New York Transit System Expanding Interactive Kiosk Trial

March 15, 2013 by Dave Haynes

OTG_2The MTA – which operates the transit systems running in New York City, has announced it is going ahead with a second phase of a pilot project for On the Go! Travel Stations, interactive touch-screen kiosks that provide trip planing information, maps and system status reports

Another 77 of the ad-supported units are being added in the system. The initial pilot launched in Sept. 2011 in a handful of subway stations, as well as Penn Station and Grand Central.

The On the Go! Travel Stations, says an MTA release, have been offering customers information about their entire trip, from planning with Trip Planner+, real-time service status, escalator & elevator status and local neighborhood maps. In addition, the MTA partnered with third party developers to include applications which provide additional information, such as local history, shopping and nearby dining options.

The sleek, stainless steel enclosures support a large screen with a colorful display and also provide news and weather information. The original On the Go! Travel Stations were designed by Antenna Design New York Inc. and are extremely durable and easy to clean and maintain.

“Taken together, this is an unprecedented amount of information made available to subway and commuter rail customers. These state-of-the-art customer communications kiosks provide instant information that makes using the transit system more efficient,” said MTA Interim Executive Director Thomas F. Prendergast. “The positive feedback we have received via our website or Twitter account has confirmed that our customers have embraced this new technology improving their riding experience.”

MTA NYC Transit’s marketing research team conducted research to quantitatively and qualitatively determine the use and customer response to the devices. Intercept surveys (550) were conducted at all five locations asking participants about the device and its functionality. In addition, passenger observations were carried out to determine the number of people using the device, and the length of their interactions.

Based on positive customer feedback to the kiosks, and the desire to determine if the network could work on a larger scale, the decision was made to move forward with the second phase of the pilot. In February 2012, MTA Real Estate issued a Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) soliciting responses from entities interested in being an advertising agent or sponsor of a future, large scale network of On the Go! Travel Stations.

The MTA will enter into license agreements with CBS Outdoor and Control Group Inc. requiring that the two licensees purchase the kiosks and deliver them to NYC Transit for installation. In this unique public/private partnership, the companies will each retain 90% of gross advertising receipts and pay 10% of the gross receipts to NYC Transit until they recoup their capital investments in the pilot. After they recover their costs, the companies will keep 35% of gross receipts and pay 65% to NYC Transit. Title to the kiosks transfers to NYC Transit upon installation and acceptance.

As part of this proof of concept phase of the pilot, the licensees will have the creative freedom to design the customer interface and to customize the transit-related applications that will reside on the kiosks, while also selling and displaying advertising to defray the related capital and operating expenses. During this phase, NYC Transit will evaluate customer perceptions, the ability to post and update information quickly, and advertising revenue opportunities. This information will inform decisions regarding deployment of additional kiosks, customer communication strategies and future advertising contracts encompassing digital media and platforms.

The kiosks, going into an additional 16 stations, will provide NYC Transit with a Digital Out of Home Network that will allow NYC Transit to communicate with customers at the station level, especially in times of planned and unplanned events, reducing the need to plaster stations with paper signage. It is estimated that the hardware cost of each kiosk will be under $15,000. CBS Outdoor will provide 30 kiosks and Control Group will provide anywhere from 47 to 90 kiosks.

The On the Go! Travel Stations can be customized for a specific location and by time of day. For example, at the Penn Station Travel Station, during the morning, the screen will default to subway information and in the evenings it will default to LIRR service. All content is remotely managed from a secure web-based management system and applications can be changed or updated as needed.

Big hmmm on these things.

The advertising zones on these displays are not all that big and down at thigh height, so I can’t imagine brands and media planners who really stop and think about it would be wild about the actual viewer numbers. It’s a one to one interactive thing, so that dilutes the numbers, as well. If they are being used, no on else is seeing those ads.

And then there’s the whole thing about smartphones and a city that will soon have ubiquitous free wifi. The trip planning and status utilities of these kiosks is nice, but I know I can get this level of real-time data on my phone – without touching a screen in a NY subway. In fact, the MTA has a long list of apps on its website.

The MTA green-lighting this project is a no-brainer, as it is not costing them a nickel and there is the faint hope they might see incremental revenue from the units. Not sure CBS Outdoor or Control Group will do much more than recover costs, and keep in mind installation and maintenance could double or triple that $15K a unit.

An MTA guy I was chatting with, by the way, mentioned a Nanolumens screen will soon be up in Penn Station.

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