Long has the MTA — and, in particularly, New York City Transit — borne the label of technophobe. While subway systems across the nation and globe have long enjoyed video information boards and digital communications systems, NYC Transit has yet to bring this technology to New York City’s straphanging masses.
Well, the wait is sorta, kinda, almost over. According to NY1, the MTA has unveiled digital notice boards along the L and 7 lines, those line-managed icons of experimentation. The story:
Transit officials are testing a new program to alert subway riders with digital announcement boards in the event of delays.
Straphangers at six stations on the 7 and L lines will see video screens inside token booths as part of a pilot program. For now, they are only broadcasting public service announcements, but officials say they will provide up-to-the-minute information on service disruptions.
The Station Agent Information Display program, or SAID, cost the MTA $30,000 so far.
Officials at the rail control center will be able to send messages to individual stations, or groups of stations using wireless technology.
As with everything new in the subways, this is part of a pilot program, and the line managers say that station agents will continue to use those useless and uninformative white boards that I always thought were hanging up in the station booths for decoration. Why else would they still feature messages from July 22, 2005 when the NYPD started randomly searching bags in the subway?
Of course, the typical caveats apply: These boards are only as useful as the information on them. Right now, as the video story on NY1’s recently redesigned Website shows, the boards are being utilized only for the same old MTA PSA’s we’ve all had drilled into our subconscious: If you see something, say something. Throw away your trash. Sign up for the e-mail alerts.
The first real test of these boards will come during an unexpected service delay. If these boards help passengers find out before entering the system that trains are delayed, if they help re-route lost, confused or stranded passengers, then we can label them a success and call for systemwide implementation. But until that day, they’re just fancy TV monitors that happen to hang in the booth in your nearest subway stop.