LOS ANGELES -- Metro just wrapped up a three-week pilot program to test some new technology that would help visually-impaired riders get around Union Station.
The program is called "Wayfindr," and it uses special beacons placed throughout the station.
The beacons tap into smartphones to coordinate a user's position.
Union Station is already a busy place. Imagine trying to navigate the hustle and bustle as someone who is visually impaired.
Mark Gayles is legally blind from birth. He attends the Braille Institute in Los Angeles.
"It is difficult you know, to get around," Gayles said.
He’s one of more than 50 visually-impaired volunteers who helped Metro test out the indoor GPS.
"I wouldn’t have to worry about people saying 'go this way' or 'go that way' and getting me confused and getting me lost," said volunteer Kathleen Belinksi from Fontana.
"They listen through headphones or through the collar that we’re using today and get directions, find their way to a platform or bus stop anywhere in the station," said Dan Levy, Chief Officer of Civil Rights Programs for Metro.
He's been working to implement the technology as an alternative to a typical tactile pathway.
"A physical tactile pathway in the floor is not possible because it’s a historic building," Levy said.
He says until now, those who are legally blind have had to rely on inaccurate methods to find the right train platform.
"[They would] feel the wisps of air that blow down the tunnel and then count 1,2,3,4 to find out what track their going to," he said.
There are 21 beacons placed throughout Union Station that connect with software on a smartphone. Users can customize it with their gender, height, and language preference.
The software is open source, so there’s no licensing cost and the beacons cost about $15-$20.
"It will measure your gate, your speed. Someone who has a service dog might be more confident and walk faster," Levy said.
In Gayle's case, the Metro team programmed the software to navigate him to the bathroom on the second floor and then back toward the station entrance, while they followed him closely.
For Gayle, the technology offers another chance at independence.
"It would allow me to take it, knowing that I have safe assurance on getting to the train," he said. "Whoever can get their hands on this is a lucky person."
There are still a few bugs to work out of the system, but Metro hopes to offer the service by the end of the year.
"Wayfindr" is already in use in parts of England and Australia, but Los Angeles would be the first city in the U.S. to use the system.