MTA plans at least 120 digital subway station kiosks

Anika Barnes, of Harlem, uses the touch screen

Anika Barnes, of Harlem, uses the touch screen kiosk in the Bowling Green station in Manhattan. (Sept. 18, 2013) (Credit: Jeremy Bales)

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The MTA plans to install scores of interactive touch-screen information kiosks in subway stations across the city by the end of this year.

At least 120 of the digital machines will be placed at 21 stations, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said Wednesday.

The upgrade comes as the agency continues to wire underground stations with Wi-Fi and plans to bring cellular reception to the subway stops and even onto trains while they are in tunnels.

Thomas Prendergast, the MTA chairman and chief executive, said the kiosks "provide instant information that makes using the transit system more efficient."

Stainless-steel kiosks debuted in September 2011 at five stations, including Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal.

This fall, the second phase of the "On the Go!" program will feature new kiosks designed by CBS Outdoor, the advertising division of the media giant, that will provide 30 machines, and Control Group, a Manhattan technology design firm that is contracted for 90 kiosks with the potential for 25 more.

Since August, a Control Group kiosk has been tested in lower Manhattan's Bowling Green station to make sure it can "operate in our environment," said Paul Fleuranges, the MTA's senior director for corporate communication.

"It's a very harsh environment -- extreme temperatures, a lot of dust," he said.

The 21 stations that will get the kiosks range from major hubs, such as Union Square and Columbus Circle, to smaller stations, including the Bedford Avenue L-train stop and 149th Street-Grand Concourse in the Bronx.

"We're going to be all over the place," Fleuranges said.

The two companies are bearing the cost of the machines, with the MTA only covering installation.

Once the companies recoup their costs through advertising displayed on the machines, 65 percent of those funds will go to NYC Transit, officials said.

The initial feedback has led Control Group to upgrade its touch screen to be more sensitive and accurate, and let riders touch train icons to get detailed travel information.

Colin O'Donnell, a Control Group partner and project leader, said the kiosks will offer one-touch navigation, with directions presented as a map or shown as a list; alternative routes to destinations; and will track trains as they head to a station.

"We all take the subway every day. This is really a hometown project for us," O'Donnell said of the firm's staff.

CBS Outdoor's Rich Ament, senior vice president for business development, said the company wants to offer a kiosk useful to both tourists and seasoned commuters.

"We have to be able to cater to both," Ament said.

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