New York City subways are set to enter the digital age, following New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s announcement that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has commenced trialling countdown clocks for the N, Q and R lines.

The 90-day trial sees initial testing occurring in eight stations across the lettered subways lines, with the view to install the clocks across all 268 lettered stations, if successful.

Governor Cuomo said these actions were the latest steps toward rebuilding and transforming the MTA into a unified, state-of-the-art transportation network that would meet the needs of current and future generations of New Yorkers.

“With this new and updated technology, we’ll help ensure riders have the information they need to get where they need to go,” Governor Cuomo said.

MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said Governor Cuomo had challenged the MTA to develop an aggressive approach to putting countdown clocks on the lettered lines, and the technology team’s response has been phenomenal.

“In very short order they developed an easy to deploy, cost-effective system that we think will play a central role in bringing this essential service to more and more of our customers. We look forward to learning from this test, as well as to developing a roll out plan based on our findings.”

Countdown Clocks – the how and where:

Where:

  • 23rd Street
  • 28th Street
  • 34th Street
  • 42nd Street
  • 49th Street
  • 57th Street
  • 5th Avenue/59th Street
  • Lexington Avenue/59th subway stops

What:

Each location will be fitted with two countdown clocks with enhanced LCD screens. The screens will exhibit public service announcements and other commuter-relevant content.

The technology:

Using the existing Transit Wireless network in each station, plus cloud computing, four Bluetooth receivers are placed in each station – two at either end of the platform. The platform receivers communicate with Bluetooth devices installed in the first and last cars of each train.

Arrival and departure time is calculated as the train enters and leaves a station, and this information is then displayed on the LCD screens at each station delivered through the Transit Wireless network

Test phase:

During the 90-day trial, any issues with the system will be identified and corrected. The MTA’s goal is to evaluate the location data’s accuracy, optimize performance via the Transit Wireless infrastructure, performance of the LCD displays, physical and network security of Bluetooth devices, security of data being transmitted, and internal access and use of data being generated.

Transit Wireless is a BAI Communications company.