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New Technology Helps Keep Customers Informed

New technology is coming online throughout the subway system that is providing critical information to keep riders informed and able to make decisions on your way around town. A new focus and approach to technology projects has put long overdue projects back on track, from countdown clocks to security cameras, cell phone service to help point intercoms.

"So often, new technology is part of the hidden infrastructure of the subway and therefore it is transparent to our customers even though they benefit from its presence every day," said NYC Transit President Thomas Prendergast. "Now, we are putting in place technology that not only improves their commutes but is also visible, actually having a tangible impact on their commutes."

Some of the new technology and information customers will be able to utilize include:

Station Advisory Information Display (SAID) Signs:

Photo of Station Advisory Information DisplayThe MTA is working on providing customers with a dependable means of knowing the status of subway service before they pay their fares by developing the SAID (Station Advisory Information Display) system. The installation of the SAID signs will test NYC Transit's ability to successfully transmit real-time subway service information, as reported on the "Current Service Status" portion of the MTA website, to large LCD screens located in the station areas outside of the turnstiles.

The split-screen display shows subway line groupings and train service status information. When "Good Service" status is indicated, nothing is displayed on the other side of the screen. If a status of "Service Change," "Delay," or "Planned Work" is shown, as indicated by a red circle next to the operating lines, an explanation is provided on the other side of the screen. Customers are already familiar with the display from the mta.info website.

The new SAID Sign is currently being demonstrated at the 4th Avenue entrance to the Atlantic Avenue -; Pacific Street Station and at Grand Central adjacent to the main booth.

Train Arrival Information Signs:

Photo of Train Arrival Information SignsCustomers at nearly 100 stops can now just look up and see when the next train will arrive. The MTA is expanding the presence of next-train arrival displays in stations along both the numbered and lettered lines and riders are quickly adjusting to the fact that they no longer have to lean over the platform edge to see when the next train is coming. Customers at more than 75 stations on the numbered lines now benefit from next train information displayed by the Public Address/Customer Information System (PA/CIS).

Riders of the lettered lines can now receive similar information between 207th Street and Columbus Circle.59th Street. As work continues along the numbered lines, the lettered line initiative is currently progressing south to 23rd Street along the Eighth Avenue Line.

Two different means of gathering train location information are in use but it all adds up to the same thing—customer information that was not in place a year ago. Numbered line train arrival information is generated by the new Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) system, which monitors and controls train movement from the Subways Rail Control Center and provides the PA/CIS system with constant automatic updates of train locations. The system in use along the lettered lines keeps tabs on train movement through track circuits. These circuits detect the presence of a train which triggers a message to be displayed in the stations ahead.

Help Point Intercom (HPI):

Photo of new subway station intercomAt the same time, development work on the next generation of customer talk-back devices is rapidly moving forward. Plans call for Help Point Intercoms (HPIs) to be deployed in subway stations throughout the system taking customer communications to a level never envisioned when the system was opened more than a century ago. The two-button customer communications device will put riders instantly in touch with either the Rail Control Center to report an emergency, or the station booth for customer assistance. The HPIs are designed to be easy to use and immediately recognizable.

A pilot project to evaluate the HPIs is underway. Units will be installed at Brooklyn Bridge and 23rd Street along the Lexington Avenue Line. Among other things, the HPI's will be evaluated to determine whether a wired or wireless application is preferred.

Service Information Signage:

Decidedly more low-tech but every bit as important to customers is the signage that alerts them to planned service diversions. Last month we began the system-wide roll out of comprehensive Service Information posters detailing service diversions, making information about planned service changes easier to find and understand for the customer. The newly designed posters use an easier-to-comprehend format.

The posters are displayed at Customer Information Centers (CIC) located near the station booth but before customers pay their fares. They are posted on free-standing island platform map displays and have also been placed in the paid area affixed to station wall space.