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New York City Reveals “On the Go!” Touch-Screen Travel Station


Photos by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York

Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City’s public transit authority, revealed a new interactive touch-screen kiosk with real-time service status on Monday.  The project, “On the Go! Travel Station,” also provides escalator and elevator status information, trip planning resources and local neighborhood maps, as well as news and weather updates. This is a good example of an effective user information system, which we highlight as one of the eight key elements of branding, marketing and communications for public transport in our publication, “From Here to There: A Creative Guide to Making Public Transport the Way to Go.”

MTA launched the project in the Bowling Green station, along subway lines 4 and 5, and, if successful, will expand the project to a total of five subway stations and commuter rail hubs in the upcoming weeks. The project is currently in a pilot phase and will remain that way for the next 180 days.

The kiosk is a sleek, stainless structure that holds a large screen. According to DownTownExpress, MTA did not have to place any upfront investments for the project. Cisco developed the travel station and is funding it through advertisements that will display on the kiosks. Though MTA was not responsible for footing the bill, it will pay for labor, explains Nick Judd of Tech President.

Judd also brings up an interesting point while discussing the element of privacy in location-aware technology that is becoming more and more omnipresent in our daily lives. “These are some of the first real-world digital interventions that many people will see in their daily commutes, but theorists and thinkers have been chewing for some time on how they will change our lives as they become more ubiquitous,” Judd explains.

He gives the example of New York City taxi cabs that now carry small screens that show advertisements to a captive audience—“a potentially lucrative opportunity,” Judd says. He also gives the example of vending machines in Japan that use facial recognition software that make inferences on your demographics and accordingly suggest beverages for you to buy.

Judd does acknowledge that his concerns have more to do with “what might happen” rather than “what is,” yet his argument is still intriguing.

Judd also touches on New York City’s recent efforts in replacing single-space parking meters with Muni-Meters that keep track of all on-street parking on a block. In a conversation with Adam Greenfield, founder of the urban design firm Urbanscale, Greenfield tells Judd about the implications of collecting and using this kind of data. “You’re beginning to pull information off of real people’s real use of the real city,” Greenfield says, all in order to cater services more specifically.

Where do your thoughts lie on this issue? How much information is too much?

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  • Anonymous

    That’s an interesting argument. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  • Straphanger

    Bad idea.  The MTA should be focused on being the wholesaler of this information, not the retailer.  The model here is the National Weather Service (NWS).  Imagine if the NWS were focused on building signs in public squares that told you the weather report — what a waste of time and money!  Instead, weather information is easily accessible because the NWS is open and comfortable encouraging 3rd parties to use this data.

    The MTA has nominally embraced 3rd-party apps, but it won’t get really good at serving these 3rd parties until it gives up it’s focus on building its own signs.  When the MTAs engineers and project managers are working on these signs, they aren’t working on the thing that will drive the most value for riders!Check out this YouTube video for a good argument on the use of 3rd parties: