Android Play. Here’s a run-down of the revisions for this update:

  • Metro’s new schedule data as of December 18.
  • A small change to the station detail screen to clarify the direction of the train; see the example below.
  • Favorites being duplicated (a bug pointed out to us by customers).
GoMetro iPhone Station Detail

Station detail on iPhone

By now, you should have received update alerts on your device. If you haven’t downloaded the app before, here’s how to download the free app directly from your device.

iPhone

  1. Select the App Store and search for ‘Go Metro Los Angeles’ (see the screen grab below).
  2. Click the ‘Install’ button.

Android

  1. Select the ‘Play Store’ and search for ‘Go Metro Los Angeles.’
  2. Click the ‘Install’ button.
App Store Search

Searching in the App Store

Go to Metro’s Mobile Resources on metro.net to learn more about the app and see a list of 3rd party apps built using Metro transit data.

What do you think of the Go Metro app? Do you use it? Is it helpful? Please comment.

Nextrip website undergoing upgrades; impacting service

Here’s the news from Metro’s tech team about NexTrip:

Metro is currently upgrading its bus fleet management system (ATMS) on all of its fleet vehicles. Nextrip bus arrival service is temporarily affected during the transition, the Nextrip system is currently providing arrival predictions based on scheduled information (vs. real-time location information). Metro is working to complete the transition as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Many of you have noticed this problem over the past couple of days. Hopefully it will be up and running soon. In the meantime, the service is either providing no updates or proving arrival times based on the schedule.

@metroLAelevator – New Twitter feed for elevator service alerts

You’ve requested it and we’re listening – Metro has added an additional Twitter feed for service updates addressing elevator service alerts. @metroLAelevator will be reserved for announcing elevator outages — and when they’re back in service. Along with @metroLAalerts, these two Twitter feeds are a great resource for customers with mobile devices or online access. In fact, here’s the first tweet:

Both Twitter feeds are maintained by Stephen Tu, Transportation Planner, in the Executive Office of Operations. You may recognize his initials at the end of most tweets: ^ST.

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Update available for Go Metro Los Angeles app for smartphones

The update was posted earlier this week to the iTunes store. Here are the links for the iPhone app, the iPad app and the Android app.

Here’s a rundown of the revisions:

iPhone/iPad

•Compatible with iOS6
•Schedule data is updated
•New iPad-centric user interface
•Minor bug fixes

Android

•Schedule data is updated

Also, I wanted to help explain one screen that users may find confusing when using the map to determine when the next train is leaving. For example, let’s say you use the map function to determine you’re at Union Station and you want to find what time the next few Gold Line trains are leaving. The app shows you this screen:

The easiest way to understand this is pay attention to the station mentioned in each line. In the first line above, the app is you telling that a Sierra Madre Villa-bound train is arriving at Union Station at 1:01 p.m.

The second line is confusing because there is a train arriving at Union Station at 7:52 p.m. — but it’s headed out of service, thus the reason there’s no ultimate destination. That’s a programming glitch that is being fixed.

The third line is telling you that a train bound for Atlantic Station is arriving at Union Station at 1:04 p.m.

Another example for the Red/Purple Line subway from Union Station:

Above, ignore the first and third lines — they’re only telling you what times that Red Line and Purple Line trains are arriving at Union Station. The information you probably want is when trains are leaving Union Station! That’s in the second line — showing the next train to North Hollywood at 1:22 p.m.  For the Purple Line, the info is in the fourth line, which shows the next train bound for Wilshire/Western leaving at 1:17 p.m.

Finally, how do you like the Go Metro app? Any suggestions? Comment please.

New Apple iPhone and software to transit users: get a car!

We’ve known for several months this was coming: the operating system that runs the most recent iPhones and iPads (known as ios6) has been updated with a new maps application. Gone are Google Maps and public transit directions, replaced with a map app by Apple that kicks public transit to the curb, so to speak.

What happens in ios6 when you ask for directions using transit in Apple’s maps? You’re referred to a list of apps in the Apple store that may or may not have anything to do with transit directions in the part of the world where you live.

Sigh. Welcome to the “biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone!”

The photo above is Apple headquarters in Cupertino and its voluminous parking lots. Perhaps it’s not a stretch to suggest that transit directions are gone from the native map app in iPhones because a:) it takes a lot of time, effort and money to collect all the data from transit agencies and crunch it into useable software, as Google did, and; b) it doesn’t look like too worker/programming bees are taking transit to work at Apple HQ.

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