Newbie on Rails

Image courtesy Control Group

The New York Subway is getting a makeover from the MTA and Control Group

The New York subway system, like so many underground lairs, is a place of secrets. Supposed home to albino alligators, ghost trains, and the mole people, our mass transit system is no place to get lost.

Thankfully, navigating the rails is no longer a matter of relying upon tattered maps hidden behind defaced plasticine.

In February, 18 MTA Wayfinding Kiosks were installed throughout Grand Central Terminal, offering interactive directions as well as real-time information on train and bus delays (and ads, of course). By mid-summer, a planned 90 kiosks will be found in 15 stations.

The kiosks are the result of a collaboration between the MTA and New York-based tech and design consultancy Control Group. Aside from the form factor, Control Group was responsible for every aspect of the kiosks – software, visual design, interactivity, and hardware build (working with partners like Cisco and Qualcomm).

Of course it wasn’t easy.

“With the hardware, it was difficult finding a touchscreen large enough that could also withstand the abuse of the subway environment…” Paul McConnell, Control Group’s Director of Product Design and Development, told us. “And then because we’re underground, with network restrictions from MTA servers, we had to create a system for keeping train information up-to-date and then larger system updates.”

Control Group is hiring for 12 full-time positions and also looking for interns. You can get all the details here.

Now go forth (and go underground).

Nitty Gritty:

West 91st Street: Site of an abandoned subway stationvisible from the 1, 2, and 3 trains

Masstransitscope: Abandoned subwaystation in Brooklyn turned artwork

Grand Central Terminal: Site of an abandoned stationbuilt for FDR


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