Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 4

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Today’s Metro rider profile by Zocalo Public Square: Dispensing advice — take it or leave it (Marion Way to Highland Avenue)

7th Street / Metro Center Station. Photo by @ilegend_photo via Instagram.

7th Street / Metro Center Station. Photo by @ilegend_photo via Instagram.

Beacon technology to target Union Station visitors with help, commerce (L.A. Times)

Laura Nelson reports on Metro’s Bluetooth beacon technology pilot program. The location-based beacon technology could eventually be used to deliver station way-finding information, important announcements and special offers to passengers’ smartphones. Excerpt:

The technology would allow Metro to target Union Station visitors with precision. The agency could track commuters’ travel patterns through Union Station. If someone were heading toward the subway entrances, for example, a message could appear with directions to the nearest ticket-vending machine. Disabled passengers could receive directions to a working elevator.

Alerts could also appear from Metro vendors, such as Starbucks, offering a discount on a cup of coffee at a nearby kiosk, said Lan-Chi Lam, Metro’s director of Web and mobile communications.

If the pilot program is successful, the beacon technology may be implemented beyond Union Station to more stations across the Metro system. The article notes the technology is already being used at some major retailers as well as 20 baseball stadiums, including Dodger Stadium.

Laura also points out some privacy concerns with the new technology, but Metro officials say the beacons themselves will not store any user data and the service will require users to opt-in to receive messages.

After deadly Metro-North accident, investigation is underway (N.Y Times)

Sad news last night out of suburban New York: an MTA Metro-North Railroad train running on the railroad’s Harlem Line hit a stalled SUV during the evening commute, killing six people. The crash was the deadliest in Metro-North history and occurred only 14 months after a train derailment on the railroad’s Hudson line in the Bronx killed four and injured over 70. The latter was the first deadly accident in the railroad’s history and came not long after a string of other incidents.

The initial investigation is focusing on why the driver of the SUV was on the tracks. Like most investigations in the early stages, there are more questions than answers. Excerpt:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, appearing on several morning television interviews, said that there was significant traffic near the railroad crossing where the accident happened and that it did not seem that Ms. Brody, who was in her Mercedes S.U.V., was trying to beat the train at the crossing at Commerce Street in Valhalla, N.Y.

Instead, he said, it was more likely that she was somehow confused.

The article contains an eyewitness account of the driver of the car behind the SUV and another unverified report that the driver of the SUV was outside of the car at the time of impact, though neither give a clear picture of what happened. That the driver was confused seems to be the only sure thing so far.

Los Angeles World Airports chief to retire (Daily Breeze)

Gina Marie Lindsey, the executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, announced yesterday she plans to retire later this spring. During her tenure, the airport underwent $3 billion in improvements with the $1.9 billion Tom Bradley International Terminal upgrade scheduled to be finished later this year. Left to her successor is what the Daily Breeze calls the “most ambitious project” yet. That project, the $4 billion LAX modernization plan approved in December, includes an automated people mover to connect passengers from the airport to the Aviation/96th Street Station on the future Crenshaw/LAX line.

How smart car data gurus are trying to improve bike safety (Business Insider)

A quick look at three car companies researching smart car technologies to improve bike safety. The article highlights Jaguar Land Rover’s “Bike Sense” research program, which will use a vibrating indicator to alert drivers if the car door is opened in the path of an oncoming cyclist. The other two concepts from Volvo and Ford hope to use smartphone apps, cloud-based technology and data to alert both drivers and cyclists of an imminent collision.


On a lighter note today, if there any Parks and Rec fans out there, I’d like to get an online petition going to make this a reality:

For those of you who don’t watch the show, the final season (now airing) takes place in the year 2017, which is being used as an avenue to make some hilarious predictions about the future. One of those is what you see above. Apparently Mr. Biden will have plenty of time on his hands for introspection and poetry-writing in his golden years.