The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to pick up the pace on replacing its old intercom system with new technology that riders have been seeing pop up on dozens of station platforms. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.
Straphangers can expect to see a lot more MTA Help Points soon, those tube-like intercom systems that have popped up in 36 subway stations - with 66 more stations set to get them by the end of the year.
"The goal is to eventually have Help Points in every station. Because what we want is the ability for customers to reach us immediately in case of an emergency or even if they're seeking information," said New York City Transit Vice President Paul Fleuranges.
Still, it could be five years before all 468 subway stations get outfitted with Help Points, which connect riders to dispatchers or station agents at the touch of a button.
Next week, the MTA will ask its board for more money from its 2010 to 2014 Capital Program to bring Help Points to 70 more stations beyond those already set to get the machines by the end of this year.
"What we're seeking now is additional funding to keep the momentum going. We don't want to stop and wait for the next Capital Program," Fleuranges said.
But is anybody actually using these machines which were introduced in 2011 as part of a pilot program at two stations on the Lexington Avenue line? The MTA says yes.
"At those two stations, they've been activated thousands of times. Most of those activations are for information calls. But the emergency calls we have seen are for customers that are sick, customers that might be outstretched on a platform, there might have been an altercation in a station," Fleuranges said.
When the pilot program expanded two years ago, the MTA said that the Help Points, along with the countdown clocks in the subway, were part of the most important improvements to communications inside subway stations in a generation.
Some riders who spoke with NY1 were not so sure.
"It's just something on the wall. If I see something on the wall, I'm just going to go right past it," said one subway rider.
"I don't know what it's for," noted another rider.
Sure, confused riders can ask an employee for help or just figure out the subway map, but many say the Help Points are a plus.
"I think it would be very helpful especially if you're not from the city," said one subway rider.
MTA officials say the Help Point systems come at an installation cost of a half-million dollars per station.