Mark Groce: I’m Mark Groce and you’re listening to an “In the News” podcast on TransitTrax, New York City Transit’s podcast service.
What’s sleek, interactive, chock full of information and arriving at a subway station near you? The MTA’s new On the Go! Travel Station, being rolled out as part of a pilot demonstration project at five subway stations and commuter rail hubs across the city. Elisabeth Wooten of NYC Transit explains.
Elisabeth Wooton: On the Go! is a new touch screen interactive kiosk that’s available in five stations in our system. It provides information to customers in the station where they really need it. There’s been a lot of new initiatives recently that bring real-time information to the customers in stations where they really want that information. They can make the decision about their travel where they need to make that decision, which is right before they get on the train. And along with our countdown clocks and the service status signs that have shown up in many stations, this is just another piece of that puzzle.
Mark Groce: The Travel Station, which was developed jointly with CISCO Systems, stands about six feet high with a 47 inch screen. The touch-screen is divided into two sections: one for the MTA travel and information content, the other half for advertising. At the top of the screen is the station name, weather information, and a clock. At subway stations, Service Status will be the default screen. Separating the two halves is a row of blue app buttons. Touching one activates the app which appears on the screen.
Paul Fleuranges: The apps that appear on the On the Go! screen were developed in house. They were adapted for the On the Go! Apps like Trip Planner+, MTA system maps, we have a Key Destinations app, we have our Neighborhood Map there, Planned Work, as well as railroad departure information. So, for instance, you can touch the Elevator & Escalator button and a display of equipment outages displays on the screen. A touch of the wheelchair icon flips the screen, which allows someone who’s in a wheelchair easier access to the touch screen.
Mark Groce: Paul Fleuranges is Senior Director, Corporate & Internal Communications at the MTA.
Paul Fleuranges: We want customers to know that when they look at On the Go! that it’s an interactive machine and that we’re trying to put information that is heretofore has been on paper or inaccessible, at their fingertips where they need it, in the station. So the touch screen itself, being interactive, allows our customers to have a more customer-friendly experience with the information we have in our system, and that’s really one of the goals that we set out to try to accomplish.
Mark Groce: The pilot, two third-party apps – MyCity and Zagat's – provide local dining and other entertainment information. At the bottom of the screen is a news ticker. Taken together, this is an unprecedented amount of information made available to subway and commuter rail customers in one handy tool. Making all these apps work seamlessly behind the screen of the On the Go! Travel Station is a software management tool supplied by CISCO.
Sayd Hooda, General Manager, Emerging Solutions Group, CISCO: Our management software is what really does that. We allow a central location to send, to detect, to sense what’s going on and then make changes or give updates. So it’s really our management software that allows that to happen. There’s hardware at the end points, a Thin Client as we call it. It’s sort of a stateless device, there’s no moving parts, so it really doesn’t break down, powered by software that allows you to see what’s going on across essentially the entire system, and provide updates as you like.
Mark Groce: With the flexibility the software management system provides, On the Go! can be customized for a specific location and by time of day. For example, at the Travel Station located at Penn Station, during the morning, the screen will default to subway information and in the evenings it will default to Long Island Rail Road service. With On the Go! the MTA is taking advantage of technology used in entertainment venues to manage video content, to put more information at rider’s fingertips where they need it.
Sayd Hooda: This digital interactive station, On the Go!, is the first of its kind in the transit world. No other system in the world has something quite like this. Now there are elements of this that have already been out there in the world in fact in stadiums right here in New York – Yankee Stadium, the new Meadowlands – they use similar technologies in how they manage their video content, but it’s not interactive, it’s just video being played across screens managed in the same way we’re doing it here, but it’s not interactive. So this is the first of its kind, bringing digital interactions to citizens, to consumers at the end points are all managed in one place.
Mark Groce: During this pilot the On the Go! Travel Stations will be available for customer use at Bowling Green, Penn Station (LIRR), Grand Central Terminal (Metro-North), Atlantic Av-Pacific St, and Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Av. Designed by Antenna Design New York Inc., the stainless steel enclosure and its components are extremely durable and easy to clean and maintain. Depending on customer acceptance and success of the pilots, On the Go! may eventually be installed in stations throughout the system. So when you’re on the go and need help, look for the On the Go! Travel Station. Help is just a touch away.
For TransitTrax, I’m Mark Groce. Thanks for listening and thanks for riding with MTA NYC Transit.