MTA Unveils Six-Foot-Tall Futuristic Subway Intercoms for Interhuman Communication


Someday in the not-too-far-off future, you will be able to go about your daily business of work and life and never, ever have to speak to an actual person face-to-face. The MTA gets a jump on that with a new pilot program that will install new MTA Help Point Intercoms in the 23rd Street and Brooklyn Bridge stations on the Lexington line in November. We spoke to MTA Spokesman Kevin Ortiz to get the lowdown on the new “HPIs.” If it comes with an acronym, you know it’s high-tech!

What’s the purpose of these new devices?
Well, the HPIs do two things. They serve as an emergency callbox in case of an emergency — the red button is routed directly to subway Rail Control, where someone can provide immediate help, like cutting off power to stop a train in the case of someone on the tracks. The green button is the information button, connecting to a station booth or Travel Information.

So the buttons allow you to speak to actual people?
In all cases, they go to a person.

What’s different about these, compared to the current intercoms in use?
These are much more visible than the current intercoms. They’re six feet tall, easy to use, and provide instant access.

How much do they cost?
Since it’s a pilot, putting a cost on the project would be premature. If they’re successful, we’ll roll them out to all 460 stations.

How are you gauging success?
Well, if we save one life, it’s successful. But, in essence, we’re trying to get a sense of how they work. We want to garner feedback from not only employees and personnel but also customers, to assure that the technology works.

Yeah, often it’s nearly impossible to understand those train announcements. How will these be different?
From the demonstration, these things are very loud, very clear, and they have induction loops for the hearing impaired. They’ll also all be camera-equipped.

Given recent layoffs, are these meant to replace any actual people?
No, every station has at least one station agent…these will work alongside them.

Ah, our people-free existence remains a vision in the distance…for now. One more question: How long will it take for these to be covered with graffiti? (That’s something that has yet to be done to station agents. We think.)