The MTA's march to modernity continues as the agency plans to install at least 120 digital kiosks at 21 stations around the city by the year's end.
MTA chair Thomas Prendergast said Wednesday that the kiosk pilot program, called On the Go, "enabled us to put technology in the station and do things that normally used to be done with a human presence."
"We're going to roll that out ... at a number of other locations across the system, primarily high-volume locations where they get usage and tailored to the specific neighborhood, as well as the system at large."
The kiosks would offer one-touch navigation, with directions presented in a map or shown as a list; alternative routes to destinations; and they would track trains as they head to a station, according to Colin O'Donnell, partner and project leader for Control Group, one of the companies designing the machines.
"We all take the subway everyday. This is really a hometown project for us," O'Donnell said of the Manhattan firm's staff.
The On the Go program debuted in September 2011 at five stations, including Penn and Grand Central Terminal. The second phase of the pilot will feature kiosks designed by CBS Outdoor -- the advertising division of the media giant, which will provide 30 machines -- and Control Group, which is contracted for 90 kiosks with the potential for 25 more.
Over the summer, 77 of the kiosks were supposed to be installed, but a change in the computing system delayed the machines until the fall, according to Paul Fleuranges, the MTA's senior director for corporate communications.
Since August, a kiosk from Control Group has been tested in lower Manhattan's Bowling Green station to make sure the computing system can "operate in our environment. It's a very harsh environment -- extreme temperatures, a lot of dust," Fleuranges said.
The 21 stations that will get new kiosks range from major hubs such as Union Square and Columbus Circle to smaller stations including the Bedford Avenue L-train stop and 149th St.-Grand Concourse in the Bronx.
"We're going to be all over the place," Fleuranges said.
The two companies are bearing the cost of the actual machines, with the MTA only covering installation.
And once the two companies recoup their money through personalized and contextual advertising, New York City Transit will get a 65% cut of the ad revenue.
The feedback has led Control Group to upgrade its touch screen to be more sensitive and accurate, and let riders touch train icons to get detailed information.
"We notice people walk up and they hit the 4 or 5 [train] button -- what looks like a button, it's really the subway line symbol," said Colin O'Donnell, a Control Group partner and project leader.
Rich Ament, senior vice president for business development at CBS Outdoor, said the company wants to offer a kiosk that's useful to both tourists and seasoned commuters.
"We have to be able to cater to both," Ament said.