NYC Finally Gets New, Interactive Subway Maps

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New Yorkers were supposed to get a bunch of fancy new interactive map kiosks for navigating the Subway ages ago but the plan encountered a series of delays. Now the futuristic touchscreens are finally showing up.

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Even veteran New York City Subway riders sometimes need to consult a map or service changes posted behind heavy-duty plastic. The static display is occasionally grimy and covered in scratches. Things looked up in late 2011, when a touchscreen kiosk with an interactive map and travel details was tested in the Bowling Green Subway station. Then the plan to install them across the city got delayed.

They might be late, but now they’re finally arriving. And apparently they’re amazing, according to Gizmodo’s Mario Aguilar. Stainless steel “On the Go” travel kiosks display interactive maps for plotting travel routes, show service updates like elevator outages, highlight nearby attractions and provide train arrival estimates in real time.

The kiosks were created by the tech and design consultancy Control Group in collaboration with the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Unfortunately early prototypes revealed they weren’t ready for millions of users. The system required numerous adjustments, including switching from a dispersive signal technology surface to a projective capacitive touchscreen display, Aguilar reported.

“The resulting kiosks are useful even if you choose not to interact directly with them at all,” he wrote. Every few seconds an unused kiosk screen displays helpful information, including a train arrival estimate. No more staring at the tunnel, wondering when a train will ever appear. Except for the G train probably.

NYC Installing Touchscreen Subway Maps

More than a dozen kiosks have been installed around Grand Central in the past month and a bunch more are scheduled to go in around the city by mid-year. Contextual advertising is expected to help pay for them in the long-run. Maybe this means riders can begin leaving all those paper Subway map display boards in the past where they belong.

Photo: An early prototype at the Bowling Green station in 2011. Upgraded kiosks with new touchscreens are finally being rolled out. Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin, Flickr Creative Commons.

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