Audio warnings help METRO riders avoid light rail dangers

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- METRO says efforts to make light rail crossings safer appear to be helping riders.

Metro announced almost a year ago that they would add bluetooth beacons to METRO light rail cars, which would set off audio warnings for people walking and cycling nearby.

Rice professor Marjorie Corcoran was killed while riding her bicycle at the METRORail crossing near Hermann Park in 2017.

She was familiar with the crossing, and was not wearing headphones.

"It will be a little helpful," Winn said, "I have an autistic child. So hearing that, and seeing the signs and everything. That will be a big help," driver Khristian Winn said.

Jacob Arredondo rides his bicycle there almost every day.

"Eventually you start to block it out. It's just background noise. You hear the train going by and it's loud. The cars going by are also loud," said Arredondo, "You get firetrucks and ambulances because we're here in the Medical Center."

METRO is aware of the challenges, and recently surveyed METRO riders about the warning system.

METRO Chief Operating Officer Andrew Skabowski says the results of the survey were positive.

"Over 70 percent thought it was a benefit to them. They said when they approached and heard the audio warnings, it made them look."

The audio warnings are only at a handful of rail stations. METRO may add more audio warning locations. They are also exploring the idea of using the METRO app as way to alert users about a train.

"It actually makes your phone buzz. It makes a noise. We're not sure exactly how it would work, and what the user acceptance of that would be, but that's something we're also trying to take a look at," said Skabowski.

METRO says it also seeks to add signage that is more like a crossing for a traditional railroad, reinforcing the need for caution.
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