Home Subway Security Help Point pilot set for system-wide rollout

Help Point pilot set for system-wide rollout

by Benjamin Kabak

Created specifically for the subway environment, the Help Point is designed to be an easily recognizable communications tool for customers who need to either report an emergency or ask for travel directions. Photo by Felix Candelaria for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

As we learned yesterday that the MTA wants to introduce its “On The Go” screens to a wider audience, today we find out that another pilot program may get the green light. The MTA’s blue-light Help Point intercom system has been tabbed for a system-wide rollout, according to a New York 1 report.

The Help Point system, designed by Antenna Design back in 2005, made its debut in early 2011. The intercoms, similar to devices found on college campuses around the country, connect straphangers with an MTA information center or an emergency line, as the case may be. For the past year, they have been in place at 23rd St. and the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall stop along the Lexington Ave. Line.

Tina Redwine has more on a system-wide expansion:

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials say help for subway riders is on track to be just a push button away, with the Help Point Intercom. The MTA installed the machines at a couple of stations last April in a pilot program and now the agency will install one on every platform at every subway station citywide…

“It’s going to make people feel more safe,” said a rider. “Some people try to rob people’s stuff and now all you need is a button and the cops will be here to help you,” said another.

The MTA has had so-called “customer assistance intercoms” underground for years, but how well they assist is hard to say. The MTA says the new intercoms will be wireless, with a blue beacon to show where they are. They will be built camera-ready, but the MTA says it would be too expensive to put cameras in them for now.

Last year, I reported that the two-station pilot, which included intercoms every 150 feet, cost the MTA $300,000. A similar system-wide deployment would have cost $139,800,000, but the MTA, as NY1 notes, will place just one device on every platform instead of four or five. That will clearly reduce the capital expenses for this project.

In a way, then, these devices provide an on-platform solution for customer safety. As long as someone is at the other end of the intercom, passengers can summon help at the push of a button. Seems like a good idea to me.

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Al D March 7, 2012 - 3:19 pm

If it’s just 1 per platform, it will help customer safety until that thug is standing between you and it.

Dan March 7, 2012 - 8:45 pm

With the “touchscreen” interfaces also being planned to roll out, why couldn’t the tech be integrated into one kiosk when placed on platform? Seems silly to have separate hardware just because they’re from different trials.

Then again, this is the MTA I’m talking about.

Matthias March 8, 2012 - 9:37 am

I like the photo with the door-blocker in the background.

pete March 10, 2012 - 7:13 am

Dont they have these intercoms already all over the system? Blue light supposed to make people feel better than no blue light?

Is this preparation for removing payphones from the subways?

Kai B March 11, 2012 - 2:34 pm

I believe the voice quality is supposed to be better as well. And the two options (info versus emergency). The blue lights do make them easy to locate.

Ryan Ng March 11, 2012 - 3:32 pm

They should have had red lights for the Help Points to make them more identifiable.


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