Boston’s Mass Transport System Deploying Ad-Free Customer Information Displays Across Network

May 5, 2022 by Dave Haynes

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (or MBTA) has started deploying what it calls pre-fare “Customer Information Displays” at subway stations in the greater Boston, running real-time information about the state of the system and service.

The wall-mounted screens are located on the lobby level of stations, outside the fare gates. Right now the screens are in place at Government Center, Tufts Medical Center, Maverick, Ashmont, and Porter, but the MBTA says similar screens will be installed at more stations in the coming months. The set-up is expected to be in place at every rapid-transit station within the next three years.

“These new pre-fare CIDs are another excellent tool in our customer information arsenal. Our goal is to provide customers with the best information we have so that they can make the best decisions about their commutes,” says MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “Service disruptions or elevator outages are sometimes an inevitability, but with these new digital screens, customers will see in real-time how the issue might affect their trip, and perhaps decide on an alternative way of getting where they’re going. And they’ll get this information before they even step through our fare gates – something they’ve long requested. The information on the screens has been designed and developed completely in-house, and I want to thank our Customer Technology team for their dedicated work on this project.”

Developed by the MBTA’s Customer Technology Department, the screens are “in direct response to feedback from riders and will initially include notifications of subway service alerts and information about out-of-service elevators. Dedicated exclusively to real-time information about the system and service, the screens also include a button to generate an audio message, ensuring that blind or low-vision customers have equitable access to this information.”

The MBTA also says it is doubling the size of its pilot of solar-powered electronic ink signage at bus stops, and beginning the scale-up of E Ink signs at Green Line street-level stops.

I don’t have anything against DOOH screens in mass transport venues, but it is great and important to see municipal governments investing directly in screens that are ONLY there to inform customers, and not function fully or partially as advertising vehicles for third-party media companies. There is an undoubted allure to screens that can be monetized, but sometimes the best option and real ROI involves improving the rider experience.

I am reliably told these are displays from GDS.

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