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The New York City Subway seems to use a new LED signage system, according to this video page at Vimeo. Since I observed the first rows of huge, HD-resolution LCD screens showing the actual airline departure and arrival information at Chicago Airport, I started wondering how public signage will exploit upcoming display technologies like LED, LCD and OLED, and the high-resolution, full-color, fast-dynamic, high-contrast imagery they afford.

So, is this the best way to show actual location-based subway information?

The New York Subway signage is split into two halves: the left side of the panel shows where the train is at while the train is stopped with a flashing bounding box, and when it is in motion, it displays the 'next' stop. The name of the next 10 stops, in yellow, are displayed to the right. Each station name is accompanied with designation in green which shows the additional interchange lines and a red handicapped icon to designate accessibility access. You can watch the sign in action below.

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16 COMMENTS

I am an occasional subway rider, and I have to confess being rather enamored with these new displays. I eagerly await the day when these signs are comprised of a single display instead of 16 separate LED panels.

The primary detraction is that they do not show the entire line; if your destination is not within the next 16 stops, then you have to rely to the old, reliable paper map. But overall, I think they are a significant improvement over the older, static line maps or the one-light-per-stop maps.

Tue 03 Nov 2009 at 2:28 PM
Joshua A

It is nice for now, but don't fool yourself. I guess that these will be used for animated advertising in short order.

Tue 03 Nov 2009 at 2:49 PM
Michael Tobis

I live/work in NYC and these have been around for about a year now. Ads wouldn't be impossible but I highly doubt it due to the way they are made. If you look closely at the image you can see its not a solid display, its rows of LED displays at 45 degree angles. The display to the left however (where it says "Nassau St Local" is more of an LCD and could run different things. After getting used to these signs and using them everyday I must say that they are extremely well designed, clear, and IMHO ingenius. With so many trains in NYC and things constantly changing a big problem with the old signs was the fact that sometimes they aren't even for the train you were on and are worthless. Also trains change a lot (late nights, weekend schedules, signal problems, construction, etc). I'm sure there are some faults to be found (the lack of in between stops is a minor inconvenience but you should kinda know where you are going if you're trying to get to a stop that far ahead...) As someone who rides the subway every day I really love these signs.

Tue 03 Nov 2009 at 3:22 PM

Paris and Barcelona Metro has the same, and Steve is right ads are pretty diff to run on these systems.

We've got (Sydney) this station / next station LED displays and voice overs. Our lines run too long to really do justice to a full linear display (from the CBD to an outer suburb can be well over 100km).

Best pass info will come when we all have GPS enabled PDAs as well as the rolling stock. Then we'll all know where we are and how long it might take to get where we're going, which is more important.

Tue 03 Nov 2009 at 7:40 PM
SLR

Some subway/train stations in Tokyo have this awesome LED/OLED (not really sure) fine matrix which enables them do have the characters antialiased. It's an awesome effect. I'll try to post a picture when I get home.

Tue 03 Nov 2009 at 10:59 PM

The primary detraction is that they do not show the entire line; if your destination is not within the next 16 stops, then you have to rely to the old, reliable paper map.

That's not true at all. These signs have been in trains in NY for at least a few years, especially on the L line. The next 8 or so stops are statically listed, and then it says "Further Stops." There are 5 spots after that, and under each instead of having a permanent number, it has another LED. It constantly cycles through the list of all remaining stops. All stops are displayed on the screen. This image shows it:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3482/3950269874_22dd1ab362.jpg

Wed 04 Nov 2009 at 1:02 AM

Is it just me or have these been in use for a couple years now?

Wed 04 Nov 2009 at 3:02 AM
Michael Pierce

It's a bit beside the point, but they've been around for quite a few years. I first noticed them on the 4/5/6 lines back in at least 2004-2005 or so, I'm pretty sure.

