MTA To Test Wi-Fi Technology At 80 Subway Entrances

This past November, Caroline McCarthy broke the news of a deal between CBS & the MTA on her blog on CNET called “The Social”. The deal between the two parties would bring free wi-fi service to a 36 block chunk of midtown. In case you missed the article, here it is courtesy of “The Social“:

A chunk of 36 city blocks in Manhattan will have free, ad-supported public Wi-Fi access by the end of November, thanks to a new initiative from CBS Corporation in conjunction with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and New York City Transit.

Called the CBS Mobile Zone, this area of coverage will stretch through a bustling, tourism- and business-heavy swath of midtown from 42nd Street north to Central Park south, from Sixth Avenue west to Eighth Avenue. (Landmarks-wise, that’s roughly Times Square to Columbus Circle.)

The new effort will be supported largely by advertising. Upon logging on, Web surfers will come to a home page with “hyperlocal content such as breaking local and national news, sports highlights, weather reports, music discovery, wallpapers, ringtones, maps, a social network, and the ability to search for nearby restaurants, shops and entertainment complete with geographically-targeted community reviews,” according to a release from CBS. Citi and Salesgenie.com have signed on as sponsors. Some businesses within the midtown zone will also be equipped with routers to take advantage of the Internet access.

At this point, however, it’s only a six-month test, or as CBS calls it, a “pilot program.” After all, the future of public Wi-Fi programs remains hazy as municipal plans continue to stall across the country.

In regards to this program, Marlene Naanes of AMNY reported that the MTA may be able to alert customers to important information via the video screens which reside on the top of 80 subway entrances in the area. Here is Marlene’s article courtesy of AMNY:

Video screens perched atop 80 subway entrances could keep commuters out of harm’s way soon if wireless technology is able to transform them into more than advertising displays.

“If there’s a train collision or a flood, a message would be right there on the sign,” said Chantel Ramon, as she stood in front of a video screen near the Port Authority bus station. “It would make me feel safer, and I wouldn’t have to walk all the way downstairs and see a gate down.”

By the end of the month, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is scheduled to begin testing Wi-Fi technology that will communicate with the screens, which now mostly tout television shows.

The technology — installed by the MTA’s advertising contract holder CBS Outdoor — would allow the agency to override the video ads and transmit messages to straphangers during emergencies.

“So if there is an issue with the trains downstairs, we can tell our customers not to go down there,” said Roco Krsulic, the MTA’s director of real estate.

If the technology is rolled out it would allow more advertisements to be loaded in the loops. Clients, who now buy one-month spots on the screens, could wirelessly update the ads more frequently for a premium price, translating into more ad dollars for the MTA.

The MTA does not know how long it will test the technology, and it is unclear when it would be ready to broadcast emergency messages or offer more advertising options. The cost of the communication system is covered in a contract the MTA has with CBS.

Transforming the video billboards into a useful commuter alert system was one of several communication-enhancing recommendations included in a report about how the MTA handled a transit-crippling storm last August. Commuters were stranded with little or no information after flooding shut down almost the entire system.

“It would be beneficial, just only if you put it in the right place,” said Tony Perry, 29, who said a video screen in the subway would be more effective. “It’s not something that really catches your attention to read it” above ground.

This can only be seen as a win win situation for the MTA & its riders. I know I along with many others would find it very useful if we could find out important information such as cancellations, delays, etc…. before heading into the subway. This could save us valuable time & a head start on finding alternative means of getting to our destination. The arguably best part to this potential service is it would have cost the MTA nothing since CBS is paying to use MTA owned property.

In the end such a system is long overdue as we as straphangers are sick & tired of the station announcements which are usually impossible to hear & provide little to no useful information. Plus do we really want information from sources who are usually the last to know about what is going on? I seriously hope such information will become available along with the wait times for the next train in each direction. If we can get all of these things, I like many will be very happy & impressed!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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LIRR Turns To Celebrity Voices To Get Their Messages Out

Continuing with the theme of news that happened 9 days ago, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) issued a press release highlighting the use of celebrity voices. The agency turned to a few celebrity voices to help spread the messages of “Mind Their Cell-Phone Manners” & “Watch The Gap” to riders. Here is the full press release courtesy of the MTA:

The familiar voice talking about watching the gap and cell phone manners on your LIRR station loudspeaker may seem out of place. That’s one of the reasons it’s being used, to get your attention. Some well-known media celebrities are now helping to carry important MTA Long Island Rail Road customer-related messages. They are part of the LIRR’s continuing efforts reminding customers to watch the gap and to exercise cell phone courtesy while on-board trains.

