Motion asks Metro to implement a number of several tech initiatives

In July of last year, Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Vice Chair Eric Garcetti and Board Member Jacquelyn Dupont Walker authored a motion asking Metro staff to report back on several technology matters, including ticketing-by-smart phone, wi-fi access at Metro facilities and the possibility of creating an internet-based customer help desk.

Metro staff responded with the following report, which includes the original motion that shows some of the tech efforts underway — including the ability to add to a TAP card by smart phone — and others that are on the radar but need more work and/or funding [pdf here]:

In response, Garcetti and Supervisor and Metro Board Member Don Knabe have submitted a new motion asking staff to go :

One note: To see a list of some third-party apps that have been developed using Metro scheduling data, please click here and then click on the “third party apps” tab. Metro also has some mobile tools available, detailed at the same link.

As for wi-fi on the Gold Line, that was an effort originally pursued several years ago by the Community Redevelopment Agency. After the CRA was legislated out of existence, the project never moved forward.

9 replies

  1. Steve S.

    “not everyone can afford a smartphone”

    What year do you live in? You can go to any 7-Eleven and buy a smartphone for 49 bucks. Smartphone prices have gone down in price so much that anyone can buy one less than a days worth of minimum wage.

  2. Item number 9 should also be applied to all subway stops as well.
    I’ve long held that as you approach a subway entry, there should be an outdoor sidewalk display, which is also visible from cars passing by in either direction, that informs you when the next trains will arrive, along with their destinations and destination arrival times. This would inspire more impromptu use of the subways by pedestrians, and take the mystery out of subway travel.
    After all, in this day and age of instant information, who wants to have to travel all the way down to the platform to find out that they’ve just missed the train, and will have to wait an additional 20 minutes for the next one? I’d like to see that information at the street level so that I could chose how to spend those extra twenty minutes taking advantage of the neighborhood around me instead of being stuck on the platform.
    It would also inspire those stuck in their car in traffic day after day, and who can see the subway information as they drive by, to try the subway because they could see daily that the subway destination arrival times may well be quicker than driving.
    Here’s an example of the simple information that the sidewalk signs should display:
    • Train to Downtown arrives in 10 minutes (This should be a real-time countdown)
    • Arrival time in Downtown will be 4:05pm
    Also, though the Apps idea is great, please remember that not everyone can afford a smartphone and the apps that can be used on them. Those people should have convenient access to subway travel information as well.

  3. How about what everyone has been clamoring for for years: daily fare cap on TAP cards so we can completely bypass the TVMs when we want a day pass? These “smart” cards aren’t very smart.

  4. I think adding cell phone service to the MTA subway cars would bring the agency into the 21st century. However, I believe that adding free Wi-Fi would exacerbate what MTA already views as a problem – loiterers at Union Station. It’s bad enough today trying to get a seat in a Starbucks location, because of the free Wi-Fi. We don’t need that congestion inside Union Station and subway terminals, freeloaders loitering all day long with their laptops to suck up the free Wi-Fi.

  5. If Metro can’t even update the website “by end of 2013” as promised, what makes you all think any of these will be done by the time everyone here is well into retirement?

    If I had a nickel for every time government agencies promises to get their act together to do logical, technological upgrades on time and on budget, I’d be a billionaire by now and would say goodbye to this crazy state ASAP.

  6. Metro should scrap the TAP by SMS text messaging idea. No one uses SMS text messages anymore. Every messaging services these days are done through online data services like Messages or Google Talk which are included in the data plan. Granted, pay by text messaging would’ve been useful ten years ago, but today it’s a dying and expensive technology. Nowadays people don’t want to pay an extra $0.20 per messaging charge when it can be done for free over being part of the data plan. Besides, these days when people sign up for cell phone plans, people don’t care about talk time or unlimited messages, it’s all about the data.

    Now the ability to TAP with NFC enabled mobile phones is the way to go and it can’t come soon enough. It’s all about data plans today and mobile TAP apps and reload to NFC enabled smartphones is the perfect solution for this. Japan has been using this technology since 2006.

    Of course there will always be those who are “concerned” about small issues like “oh no what will happen if the battery dies out” or whatever, stuff that somehow, other countries around the world has already figured out a solution to.

    Why is it that everything we do takes years to take shape with lame excuses over and over again when it has been implemented elsewhere? I thought America was the best country and leading technology in everything.

  7. Very interesting to see the motion promote so heavily post-NFC solutions for mobile payments. Seems like this would involve major costs and changes to the user experience, as we are continuing to build out the TAP system and install more hardware across the current system and new lines.

    I’m intrigued to see what some of these additional post-NFC options might be (and a little note, it’s called Apple Passbook, not Passport).

  8. These recommendations are beautiful, but most notably the idea of mobile apps that will allow NFC-enabled phones to manage TAP cards. Adding phone service will be a nice bonus and will finally give purpose to the Sheriff’s Hotline numbers posted in Red/Purple Lines trains (we all know you’re faking it if you’re “on the phone” in those trains now, haha). And I can’t wait to see how the video analytics software helps in reducing fare evasion, especially at stations that only have validators.

    I have to ask, though: Isn’t 7th St/Metro Center the most heavily trafficked Metro Rail station, and accordingly, wouldn’t it be appropriate to test some of these concepts there and not just at Union Station? Don’t get me wrong, Union Station is great, but there you have Amtrak/Metrolink/Metro/other muni bus lines all operating, which might lead to confusion as to what services are for what system.