Can touch-screen info stations thrive in the subways?By
At a few stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, the MTA has installed touch-screen information centers that serve as a clearinghouse for transit information and neighborhood direction. These “On-The-Go” stands are part of a pilot, and now, according to The Daily News, the MTA wants to bring these terminals everywhere. If all goes right, 468 subway stations may be equipped with these information kiosks.
Pete Donohue has the skinny on the authority’s plans:
The MTA wants to install 47-inch interactive tablets throughout the entire 468-station subway system, the Daily News has learned. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority envisions posting the “virtual agent” near turnstile banks “where the station booth or phone bank has been removed or (in) other areas of unused space,” according to an agency document.
The digital On the Go! screens would also be placed on platforms, replacing standalone paper maps and weekly service diversion notices that workers now change by hand. Going digital will allow officials to update information and advertising remotely, officials said. The ads could even be tailored to specific times and neighborhoods.
…The MTA doesn’t yet have a rollout schedule or project cost, [Transit spokesman Charles] Seaton said. It’s soliciting information from private firms on how to move forward, he said. One possibility is having a corporate sponsor pick up the tab in exchange for having its logo on every kiosk or a share in the advertising receipts. The screens are not part of any plan to further reduce station staffing, the authority said.
That last item will, of course, placate the folks who have long protested the decline of the station agent. In a way, though, it’s a false promise as the station agents are gone and not coming back. Still, the digital screens could be more helpful in certain ways. They can be connected to a network that allows the MTA to update the boards with real-time train alerts and can provide more information about the surrounding neighborhoods than many station agents could.
The real question though concerns vandalism: Can these screens withstand the subway environment and all that comes with it? The pilot devices are built to take a beating, and the other 465 others would have to be as well. Meanwhile, the MTA would also have to deal with inevitable upgrades. A typical computer is out of date after a year and ready for replacement in three of four. These items too may need to be on a replacement cycle or else the technology will grow stale as the Metrocard Vending Machine has. In any event, more information and a better delivery system should only improve commutes.