MTA to add 9,000 new digital screens to better direct commuters

NEW YORK CITY -- The MTA announced Tuesday it is adding 9,000 more digital screens to help better direct commuters.

The agency said subway ridership reached nearly 1.1 million customers on Monday, July 6, as commuters head back to work and the city further emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

The digital screen initiative also includes the recent deployment of Mercury, a new communications platform that enables location-specific, targeted content to be sent to screens outside and in stations as well as on platforms throughout the subway system to bolster customer communication for the future.

The platform provides the MTA with the ability to display location-specific service information on screens in stations throughout the system, including planned and unplanned service changes, dynamic service alternatives, train arrival information at nearby stations, last train departure times before overnight service changes, and nearby bus routes.

In a future capability that is under development, the screens will also be utilized to alert riders at street level when stations become crowded due to service changes or delays, so they have the choice ahead of time not to enter a station.

Working with Outfront Media, leaders from MTA Construction and Development (C&D) began efforts to modernize digital signage in 2018.

The screens provide important real-time service information for customers while generating advertising revenue for the agency.

"Now, for the first time, we're able to tailor customer messaging to specific lines and stations," said Janno Lieber, president of MTA Construction and Development. "That's gives us a tremendous tool to convey COVID-relevant safety information, so we are pushing to deliver digital screens to hundreds of stations during this period of lower ridership."

There are currently 5,434 screens in the MTA system, the majority of which are in the subway system, with the plan to add more than 9,000 additional screens over the next 12 to 14 months,

All 472 New York City Subway stations are expected to include these new digital screens by 2023.

In addition to listing upcoming stop information for those who may be less familiar with the system, the screens will be useful even to regular riders in situations when upcoming stops can differ from train to train, even on the same line, such as:

Planned Service Changes

When crews perform routine or emergency track work during weekends, nights, and mid-day periods, trains can operate differently than regularly scheduled service - either by taking different routes or by shifting between local and express service. The information is provided via apps, website, but the screens are the first MTA offering to make this information clear at the point of boarding a train.

Time-of-Day Service Changes

Many subway lines have different stopping patterns at different times of day. The screens offer a new degree of clarity on when a line's stopping patterns change. For example, northbound B service operates to Harlem during middays and evenings, but extends to the Bronx during peak hours. The signs will make clear whether the next arriving train is heading to the Bronx.

Lines with Multiple Terminals

The screens clarify whether the next arriving southbound A train is operating to Lefferts Boulevard, Far Rockaway, or, as some do in peak times, Rockaway Park. Same is true for northbound 5 trains that travel to Eastchester-Dyer Av or Nereid Av on the White Plains Road line.

Lines Serving Lesser Known Alternate Rush Hour Terminals

Because of capacity constraints at the subway system's busiest terminals, some peak-hour trains operate on routes that differ from their commonly known terminals. For example, some N trains travel to 96 St via the Q line; some E trains travel to 179 St via the F line; and some 5 trains travel to Crown Heights-Utica Av via the 4 line. With the new strip maps, Crown Heights-bound customers waiting for a 4 train will be able to take a Crown Heights-bound 5 train with confidence.

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