The announcements from CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, NBC’s Al Roker and 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa are being broadcast over the public address systems at Penn Station and line stations. Stations that have video broadcasts of the audio will also carry the celebrity messages. The gap safety message from Maria Bartiromo first aired in December, gap safety and courtesy messages from Juliet Papa started this week and Al Roker to be aired in the near future. The media personalities graciously donated their time as a public service and provided the announcements at no cost to the LIRR.

LIRR President Helena Williams said the idea for using celebrity voices originated with an MTA board member from Long Island. “Mitch Pally told me he noticed that some railroad customers were not really paying attention to our regular safety-related public address announcements. He suggested that we try something different to get their attention. Hopefully, these celebrity messages along with our “Be Train Smart Tune In To Safety” and “Courtesy Matters” campaigns will help to drive home to our customers the importance of their paying attention to the gap and not being “cell-fish.”

There are six celebrity messages currently being aired or will be aired soon. They are:

“Hi… this is urging you to hold your child’s hand while stepping over the gap.”
“Hi… this is reminding you to watch the gap while entering and exiting you train.”
“Hi… this is asking you to be considerate and allow others to exit the train before you board.”
“Hi… this is asking you to “Watch The Gap”tion is expected in 2011. The eastbound booths have not been used since 1986 when one-way toll collection began.

“Removing these unused eastbound booths and re-engineering the roadway for normal speed is a major feature of a modernization package that will ultimately produce a more efficient and safer travel corridor,” said MTA Executive Director Chief Executive Officer Lee Sander. ” These improvements are designed to address toll plaza area changes that inc

I apologize in advance but it seems the press release was cut off on their website. Anyhow I applaud the celebrities involved for providing their services free of charge. In this day & age it is hard to find celebrities who would do such a thing.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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LIRR Rider 1 – Criminals 0

10 nights ago, 4 criminals hanging around the Island Park station thought they found the perfect mark to rob. However by time the incident was over, 4 criminals disappeared into the middle of the night failing to take one item. The incident started when a man got off a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train a few minutes before 10:30 pm.

The man started was walking on the south side of the Island Park station by Austin Boulevard and Long Beach Road when 4 men approached him & proceeded to punch & kick him as they were trying to take the victim’s bag. The victim continued to resist as he got blow after blow. Eventually the 4 criminals ran off into the night, 3 by foot & 1 by scooter while failing to get anything from the victim.

The unidentified victim was taken to Long Beach Hospital where he was treated for ear & eye injuries. Unfortunately Newsday provided no information on the 4 suspects for whatever reason. Hopefully the cops will catch up with these lowlifes soon & put them behind bars.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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LIRR Officially Announces Port Washington Branch Shuttle

Continuing with the topic of the train weekend disruptions, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) issued a press release detailing the Port Washington Branch Shuttle schedule. The shuttle will serve subway customers affected by the suspension of service on the . Here is the press release courtesy of the MTA:

 REGULAR PORT WASHINGTON WEEKEND SERVICE UNAFFECTED

The MTA Long Island Rail Road will be providing shuttle service between Penn Station and Flushing-Main Street Station on the Port Washington Branch for up to five consecutive weekends starting January 12-13 for MTA New York City Transit subway customers affected by the suspension of service on the 7 line between Main Street-Flushing Station and Woodside-61st Street Station. Regular Port Washington Branch weekend service will be in effect.

LIRR shuttles will operate approximately every fifteen minutes in both directions beginning at 5 AM on Saturday through 1 AM on Sunday, and again at 5 AM on Sunday through 1 AM on Monday on the affected weekends. Shuttle stops will include Penn Station, Woodside and Flushing-Main Street Stations. LIRR and NYC Transit personnel will be on hand at all affected stations to assist transferring customers. There is no additional charge for the shuttle service.

“The Long Island Rail Road is poised and ready to provide alternative shuttle train service to accommodate 7 Line riders during the upcoming weekends as NYC Transit performs work to modernize its signal system,” said LIRR President Helena Williams. “While this alternate service is being provided, we ask our customers to be patient as our trains will be more crowded than normal.”

