NYC transit gets tech infusion

The governor’s proposal will add cell and Wi-Fi service to underground train stations, mobile digital fare payments and more.

When the New York City subway system first opened, it was the bleeding edge of transportation infrastructure -- but 100 years later, it needs a technology infusion. To bring the system into the 21st century, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to renovate a number of stations and install communications and safety technology to improve the travel experience of the city’s commuters and visitors.

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, more than 140 underground stations currently have cell and Wi-Fi service, but the MTA is working to get Wi-Fi into all underground stations by the end of 2016, with cellphone service available in early 2017.

“This is about doing more than just repair and maintain — this is thinking bigger and better and building the 21st century transit system New Yorkers deserve,” Cuomo said. “We are modernizing the MTA like never before and improving it for years to come.”

The governor’s proposal also includes replacing the MetroCard with mobile fare payments for subways and buses to make the payment process faster and allow customers to manage their accounts online.  The system lets passengers to pay for their fares by waiving a cellphone, bank card or credit card over contactless readers.  Subways and buses will start using contactless payment methods in 2018.

Other improvements in the governor’s proposal include:

  • Countdown clocks delivering real-time, open data on all subway lines, both in the stations on the MTA’s SubwayTime app.
  • Wi-Fi hotspots and USB charging ports for mobile device on subway cars and buses.
  • Digital information screens for buses, displaying information about upcoming stops and service alerts.
  • More interactive digital touchscreen kiosks that provide real-time service information, maps, travel planning and elevator and escalator status within subway stations.
  • Additional Help Points, the instant communication devices that provide direct lines to emergency assistance as well as service information.
  • More surveillance cameras in buses, with plans for subway deployment.

These new services complement the city’s LinkNYC project, the ongoing conversion of thousands of former pay phone locations into multifunction, Wi-Fi-based units that offer free gigabit Wi-Fi as well as free calls across the United States. In addition to telecom services, the phone stations are equipped with touch-screens to access city services, maps and directions for tourists, and charging connections for electronic gear.  Direct connections to city police, emergency responders and public safety message will also be wired in.

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