It was lunch time on Halloween and hundreds of public-transit riders were passing through the Wood Street T station. Some headed straight down the escalator to board trains to the South Hills or the North Side. Others stood near the windows awaiting their bus at the stop outside.
Since early September, the station has been home to Port Authority of Allegheny County’s new Connectpoint, where users can find information about bus routes and schedules.
“I think it’s helpful. They have a similar thing in D.C.,” said Andrew Dzura, who was consulting the screen for his bus’ departure time.
For years, public-transit riders have delighted in the Google Maps transit option that helps users plan trips on buses, trains and trolleys from their smart phones. And several other third-party developers have created applications that provide users with real-time transit information. Over the summer, Port Authority announced it was bringing similar technology to stops around Pittsburgh.
“It definitely helps people get around better,” says Port Authority spokesperson Adam Brandolph. “It promotes the use of our system to make it easier, make it simple.”
So far that has included the interactive machine at Wood Street and eight other tablet-sized devices at bus stops.
“They offer directions. Everybody doesn’t have a smartphone,” says Brandolph. “So if you’re waiting for a bus or looking for a specific bus, you can look at the display and see when the next one’s coming. That goes into the viability of our service. It keeps people in the know.”
The large interactive Connectpoint kiosk will mainly serve T riders coming into Downtown. People can use the devices to plan trips via public transportation, car, bike or on foot.
The first Connectpoint kiosks was installed at the Wood Street Station, and four more are in the works. Port Authority placed an order for two of the $55,000 machines last month and expects them to be built in three or four months.
The eight smaller, solar-powered digital screens at bus stops provide real-time information on bus departures. If the real-time system is down, the display defaults to the scheduled times.
“It has two battery packs,” says Brandolph. “If something major was to happen and we did not receive any light, that would hold a charge for about three weeks. They are all connected to our real-time system.”
Many have praised the new developments, but it appears they haven’t caught on for everyone.
On the Monday afternoon City Paper visited the Wood Street Station, several people bypassed the new technology for a physical route map posted on the wall next to it. Others took schedules from a nearby kiosk. And another commuter said that while she’d seen the Connectpoint several times before, this was her first time using it.
“I’m just pressing buttons, but it seems easy to use,” said Mykia Mitchell, a daily bus rider. “They need to have more of these.”