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App acts as eyes for visually impaired transit users in Las Vegas

Visually impaired residents who rely on public transportation now have a high-tech helping hand on their commutes.

Whether it’s trips on Regional Transportation Commission buses or mixed trips combining ride-hailing companies, the process is led by a trained professional who becomes the eyes of the user. It’s a joint effort between mobility app Moovit, Microsoft’s Azure Maps and assistance app Aira.

A visually impaired person can open the Aira app and summon an employee to access the user’s view via their smartphone camera or smart glasses in real time. Additionally, a map of the area pops up for the employee to have a greater sense of the person’s location.

“A professional will be able to view everything the user is viewing and is able to guide the person and give them detailed instructions,” said Yovav Meydad, Moovit’s chief growth and marketing officer. “This product (Aira) was built using Moovit … which gives cities, municipalities and transit agencies the ability to introduce mobility as a service to their citizens.”

Users can be guided by the Aira employee to their preferred mode of transit and can be with the person for the entire ride, Meydad said.

“They can tell them, ‘OK the next bus will arrive in 10 minutes,’ and guide them there,” he said. “They can even tell them how many stops to stay on the bus until the need to disembark. They can assist and guide them through their entire journey.”

The app works with public buses, trains and ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

“If you live in a city and don’t own a car, Moovit will give you all the options needed to travel in a convenient way,” Meydad said.

As populations age and the number of people with age-related vision loss rises, Moovit, Microsoft and Aira are looking to make public transit more accessible and easier for blind and low-vision riders to travel with increased confidence.

“Which line do they take? When exactly are they supposed to arrive? All these questions that might arise with using public transit, we’re trying to address them and provide them all the answers,” Meydad said. “This way we’ll remove barriers for adoption of public transit.”

The Moovit and Aira apps are free to download on Apple and Android devices. Paid monthly subscriptions are available.

Strip work

After being delayed last week because of rainy weather, a major multiyear road project on Las Vegas Boulevard kicks off this week.

The first phase of the planned five-year project will begin Monday morning on a stretch of both sides of the Strip between Resorts World Drive and Spring Mountain Road, Clark County officials announced last week. One or two lanes on both sides of Las Vegas Boulevard on the stretch will close to traffic from 12:30 to 11 a.m during work time frames.

The initial lane closures are part of a $47.7 million portion of the project that will affect Las Vegas Boulevard from Spring Mountain to Sahara Avenue through early 2021.

The project is broken down into multiple phases over a 5.7-mile portion of the Strip, with each focusing on a section of Las Vegas Boulevard between Sahara and the 215 Beltway. The price tag for the entire project wasn’t immediately available.

Each phase includes repaving Las Vegas Boulevard, water main replacements, adding an additional fourth lane where right of way allows, pedestrian enhancements, technology and infrastructure upgrades to the traffic system, adding LED lighting and enhancement to medians. Work on all of the phases is expected to take more than five years to complete.

For more information on the project visit the county’s website at resortcorridor.com.

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