LA Metro cars (Walter Cicchetti/

ShakeAlert comes to LA Metro

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will deploy the ShakeAlert earthquake warning technology to the city’s bus and rail facilities. Once installed, the technology will give systems a few seconds warning prior to an earthquake – enough time to shut down equipment to minimize damage and prevent injuries.

Southern California experiences 30 earthquakes every day. While many of those events are not strong enough to cause major damage, the ever-present threat looms over residents year round.

“Being able to add this system at our bus and rail facilities enables us to enhance the resiliency of the system and keep our services running for the public,” LA Metro Senior Director of Emergency Services Aldon Bordenave told Next City.

Developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, ShakeAlert relies on sensor data from U.S. Geological Survey’s Advanced National Seismic System, a collection of regional earthquake monitoring networks operated by partner universities and state geological surveys. ANSS sensors detect the compressional waves from an earthquake that precede the stronger surface waves that cause shaking. The sensors send their data to a ShakeAlert processing center, where algorithms estimate the earthquake size, precise location and the shaking it may produce.

That information then generates the ShakeAlert messages, which are sent to responders and critical infrastructure operators, instructing computers to trigger automated actions, such as slowing trains, closing water valves, opening firehouse doors, starting back-up generators and issuing public announcements, according to a ShakeAlert FAQ. Individuals can also download a ShakeAlert app to get the warnings.

Once ShakeAlert is installed in LA Metro, it will be largest deployment in any U.S. transit agency.

ShakeAlert’s technology is not new to this region. Los Angeles has conducted ShakeAlert pilots on its rail operations since 2016, and the city’s ShakeAlertLA app sends warnings to local smartphone users. The ShakeAlert network has expanded to neighboring states like Oregon and Washington, stretching its coverage to 50 million people on the earthquake-prone West Coast.

About the Author

Shourjya Mookerjee is an associate editor for GCN and FCW. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and has written for Vox Media, Fandom and a number of capital-area news outlets. He can be reached at [email protected] – or you can find him ranting about sports, cinematography and the importance of local journalism on Twitter @byShourjya.


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