Home MTA Technology Train locator screens debut on the L

Train locator screens debut on the L

by Benjamin Kabak

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Four months ago, New York City Transit announced its plans to bring real-time train location information to the L line. As part of the Line Manager program, this innovation would be implemented on a trial basis as one stop along the Canarsie Line with a potential future system-wide roll-out if it proves successful.

Yesterday, the agency unveiled the pilot program at the Myrtle-Wyckoff Aves. station in Bushwick. The NYC Transit press release credits line manager Greg Lombardi’s willingness to listen to customers as well as the technological innovations made possible by the computer-based train control technology along the L. “The idea for this new system came directly from the customers who use the L line every day coupled with Greg Lombardi’s willingness to listen to the issues and then look into finding a way to respond to their concerns,” NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts said.

Despite this immediate credit, NYC Transit had been eying a possible implementation of this trial program well before the line manager program came into being. This new program simply sped up the process. “This was an extremely worthwhile project. I had strong support and cooperation from everyone involved and it was great to be able to respond to my customers’ ideas on how to improve service,” said Lombardi.

Per the press release:

The Train Locator Console screens are split into two views: the bottom half of the TLC displays the locations of all trains moving along the entire L line; the top half is a magnified view of the station where it is installed, and the next station in both directions. Once the interface design was approved, 42-inch flat-panel monitors were purchased off the shelf and Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues station was selected for TLC’s pilot location. Two platform screens have been installed along with a third screen in the fare control area for the pilot.

While I’d rather see a system-wide roll-out of a train wait time system, this is a great first step in that process. Now, we just have to see if the pace and scope of this technological innovation can continue in a time of economic crisis.

Photo courtesy of New York City Transit.

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15 comments

Ariel February 6, 2009 - 3:14 pm

This project isn’t necessary. The L train stations already tell customers how much time before the next two trains arrive, and that’s the only information we really need. Having screens showing where along the line those trains are doesn’t add any real benefit. I’d rather that the MTA totally scratch this project and use the funding to install the successful wait-time feature to other subway lines.

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herenthere February 6, 2009 - 5:37 pm

Good point! I forgot about those signs. Though the TVs have the potential to display more information, like advertisements and information.

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Max February 6, 2009 - 3:37 pm

The cool part about this project is the MTA did it in-house at low cost, as opposed to hiring some deadbeat contractor like Siemens to bill them a quarter billion and then never deliver. They need to do stuff like this more often.

But yeah, nice to see them installing these past couple weeks all those digital screens on the IRT that are taped with garbage bags and duct tape. Don’t hold your breath for those to begin working anytime soon.

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Anthony February 6, 2009 - 4:42 pm

I agree, this is pretty cool. However, if they did decide to use it at more stations (or maybe all?) I would hope they develop a more attractive UI. These boards could also be great for advertising, and they could easily add the time left until the next train arrives too. Maybe it displays that in small print, and it switches views between train display, time display, and a quick advertisement every few seconds? Just a thought.

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herenthere February 6, 2009 - 5:39 pm

Advertising+information from the MTA would be great! The revenues generated from ads would pay for the TVs in month. Singapore’s MRT already does this…

But seriously, if they ever do like a Version 2.0 of the UI, use something like Linux…you know I see that Windows header in that pic…

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rhywun February 6, 2009 - 8:56 pm

Yeah, the UI is *really* ugly, as least from what I can see in the picture. There’s plenty of time to improve it…

RE: “The L train stations already tell customers how much time before the next two trains arrive, and that’s the only information we really need.”

I read on somewhere that those signs are based on the train schedules, not the actual location of the trains.

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Benjamin Kabak February 6, 2009 - 8:59 pm

Nah. The signs are based on the location of the trains.

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rhywun February 7, 2009 - 12:33 pm

I was talking about the old signs. According to the Times, “The electronic signs and announcements are based on a computer program that estimates train movements based on a set schedule, which means they sometimes can be wrong.”

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Kai February 7, 2009 - 2:40 pm

They do update based on location. During rush hours for example, you’ll see things like next train 4 min, following train 5 min. That’s probably not how the schedule is set.

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Marc E February 7, 2009 - 7:56 am

Ugh…everyone’s a graphic designer in this day and age…you’d think they’d have consulted someone in the sign shop or perhaps *ANYONE* with the most recent graphic standards manual (if they even use one these days anymore) to develop the UI for the app. This might not be a necessary piece of information being presented to riders, but we’ll never know until the MTA learns how to properly present information to riders….

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Kai February 7, 2009 - 2:45 pm

I’m sure there will be some improvements to the UI if they decide to expand this display system to other station. Right now it seems like this was a quick-and-dirty L-Train management operation.

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busy bee February 8, 2009 - 6:50 pm

^Let’s hope so. As with Marc E, I agree that the graphic interface is ghastly. Comparing the sharp, smart and continuos graphic and brand identity of a system like the London Underground with the MTA is shocking and at it’s core — embarassing.

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Scott E February 8, 2009 - 9:13 pm

Jeez, some people are picky. This is a good first step, and unlike most first steps, this one actually seems to work! I’d rather see a crude looking graphic that shows USEFUL information than a non-functional sign. I’m glad that they’ve worked out the important parts — identifying where the trains are and presenting the information to the passenger.

Quite honestly, it’s a relatively simple system; there’s no predictive algorithms like the time-to-next-train signs, it just tells you the current situation. Once this is established and working, then it’ll be time to polish it up a bit.

On a side note, if I recall, these screens were purchased off-the-shelf at Circuit City. If they want to continue this, they’d better make those purchases fast!

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Ed February 13, 2009 - 8:19 am

While the signs already tell when the next trains are coming, this system is taking a step towards getting train arrival posted online in real time. While that may seem superfluous, I know I’d save a lot of time just standing around in stations if I knew when the next train was coming to my local station.

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wango tango April 25, 2015 - 2:56 pm

Too bad Greg showed his true colors after hurricane Sandy. Dummy!

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