Home MTA Technology ‘On The Go’ pilot brings travel info underground

‘On The Go’ pilot brings travel info underground

by Benjamin Kabak

Paul Fleuranges offers up a demonstration of the MTA's new On The Go video board. Photo courtesy of New York City Transit.

Over the past few years, the MTA has moved its technological offerings into the 21st century. The authority took a staid website with little interactivity, and bit by bit, they have added more real-time information about subway and rail services, introduced a better TripPlanner and unveiled a map that will change as the weekend service does. With bus trackers and countdown clocks going live, customers should be better informed than ever before.

Still, though, the MTA has to get its information through a physical barrier. As a large portion of the subway system is underground, cell signals do not penetrate to the stations below, and at the times when customers most need that real-time information, they have no way of accessing it. Enter the new “On The Go” program.

The new travel stations, unveiled yesterday at Bowling Green by MTA officials, is part of a pilot program that will include five subway stations and commuter rail hubs. Interactive touch screens will be set up Bowling Green, Grand Central, Atlantic Ave./Pacific St., Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue and Penn Station. The interactive data offerings include maps, TripPlanner capabilities, real-time status updates, escalator and elevator outages and local neighborhood maps. The MTA will also partner with third-party app developers to provide additional local information and, for example, dining guides from Zagats. Similar to those in taxicabs, the screens will also show a news crawl and the latest weather.

“With On the Go, we are adding yet another layer of state-of-the-art customer communications into our subway system, but it goes far beyond the already helpful information provided by our countdown clocks and the displays in our new technology subway cars,” Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast said. “On the Go will provide riders with instant information that makes using the transit system more efficient.”

The technology behind these terminals comes from Cisco’s Interactive Services Solution. A general manager from the company spoke about the way the screens can both improve passenger experience while creating new revenue sources for the MTA. “We have worked with cities all over the world, as a part of our Smart+Connected Communities initiative, in using the network as the platform to transform physical communities to connected communities. This pilot demonstration shows the potential for technology to connect, enhance and improve the quality of life for communities,” Syed Hoda said.

Following the unveiling yesterday, a few commentators wondered about the durability of such devices, but Transit says they are built to withstand the beating to which New Yorkers will subject them. Antenna Design New York Inc., the same firm behind the Help Point pilot program, has constructed a stainless steel enclosure with components that are durable and easy to clean and maintain. Of course, based on the MTA’s touchy relationship with technology, that’s one area in which the authority will have to prove itself through actions rather than words.

Ultimately, if customers are accepted of the new technology, the MTA anticipates installing these devices throughout the system. Officials believe the screens can also generate revenue through advertising which would “help to defray the costs of installation.”

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SEAN September 20, 2011 - 12:50 pm

Ben, I think you ment to type escalator & elevator outages & not outrages.

These devices are similar to the adspace advertising units you see in such malls as GSP, Willowbrook & Woodbridge Center.

Jerrold September 20, 2011 - 4:21 pm

And Sean, I guess you MEANT to type MEANT and not MENT.

Jerrold September 20, 2011 - 4:26 pm


As of 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning (9/13/11), the TBM was 296 linear feet away from its final destination: the lower level of the stub cavern at the 63rd Street/Lexington Avenue station. This would put it somewhere near the middle of the city block that is bordered by 63rd & 64th streets and 3rd & Lexington avenues.

With good rock (i.e. rock without fractures, so they can mine 50 to 70 feet a day) they most likely will [now] break through into the stub cavern sometime early next week.


Ramiro September 20, 2011 - 5:41 pm

If you check the launch box website today, you’ll notice that as of yesterday its still over a 100 feet away from the end of the run.

And as for this pilot, I hope it becomes permanent, because the MTA does a poor job of updating its customers of what goes on underground. A visual reference (instead of a loudspeaker announcement) will definitely be more beneficial.

Jerrold September 20, 2011 - 6:01 pm

Wasn’t THAT update put up there Friday? I was thinking that yesterday’s work and today’s work might possible have finished it.

Scott E September 20, 2011 - 9:05 pm

What is the cost of the system, and how is it being paid for? I see a PIX11 ad and an NY1 logo at the bottom of the screen (in itself ironic, since CBS manages all MTA advertising) but ad revenue isn’t as lucrative as it was once believed to be. I say it’s nice technology, but unless it replaces other expenses, like the printing and hanging of service advisory notices, there’s really not much of a financial motivation to do this.

Transit’s ‘On The Go’ kiosks set for wider expansion :: Second Ave. Sagas March 13, 2013 - 12:38 pm

[…] “On The Go” kiosk program launched in September 2011 at five stations in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. These touchscreen devices over travelers […]


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