If you've ever taken the New York City subway, you know what a mess it can be for an inexperienced rider. Transferring to the right line can be confusing, there's always at least one track closed for maintenance, and the maps at the station aren't much help if you don't know where you are to begin with. Luckily, the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) plans to replace all station maps and announcements with interactive HD displays that will provide simple directions and real-time service alerts.

The new "On The Go!" touch screens will display all sorts of useful information for commuters, including train arrival countdowns, outage notices, neighborhood maps, and special alerts if needed. When not in use, the kiosks will also act as digital billboards to generate ad revenue.

The one feature that's certain to be used by most riders though is the interactive subway map. Travelers will be able to simply select their destination and the screen will bring up step-by-step instructions with a visual display of what path they need to take. It will even factor in current service outages and give an estimated travel time along with the number of stops before they reach their destination.

To create the kiosks, MTA partnered with Control Group, a local design firm that recently won the Community Impact Award in the NYC Reinvent Payphones competition. The information available will be handled by a content management system designed in-house by Control Group and synchronized through a vast network. Most importantly though, the whole system will be built on a flexible platform that will allow third-party developers to create their own apps, so the software can be easily customized or updated when needed.

Though the touch screen displays would certainly be an improvement, it does raise the question of how to prevent them from being tagged with graffiti or damaged, even with MTA maintaining them. No word on exactly when the new touch screens will be installed, but MTA plans to implement up to 90 of them throughout some of NYC's most popular stations, bringing the service to over 4 million people each day.

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