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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis December 16, 2011
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On the Go! Travel Station Kiosk and ‘Weekender’ Launched by New York MTA
BY THOMAS F. PRENDERGAST, President, MTA New York City Transit, and Executive Committee Member-at-Large, APTA

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority is in the midst of a customer communication revolution. There are a number of initiatives underway that aim to improve the availability and accessibility of real-time transit information that are customers want most. Two such projects that were launched this fall are the On the Go! Travel Station pilot and the new Weekender web site.

The On The Go! Travel Station is a six-foot, interactive touch screen offering up-to-the-minute travel information to subway and commuter rail customers. From the introduction of the five pilot units, customers have been drawn to the colorful, high-definition displays that offer current service status; planned reroutes; elevator and escalator status; itinerary planning; digital maps of the system; and the nearby neighborhood; and detailed information on local attractions.

Tall, highly visible, and enclosed in a sleek stainless steel display, the units feature information often found on paper notices taped to station walls. Aside from reducing station clutter, the On the Go! units allow riders to request information by line and all with the touch of a finger.

Additionally, the units can be customized for a specific location or time of day. For example, units located at Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal default to subway information during the morning rush period, but display commuter train service for the evening commute.

On the Go! is an integral component of the MTA’s philosophy of offering information to its customers in attractive, easy to access formats. New York City Transit is striving to keep our customers informed, as they plan their trips, from their desktops at home to Countdown Clocks and On the Go! units in stations.

Developed in cooperation with Cisco as part of a pilot demonstration project, On the Go! utilizes the corporation’s Interactive Services Solution, a flexible and scalable platform enabling interactions through rich media, live video, real-time information, and user-friendly management tools.

While the lion’s share of the information available at On the Go!, such as TripPlanner, service status, and maps, is sourced from the MTA’s web site—mta.info-- information focusing on neighborhood history and local dining options comes from applications created by outside providers, as well as third party applications developers using MTA data.

In addition to the two commuter railroad hubs, units have also been installed at the Bowling Green subway stop in Lower Manhattan, Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street in Downtown Brooklyn, and the Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue stop in Queens.

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. Importantly, with their bright clear display, On the Go! Travel Stations have the potential to generate significant advertising income, which would help to defray the costs of installation.

The other major customer communication improvement launched this fall was “The Weekender,” a feature of mta.info intended to transform the way riders navigate the subway system on weekends. The Weekender takes over the front page of mta.info each weekend, making it easy for subway riders to visualize exactly how weekend work will affect subway service. New York City Transit does an incredible amount of construction work on the subway every weekend; this work is critical to keep a 24/7 system going.

The centerpiece of The Weekender is a subway diagram displaying the service to be provided each weekend, including all service changes. Stations impacted by service diversions are highlighted by blinking icons. The Weekender presents weekend service diversion information in a visual way and an interactive way for the first time

Users click to choose one of three ways to view service change information using the map:

Service by Line: Click on a subway line symbol to get a line diagram showing an overview of the line's service changes, as well as text summaries of the changes.

Service by Borough: Click on a borough for text-based information about any service changes impacting a borough.

Service by Station: Select a station for details on any service changes impacting that station, or click on the map to zoom to a detailed area.

The diagram used as the base of The Weekender is designed to illustrate service diversions at a glance. It is inspired by the 1972 New York City subway map designed by world renowned map maker and designer Massimo Vignelli. This updated diagram, first unveiled in 2008, was designed by Vignelli and his associates, Beatriz Cifuentes and Yoshiki Waterhouse. Supplementing the base diagram, The Weekender provides for the first time an electronic venue for the popular MTA Neighborhood Maps that are posted inside subway stations. These maps show the precise locations of subway station entrances within the street grid, along with locations of popular area destinations.

Taken together, the On the Go! Travel Station and The Weekender demonstrate the MTA’s commitment to transparency when it comes to providing our riders with service information about our network – both before they enter and while they are in our system.

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