Public Interactivity Observation

I visited the W4 street station's interactive touchscreen MTA kiosk. 

Overall I think it's a useful tool - riders can check their route/directions, get detailed destination neighborhood walking directions and layout, as well as catch updates for the various train lines arrivals.

I observed about 7 people using the kiosk - not as many people as I would have at first thought.

When I tried it out myself I realized a couple of things:

Not many people where using it because they probably already know where they are going.   Especially since peak tourist season is ebbing.  Regular commuters don't need that level of detail.

The most useful and desired function in my mind after using MTA for 6 years is train arrival timetable.  It really relieves tension and everyone I know loves it when the red LED tickers are installed and working in one of their usual stations. However, this info kiosk only intermittently displayed this information - the user was unable to call it up voluntarily - which sort of defeats a large part of the overall objective.  Annoyingly there was more screentime devoted to advertising.  A solution to this would be to have the arrival time table on one side of the kiosk at all times paired with brief full screen or constant banner ad - this way everyone on the platform could have access to the timetable while some one was using the otherside for directions.

Other concerns where of a sanitary and privacy/safety nature.  The kiosk is a giant touch screen and so required constant tapping.  No one really relishes touching any surface down in the subway stations or inside cars.  Especially not something that strangers are constantly also touching with their fingers and who-knows-what-else.  Reducing the requirement for this and improving the efficiency of the flow is a possible solution. Maybe it's zany and impractical but also an antimicrobial UV light or mist or wiper could help.

The privacy concern occurred to me after I left the platform on my own train home at night.  I had seen a woman use the kiosk and there were a couple of people behind her waiting to use the kiosk or just watching.  What if a vulnerable tourist or other passenger tapped through the different levels of details for his/her exact route home while a predator waited and looked on? The predator would then know exactly where their prey was planning to go - possibly even all the way to the street they where planning on ending up on - and then on to their hotel or home. I noticed that users have to 'tap out' of their directions to erase this evidence.


With regards to this safety issue - an improvement could be one of the angle-of-view narrowing microlouver films or even a function wherein the extant recessed camera at the top of the kiosk could sense when a user has moved away from the screen and automatically refresh to the 'home' screen.