LACMTA thrill ride promotes rail safety, community awareness

Posted on June 1, 2003

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) developed an interactive thrill ride as part of a campaign to stress the importance of rail safety. Dubbed the “Metro Experience,” the ride is a traveling theater, complete with a 16-by-9-foot screen, surround sound and 4D effects by way of vibrating seats and strobe lighting. The use of 3D glasses brings riders even closer to the screen action. The Metro Experience is similar to theme park attractions such as Disneyland’s long-running “Captain Eo” and Universal Studio’s “Terminator 2: 3D.” On the road since early May, the MTA has been sending the mobile theater to communities that the agency’s new Metro Gold Line will travel through. Scheduled to have opened July 26, the new light rail line will shuttle trains between Los Angeles and Pasadena for the first time in more than a generation. Neighborhoods that lie within or near the Metro Gold Line’s 13.7-mile stretch have been the focus of the MTA’s safety awareness campaign. “The rail lines haven’t operated in these communities for years,” said MTA spokesperson Dave Sotero. “There is a new crop of people that live around that area who have no experience with interacting with trains, yet they are going to see these trains pass through their neighborhoods every 10 minutes.” While ideal for exhibition at city festivals and fairs, the Metro Experience is also flexible enough to be taken and displayed at local schools. Educating children is a key facet of the program. Sixty-plus schools are estimated to be situated near the Metro Gold Line route. The five-and-a-half minute presentation portrays real-life examples of dangerous behavior and their consequences around railway tracks and station platforms. These incidents have been observed by the MTA staff on other rail lines, specifically on the Metro Blue Line and the Metro Green Line. The film, however, is not trying to get the safety message out to the public by way of fear or a gross-out factor. “There isn’t any blood or gore,” Sotero said. “What happens is the screen will white out at the point of the collision, at the point where something unfortunate will happen. “But it really is meant to be a fun thing as well,” added Sotero. “While the students come away with the distinct impression that it is very uncool to get in the way of trains, at the same time, they’re still excited to experience the ride again.” For the MTA, the Metro Experience is merely the latest tool in its rail safety education efforts. The MTA Rail Operations Safety and Community Relations groups have worked together to not only promote the theater-on-wheels by visiting area schools and community events, but through other proactive educational presentations that emphasize additional safety measures the Rail Operations Safety department has built into the Gold Line system. For more information on the Metro Experience, visit www.mta.net.

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