For less than the cost of a single bus, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County might be the first transit agency in the country to take a significant step across an entire bus system that could open riding options to scores of vision-impaired customers with the use of a smartphone.
The secret is a small beacon about the size of a garage door opener, placed atop every one of the bus-stop poles.
Users can plot their location using a mapping program, then the beacons are integrated into the directions. As someone approaches their intended stop, their phone receives signals from the beacon, which can send an alert to their phone. Alerts can be delivered either as audio instructions or as tactile directions that use pulsing so someone can understand the instructions via sense of touch.
Installing a beacon at all of Metro's roughly 9,000 bus stops is expected to cost $375,000. The beacons, tucked into stops usually along the poles holding up the signs that list buses served by the stop, cost about $20 each when bought in bulk.
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