MTA ‘Buttons’ for info and emergencies

MTA New York City Transit will pilot test their new Help Point station communications system at two Manhattan subway stations along the Lexington Avenue line.

Customers at the platform level will now be able to have immediate access to the station booth personnel at the Rail Control Center. Units will be positioned and spaced for easy access and high visibility.

These help buttons were created as a communications tool for customers who need to either report an emergency or ask for travel directions. The control panel contains a red emergency button and a green information button along with a speaker and microphone.

“These Help Points will make our subway system safer and easier to use, expanding access to assistance throughout stations in a way that wasn’t possible before,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder. “This is just another step in our efforts to bring new technology to customers in ways that make using the transit system better every day.”

The trials are being conducted at the 23rd Street station with nine help points and Brooklyn Bridge stations with 10 help points. Each Help Point will be individually addressable so that, in the case of an emergency, Rail Control Center personnel will be able to pinpoint exactly where in the station the call originated from. Not only will the new units improve response times, but the digital audio will provide clearer sound than the customer assistance intercoms (CAI) used in subways now.

“These units have a fresh new appearance that will make the Help Points easy to identify. The sound will be crisp, clear and easy to understand, which is an important feature especially in the subway environment,” said New York City Transit president Thomas F. Prendergast. “As designed, the Help Points are a major step beyond the Customer Assistance Intercoms now in our stations.”

The design was conceived in 2006 as an important part of the Help Point Initiative. The goal was met by Antenna Designs to create a unit that would be attractive, eye-pleasing and carry on the stainless-steel theme introduced by the new technology subway cars, turnstiles and fare media vending equipment. The unit’s design has won a place in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

If the pilot goes well, the plan calls for the installation of the Help Points in all of the system’s 468 subway stations, replacing the current CAI units.

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