Stand at the intersection of Sunset and Fannin, and as a train approaches, you'll hear an announcement telling you exactly that.
It's part of a pilot program METRO is conducting in partnership with Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) using Bluetooth technology. The Bluetooth Pedestrian Announcement System, or B-PAS for short, is housed in a box mounted on a pole near a crosswalk near a platform. As a train approaches, it emits a signal that is picked up by the technology in the box, triggering an announcement in English and Spanish: "A METRORail train is approaching."
The B-PAS technology is installed at four intersections: Lamar and Main, Richmond/Wheeler and Main, Sunset and Fannin, and Dryden and Fannin.
This pilot program is one more way METRO is trying to increase pedestrian awareness of trains. TTI took a survey of each of the four locations where this B-PAS technology is being used and then observed crossing behavior.
At the Public Safety, Customer Service & Operations committee meeting on Feb. 15, Jonathan Brooks, assistant research scientist at TTI, presented findings of TTI's survey measuring the effectiveness of the B-PAS announcements.
The surveys were done on weekdays, primarily in the morning. Of the respondents, 93 percent were pedestrians, 7 percent cyclists, 63 percent male and 38 percent female. Ages were estimated, with 41 percent between the ages of 31 and 50, and 36 percent ages 18 to 30.
When asked if they heard the announcement as the train was approaching, 83 percent said they did. Those who did were asked when were they aware the train was approaching. More than half – 52 percent said they were aware of the train before the B-PAS announcement, and about one-third – 32 percent - said they were aware of the train approaching when they heard the announcement.
Those who heard the announcement were also asked: How useful was the announcement for warning you about an approaching train?
Overall, 44 percent said "very useful," 46 percent said, "somewhat useful," and 8 percent said, "not at all useful."
Surveyors observed crossing behavior and, overall, 56 percent of pedestrians and cyclists crossed legally, while 44 percent did not.
In summary, most people heard the announcement – 83 percent. Opinions about how useful it was varied by location with 62 percent of pedestrians and cyclists at Lamar and Dryden calling it "very useful."
Of those wearing headphones, 100 percent agreed B-PAS was somewhat or very useful. Joggers could hear the announcement with their headphones on, and liked that.
Andy Skabowski, chief operating officer, told the committee that there's not one solution that will promote safety around the trains, but a multi-pronged approach that includes stripes on streets, in addition to B-PAS, could be helpful.
Brooks, the presenter, said that more law enforcement officers on the street would deter illegal crossing but only if pedestrians observe that the jaywalking laws were being enforced.
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