New York City subway riders can now use intercom kiosks at two subway stops to communicate with MTA personnel in emergencies or for information.
The sleek devices glow blue and are affixed to columns on subway platforms. A red emergency button connects riders to the subway's Rail Command Center, which can dispatch police to the scene if necessary using caller ID. A green information button links riders to the station's token booth clerk.
"It is the use of technology to make our customers more comfortable and feel more secure in our subway system," MTA Chairman Jay Walder said as he stood on the No. 6 train platform at 23rd Street .
The MTA said there is still at least one token booth clerk at each of its 468 stations at all times despite lay offs last year. The so-called Help Point devices are part of six-month pilot program.
Help Point replaces a previous generation of customer assistance devices that proved problematic. The older devices did not have digital audio, which sometimes made it hard to hear and be heard. They also had an indistinct design that made them blend with their surroundings – few riders knew where they were.
If the Help Point program is successful, the MTA will consider expanding the kiosks to other subway stations. Walder said it would cost an average of $300,000 per station to install Help Point systemwide. It would take more than 5,000 of the devices to meet the MTA's goal of having one every 150 feet on platforms.
Riders have expressed concern about safety since the MTA laid off the token booth clerks last year.