07 Mar 2017

MTA installs new rider intercom system in two subway stations, connects riders to emergency services

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Straphangers who need help can just look for the blue light.

The MTA Monday began testing new, sleek rider intercoms, installing 20 at two subway stations for $600,000.

Officials hope to eventually have the Help Point intercoms placed every 150 feet on platforms across the 468-station system.

With the push of a button, the intercom connects riders to the nearest station clerk and to a dispatcher at the Rail Control Center, making it quicker and easier to both summon help in an emergency or simply ask for directions, officials said.

“There is a desire on many people’s part, an understandable desire, to be able to access information while standing on a subway platform, or in the case of an emergency, to call and say, ‘We need help down here,'” Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Jay Walder said at the 23rd St. station on the No. 6 line in Manhattan.

Help Point intercoms also have been installed at the Brooklyn Bridge station where Nos. 4, 5 and 6 trains stop.

Several riders said they welcomed the platform intercoms, which radiate a soft blue light and are easier to locate than the existing and unremarkable call boxes near turnstiles.

“It’s great,” Frank O’Connor, 50, said in the station. “We need this, especially at night. People get hurt, sick, things like that.”

Shameem Menon, 62, said it would be helpful to be able to ask for directions when in the city visiting her daughter.

“I’m always getting lost,” she said.

Walder said the devices were “not designed to replace station agents but extend the reach of all of our staff.” There will always be at least on token booth clerk in a station, he said.

The MTA last year laid off hundreds of token booth clerks to help close a budget gap.

The pilot program at the two stations will last a few months, said Carmen Bianco, vice president of subways. Officials couldn’t say when every station might get the equipment. Walder said the per-station cost might be lower, but it cost $300,000 to get the communications systems up and running at the initial two stations.

Officials said the design by Antenna Design continues the stainless steel theme introduced by new technology subway cars, turnstiles and MetroCard vending machines.

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