Yes, you can touch the Port Authority’s fancy new kiosk

It’s the first of five digital transit screens Port Authority plans to install Downtown.

The new touch screen digital transit kiosk at the Wood Street T station, Downtown.

The new touch screen digital transit kiosk at the Wood Street T station, Downtown.

Jasmine Goldband / THE INCLINE
Sarah Anne Hughes

At Port Authority’s light rail stations Downtown, you can still find paper schedules and brochures with information about public transportation in Pittsburgh.

But on the entrance level of the Wood Street Station, there’s now a high-tech option available to the public: a touchscreen display with real-time bus arrival information and a trip planner.

It’s hard to miss the seven-foot display, which became available to the public in early September. But it may not be obvious to everyone that it’s OK to touch it, Port Authority spokesperson Adam Brandolph said.

“When people see a large piece of electronic equipment, it can be intimidating,” he said. “They might not feel like they can just walk up and use it.”

Port Authority is considering putting how-to instructions on the machine or making brochures available.

The kiosk lets users pick from three options: “departures,” “routes” and “plan a trip.”

Sarah Anne Hughes / The Incline

Departures displays as a list of T and bus routes by line, destination and location and time of departure. Routes shows nearby bus and T stops in both map and list form. The Plan Your Trip option works much like a traditional trip planner (think Google’s) with options for transit, cycling, walking and driving routes; users can email or text the itinerary to themselves.

This summer, Port Authority announced plans to install kiosks at five Downtown stations, real-time bus displays at eight locations and wayfinding signs at dozens of bus stops.

So far, the Wood Street kiosk is the only one in the city. Brandolph said Port Authority has ordered three additional machines for Downtown stations, but it will be at least a few months before they are delivered.

Each of the kiosks costs around $55,000. There’s space above the primary display screen for still images and video, and Brandolph said Port Authority is considering how to use that capability for advertising.

“One day hopefully the machine can pay for itself,” he said.

The Connectpoint-branded displays are made by CHK America and have also been utilized by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

Already, the Wood Street kiosk is one of the most used compared to other cities that have the displays, Brandolph said. For the week of Sept. 16-23, the kiosk was used:

  • 611 times from the departures screen to get an overview of a route
  • 2,064 times from the routes screen to examine a route
  • 327 times to plan a trip
  • 61 times to utilize the Americans With Disabilities option, which allows a person in a wheelchair to use a lower keyboard.

“We only expect [usage] to grow,” Brandolph said.