Now Boarding: Grand Central Displays Improve Train Departure Visibility

New digital display boards give travelers a taste of what is coming with Grand Central Terminal’s customer service improvement program.

It may be business as usual for passengers at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, but the recent arrival of new departure information boards is the first visible indication of upgrades coming to improve the passenger experience at the iconic train station.

WSP USA is providing system integration and construction management for a comprehensive $165 million customer service improvement program that consists of seven concurrent contracts, two of which are being delivered utilizing design build project delivery.

The work at Grand Central Terminal includes modernization of the departure information “Big Boards” and gate boards throughout the terminal, using video wall architecture consisting of tiled LED displays.

“The modular LCD technology within the existing displays had reached the end of its useful life and was difficult to read from many angles,” said Rock Antonios, resident engineer. “The new LED displays can be easily read from all points and greater distance from within the Grand Central Terminal Main Concourse. This will improve passenger flow and eliminate crowding in front of the boards.”

The boards also provide more flexibility for Metro-North Railroad to provide custom messages to facilitate communications with customers as needed.

The program began in December 2017, and is targeted for completion in February 2021.

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©2019 WSP USA

The new LED board to the left is contrasted with the boards that are being replaced to the right.

Weekend Work

To have minimum impact on people moving through Grand Central Terminal, the removal of the existing Big Boards and the installation and testing of the new boards required six weekends of work performed from 8 p.m. Friday night until 4 a.m. Monday morning.

Preparation for the replacement of the boards and coordination of the contractor’s work with equipment suppliers and multiple stakeholders was a challenge that WSP’s construction management team tackled to successfully install the new signage.

“This work had to be performed with minimal impact to Metro-North Railroad customers and required the client/owner, the WSP team, the design-build contractor, manufacturers and all parties involved, to work collaboratively,” Antonios said. “The design-build project delivery contract for this historic building demands extensive cooperation from all parties to achieve success.”

In addition to the modern departure boards, this program will provide modernization of Metro-North Railroad systems to improve customer service information through implementation of real-time train data and improvements to the security and public address systems.

This updated network technology will also be updated to incorporate apps and social media connectivity to further improve communication. The enhanced system will be able to adapt to new technologies and its efficient design will reduce the building’s overall electrical consumption.

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©2019 WSP USA

WSP USA successfully performed system integration and construction management services to help MTA Metro-North Railroad reach an important milestone in customer service improvements at Grand Central Terminal.

Favorable Reviews

Initial reactions to the proposed changes to the historic terminal were mixed, as many people were worried how the removal of the 30-year-old Big Boards might impact the character of the building. With the new boards now in place, the public reviews have been widely favorable.

“Now that the boards are complete, they are now being viewed as a much-needed improvement that maintains—and does not impede—the beauty of Grand Central Terminal,” Antonios said.

“Our team feels very proud to be performing work in such a historic landmark that is at the center of our city’s fabric,” said Ray Moran, project manager. “Being able to contribute to the improved and continued operations of Grand Central Terminal into the future is a great feeling for an engineering and construction management team.”

Prior to this program, WSP has completed numerous successful construction management projects for Metro-North Railroad, including rehabilitation of the Harlem River Lift Bridge, Harlem Line Drainage Improvements, Otisville Tunnel Rehabilitation and the Grand Central Terminal leak remediation.

“We’ve built an excellent working relationship with MTA Metro-North Railroad and look to continue delivering successful projects with them,” Moran said.

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