Use Passenger Information Systems to Generate Revenue

New York, N.Y.

Don Allman

President and CEO


This is an exciting time to be working in transit advertising. Our landscape is changing quickly, perhaps more quickly than all other media. Just as the high income consumers who use mass transit are more connected with modern technology, transit authorities themselves are responding to these changes in consumer behavior by evolving the way they speak to their customers.

Digital arrival and departure screens are not new, but increasingly transit authorities across the country are embracing these displays, not only to keep riders updated and informed on travel times, but also to entertain them as they wait for their trains and buses to arrive and pick them up.

Choosing the best displays to install, the best locations to optimize eyeballs, which data feeds to connect to and which content-serving technologies to use are just some of the challenges transit authorities face when installing new digital displays. But these issues are easily overcome and the benefits of doing so are great.

Digital displays reflect real-time information and are therefore of great value to riders. Well-thought-out displays also add to the environments where they’re placed. The editorial content they can offer also caters to the long dwell times many consumers face during their daily commutes.

And then there is advertising. Digital displays allow brands to be more responsive to time, day and location. Production costs are less than printing material for traditional transit displays. Digital advertising is also beginning to be traded and bought through automated systems, opening the medium up to a wider constituency of advertiser. Digital screens will also soon be able to be aware and responsive to the people around them, delivering content in more targeted, and therefore more interesting, ways. Digital displays and traditional transit displays work well together too, allowing consumers the ability to participate and interact with brands via their smartphones.

Ultimately, this is helping to increase revenue for transit authorities as well as enabling brands to speak to consumers in whole new interactive ways.


Aurora, Ill.

Brian McClimans

Vice President, Business Development


The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) is comprised of 88 stations, 106 miles of track and 1,116 railcars serving customers in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. As the second largest rail transit system in the U.S., it’s crucial for Metro to continually serve as an easy travel option for its riders.

In late 2012, Metro started work on a digital signage project where 110, 47-inch digital signage displays were implemented on indoor and outdoor kiosks across all of the rail transit system’s 88 stations.

Over the past year, the Metro’s Kiosk Information Display System (KIDS) showed information to help riders adjust their travel plans, ranging from real-time service disruption updates to advanced notice of planned outages and service changes. The system even made recommendations to riders for busy travel times based on the station location, including suggested destination stations for the four key locations of the 2013 Presidential Inauguration, alternate stations to utilize during the busy Cherry Blossom Festival, and route guidance and reminders to buy round-trip tickets for the 2013 Washington Nationals season opener.

Real-time live updates for all five of Metro’s rail lines are aggregated and delivered through X-Factor Communications’ Digital Screen Control Portal DSCP:// platform. The updates are then fed over the wide area network to each Peerless-AV Xtreme display via a Cisco digital media player hooked up to the display with a HDMI connection inside of the kiosk booth, which allows it to also serve as a customer service booth, literature holder and equipment facility.

The displays show this vital information in full 1080p HD and are easily visible to all riders due to the use of a flat panel mount that can handle harsh outdoor and indoor applications present at transit stations.

It has been a year since these advancements have been implemented and Metro has continued to see increases in ridership. According to the agency, there were 212,188,640 trips taken on the Metrorail in 2012 and we can estimate this rose up to 255,500,000 in 2013. We know that commuters using the train are always excited when updates occur to make their trips easier and with the displays, commuters are able to get vital commuter information delivered to them quickly and conveniently.

Because of the technologies used and the information provided — such as travel advice, elevator outages, problems on a particular train line and track maintenance — so prominently on a virtually indestructible display, we can deduce that the number of trips on the Metrorail has increased since the implementation of the displays in these stations across the system.


Newark, N.J.

Christopher Bassett,

Solutions Architect – Digital Signage


Whether in an airport, a bus terminal or a train station, the primary role of PIS and digital signage should always be to communicate information or content for the benefit of the passenger. This includes providing accurate schedule information, reducing wait times, providing wayfinding information, emergency notifications, and weather and news alerts. Due to the captive nature of the commuter audience, PIS technology can also be used for out-of-home advertising, with the potential to generate additional revenue. However, transit agencies must strike a delicate balance — advertising and other additional messages should never interfere with the primary purpose of providing passenger information.

In an excellent example of enhancing passenger information systems with an additional revenue generator, the Reno/Tahoe International Airport recently installed digital signage monitors in the terminal’s food court, allowing passengers to travel outside the bounds of their gated areas without losing access to important flight information. As a result, passenger satisfaction improved, and by way of a ticker at the bottom of the displays, the terminal’s food establishments could advertise meal specials, correlating to an uptick in sales revenue.

The use of technology to transmit real-time data in mass transit agencies has grown rapidly in recent years and many agencies are looking beyond digital displays to improve passenger information and grow revenue. Breakthroughs such as facial recognition software, touch-screen and gesture-recognition functionality now offer transit agencies greater ability to communicate information and generate revenue in targeted, meaningful ways for riders of their systems.

For example, facial detection software from IP surveillance can direct targeted marketing ads based on demographic information, such as relative age or gender of passengers. If facial detection technology indicates a middle-aged female commuter, it can intelligently run relevant ads that are more suitable to her than of a young adult male.

Touch-screen overlays and gesture-recognition technology can also generate revenue while making the passenger experience interactive and enjoyable. In these scenarios, content displayed onscreen is controlled by touch or with hand motions and captures the attention of passengers in a way that static ads cannot. Passengers could even extend these experiences to their mobile devices and tablets by sending a text message to a supplied number, scanning a QR code or tweeting with an ad’s hashtag.

To take advantage of the full revenue-generating capabilities of digital signage and mobile technology, transit agencies need to use the current technology to its fullest, but must maintain a careful balance between traveler information and revenue-generating opportunities. Providing information that’s relevant in a specific location is helpful in improving passenger satisfaction. But remember — the people that are looking at your screens are in transit, in motion and usually in a hurry. The primary intent of digital signage in mass transit applications is to help commuters get where they need to be, on time and without hassle in a clear and easy-to-understand format using the most up-to-date bus or rail information available across the system. Once this primary goal is achieved, the technology allows transit agencies to introduce creative ways and interactive ways to drive additional revenue from passenger information systems in shelters and stations.