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MBTA rolling out digital ad boards at subway-station entrances

Kendall station headhouse

At Kendall Square Red Line entrance, sign would go under the red-and-white "Kendall" sign

The MBTA and the company that handles its electronic ad boards inside subway stations have begun a program to bring the boards above ground, at the entrances to stations.

The state Office of Outdoor Advertising, which oversees billboards in the state, is currently considering three requests from the T and Outfront Media for "digital urban panel street furniture" at Aquarium on the Blue Line and Kendall on the Red Line. The T and Outdoor Media are looking at additional boards at Porter Square as well. The T already has these boards at Back Bay on the Orange Line and commuter rail.

In addition to 7.5-second ads, the board would also feature supposed real-time subway information. One key difference from the ad boards along tracks in stations, though: No animation.

At an outdoor-advertising hearing today, the city of Boston had no comments on the proposed electronic board at the State Street entrance to the Aquarium station.

Bill Deignan, of Cambridge's Community Development department, however, had a number of questions, including whether the boards will have "next train" time statuses, rather than just saying the Red Line is currently running. He said that given what passes for headway between trains these days, such next-train info would be particularly valuable at Porter, which has the T's deepest platforms, so people could decide while still on the surface whether to head all the way down.

He also requested the board provide information about not just trains, but connecting buses as well - and whether the signs could be dimmed at night and even turned off completely during the times the subway just isn't running.

Outdoor Advertising Director - and former Boston city councilor - Tim McCarthy agreed those are all good questions, but suggested a separate meeting between the T, Outdoor Media and Cambridge to get them answered. Deignan and representatives from the T and Outdoor Media agreed.

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Comments

I just finished a trip to Portugal and Spain. Not only did I never have to wait more than 10 minutes for a bus, even on a Sunday, but every stop had small but effective digital boards announcing the real-time arrival of the upcoming buses.

We get ads.

Sigh.

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At busy stops. I've seen one on Broadway in Everett, for example.

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are displayed at the corner of Mass Ave and Harrison, too.

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Seriously a high school kid with a Raspberry Pi and some LCD monitors could probably rig up a system 1000 times better than the system the MBTA uses. (And the MBTA's system probably costs10,000x times more).

There's basically not a single country or city in the world I've been to with public transit that has worse digital signage than Boston. Portugal and Spain included naturally. But even like, Buenos Ares or many cities with tiny fractions of the budget and technical resources of Boston.

The horribleness of the signage is to me one of the most flabbergasting details of the entire T. And there's a lot to be flabbergasted by. Primarily because it seems like new technology and things like, I don't know. The Internet. Should make these signs cost almost nothing to replace.

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sophisticated comments on uhub. Sarcasm off.

Most of the MBTA's current problems are related to corruption (known and tolerated by every political party, including "progressive"), the diasterous results of the multi-year COVID lockdown (including the loss through retirement, etc.,) of T employees who were intimately familiar with the system, and their replacement with people who are on a learning curve. Management who are told to terrorize employees if they go 2 miles over the speed limit, close the door when someone carelessly gets their arm stuck in it, people who fall/jump in front of trains, the list is endless. Someone triggered making BS complaints. The humongous federal deficits (all parties are to blame) and money spent on endless wars instead of on our infrastructure.

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In the good old days the MBTA installed hundreds of television monitors on subway platforms to entertain and spread positive MBTA stories. The program didn't last too long because of public outrage over privacy concerns.

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because of public outrage over privacy concerns

Cite?

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Can the signs be placed inside the MA State House to let the useless MA State Legislators know that we have a public transit system that doesn’t work?

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Of their biggest donors on their back.

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The north side Kenmore Sq entrance has had a digital sign like that for years. It mostly shows ads and occasionally the upcoming train information.

I've wondered why those aren't more widespread. As advertising goes, isn't not nearly as bad as the huge stand alone signs that get planted in the sidewalk.

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OL Tufts and GLE Prudential have had external signs for a while now too. They could be improved, but occasional street-level train info is better than nothing.

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It's more than annoying to be rushing to a spot that does have a display and find advertising in place of train info. Not only do I have to wait here outside the Tufts Med Center orange line station for the silver line, but I have to wait for the ads to run through their cycle before I get enough info to tell whether to walk or wait. Or as I rush to Back Bay Station, can I relax because the next Oak Grove train is 8 minutes away or rush inside and down the escalator to catch it? The ads deny me that info. Advertising is the enemy of good info.

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Putting up electric ads but no electronic signs saying when the next train is coming is misguided.

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« In addition to 7.5-second ads, the board would also feature supposed real-time subway information. »

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They definitely need one at Porter. Several times I took the abyss escalator down to find a 20+ wait time. With the sign I can grab a bus.

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I propose an exchange program: for every one of these signs they put up that spends more time displaying ads than displaying useful next train/next bus info, one ad is removed from South Station. If they can't unblock the windows, at least they can do away with some of the ads.

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If I don't have advertisements covering at least 5% of my visual field at all times, I start to hyperventilate.

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..: on Washington St are very annoyingly long and the train and bus info is too short.
Irritating when you’d like to know which will come sooner.

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