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.

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.