Wed 04 Nov 2009 at 7:57 AM
Tim

I wonder why this article states that these are new. LED signs have been around on some lines for a few years. Maybe, there's some confusion here with new real-time video screens on L train platforms in NYC:

http://gothamist.com/2009/10/29/l_train_real-time_subway_screens_re.php

Wed 04 Nov 2009 at 9:42 AM
cr

I did not want to give the wrong impression those displays were new. According to the original source, they seemed to be new. Not having the privilege of living in NYC, I hoped the "... seems to use a new..., according to..." would have been sufficient to clarify that.

In any case, even when they are not new, having traveled the world a bit, they still seem very new in both their appearance as in the way of visualizing one's location in a subway system. It might be the usage of colored LED lights, or the concept of hardwiring the 45 degrees in LED positions, or the box surrounding the current location, but somehow it looks innovative...

Wed 04 Nov 2009 at 12:03 PM

Moscow (Russia) has had those signs already in use for a number of years.
Nothing new!

Thu 05 Nov 2009 at 4:05 AM
Alek F

Both the exterior and interior design of the subway cars was done by Antenna Design.

Fri 06 Nov 2009 at 12:35 PM
nh

Took a while for you guys to FIND this, eh?

The design aesthetic somewhat follows what remains of the design that permeated the subway (albeit somewhat unsuccessfully and with not much uniformity) in the 70s and 80s by Unimark International, led by my favourite graphic designer Massimo Vignelli.

These Flexible Information and Notice Displays, comprised of both an LED array and LCD are only equipped on the R160 subway cars. All of the NT (New Technology) trains before it, starting with the R142 first delivered in 1999 and featured in an issue of Popular Science at the time, have a dedicated paper line map perforated with holes in which LEDs marking each stop. The LEDs blink off as the train progressed along its route. There is also an arrow comprised of LEDs on each board to indicate the direction of travel relative to the listing of the routes on the paper map.

The problem with this was the fact that the displays assigned trains to specific service and made them confusing for straphangers if they were to interoperate on different services (e.g. 5 train -> 4 train) since you'd have to physically replace each map (there are at least two in every car). The FIND resolves this problem, makes it much clearer when stations will be skipped, and so on. Flexibility of rollingstock is paramount in the New York City subway and this is a great example of improving that flexibility for the direct benefit of informing tourists and regular straphangers of service changes (assuming the train operator programs it into the computer) and general route information.

Sat 07 Nov 2009 at 3:09 AM
Marc Ebuna

Took a while for you guys to FIND this, eh?
The design aesthetic somewhat follows what remains of the design that permeated the subway (albeit somewhat unsuccessfully and with not much uniformity) in the 70s and 80s by Unimark International, led by my favourite graphic designer Massimo Vignelli.
These Flexible Information and Notice Displays, comprised of both an LED array and LCD are only equipped on the R160 subway cars. All of the NT (New Technology) trains before it, starting with the R142 first delivered in 1999 and featured in an issue of Popular Science at the time, have a dedicated paper line map perforated with holes in which LEDs marking each stop. The LEDs blink off as the train progressed along its route. There is also an arrow comprised of LEDs on each board to indicate the direction of travel relative to the listing of the routes on the paper map.
The problem with this was the fact that the displays assigned trains to specific service and made them confusing for straphangers if they were to interoperate on different services (e.g. 5 train -> 4 train) since you'd have to physically replace each map (there are at least two in every car). The FIND resolves this problem, makes it much clearer when stations will be skipped, and so on. Flexibility of rollingstock is paramount in the New York City subway and this is a great example of improving that flexibility for the direct benefit of informing tourists and regular straphangers of service changes (assuming the train operator programs it into the computer) and general route information.

Sat 07 Nov 2009 at 3:10 AM
Marc Ebuna

Mark,
Speaking of Vignelli, these guys are using his MTA standards in replicating and customizing NYC Subway signs: http://www.underground-signs.com
Brand new operation; they haven't even ironed out licensing yet.

Tue 10 Nov 2009 at 5:04 PM
obeacon

Wow thanks for blogging about my videos + photos!!!

SML Thank You + Happy New Year!!!

Sat 02 Jan 2010 at 4:08 PM
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