Affected customers can consult the LIRR or NYC Transit websites at www.mta.info. Customers can also contact the 24-hour Travel Information Center in New York City at 718-217-LIRR, in Nassau County at 516-822-LIRR or in Suffolk County at 631-231-LIRR. The Travel Information Center’s TDD number for the hearing impaired is 718-558-3022.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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7 Train Disruptions To Last Up To 5 Weekends

As you have most likely heard by now, weekend service on the 7 line will be in complete shambles due to a major capital project involving the installation of new signaling and track switches. I am posting the press release to continue with the flow of updating the blog with the most recent news. Here is the press release courtesy of the MTA:

Long Island Rail Road to Provide Alternate Service at No Cost

Due to a major capital project involving the installation of new signaling and track switches along the Flushing Line, 7 train service will be suspended between Flushing-Main Street and Woodside-61st Street Station for up to five weekends beginning January 12-14 (12:01 a.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Monday) and, beginning on Friday morning, January 11th until February 29th, weekday express service will be suspended (all 7 trains will run local).

A free-fare alternate service will be provided by MTA Long Island Rail Road trains (Flushing-Main St., Port Washington branch) and NYC Transit shuttle buses during this disruption. Passengers traveling between Flushing-Main Street and Manhattan are urged to use the Long Island Rail Road, which will run approximately every 15 minutes between approximately 6:00 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. For passengers traveling to Manhattan from stations between Flushing-Main Street and 61st Street – Woodside, Shuttle Bus service making all stops to 74th Street – Broadway will be available. Once there, customers can transfer to E F R trains into Manhattan. At 74th Street -Broadway, there will be additional E and F trains available between 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday during these weekends.

The work being done is the second phase of a $76 million capital program to improve and upgrade the subway infrastructure along the Flushing Line. The line’s signal system is being modernized between Queensboro Plaza and 82nd Street-Jackson Heights as part of this project that also includes the reconfiguration of track switches in the vicinity of 74th Street-Broadway. The modernization of signals will allow faster and more efficient service while maintaining safe standards of operation.

When completed, the new signal system and switches will allow trains to cross between tracks and serve 74th Street-Broadway in the event that track work is being performed in the vicinity. Currently, trains cannot make this track change.

“We understand that 7 Line riders will face major disruptions of service while this vital work is being performed,” said NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr. “However, this work is necessary in order to bring state-of-the-art improvements to the operation of the 7 Line and will increase the availability of a major transfer point.”

“The Long Island Rail Road is poised and ready to provide alternative LIRR shuttle train service to accommodate 7 Line riders during the upcoming weekends as NYC Transit performs work to modernize its signal system,” said LIRR President Helena Williams. “While this alternate service is being provided, we ask our customers to be patient as our trains will be more crowded than normal.”

Long Island Rail Road staff will also be on hand to assist riders transferring between the subway and LIRR. NYC Transit personnel will be on hand at the Flushing-Main Street, 74th Street-Broadway and Woodside-61st Street 7 stations to help guide customers and to explain travel options:

– Customers who board at Main Street-Flushing and normally transfer at 74th Street to reach Manhattan should use the LIRR and transfer to the E at Penn Station.

– Customers who board at 61st Street-Woodside and are heading to Flushing-Main Street should use the LIRR, not the Shuttle bus, except during night hours.

– Customers boarding the LIRR at Penn Station should:
Go to the lower level, find an LIRR monitor (displaying Port Washington or Flushing-Main Street) and go to the track for the next Pt. Wash. or F.M.S. train

– Local Shuttle Bus service runs at all times between Main Street – Flushing and Woodside-61st Street

– Flushing-bound Express Shuttle Bus service runs non-stop from 74th Street-Broadway to Main Street-Flushing between 6 a.m. and 1 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday

– Overnight Express Shuttle Bus service runs non-stop between Main Street – Flushing and 61st Street – Woodside from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday

SubTalk posters detailing the service changes will be posted at affected stations and onboard 7 trains. Brochures are available in English, Chinese, Korean and Spanish.

For more information on this and other weekend construction work, riders can log on to www.mta.info and click on Service Advisories for information on the 7 line and for the entire Weekend Summary. While on line, customers may also listen to a TransitTrax podcast on the project at http://www.mta.info/nyct/transittrax.htm.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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