The Big Boards Are Here!

After more than three years of planning, the new Big Boards at Grand Central Terminal (GCT) have finally come “on board.”

Replacement of the Big Boards and Gate Boards are part of a Customer Service Initiative, which includes:

  • A New Public Address System (audio)
  • A Visual Information System (content you can see)
  • A New Cable Plant Infrastructure (the conduits and wires that provide power and enable information to travel over distance).

At the end of the project, all these different elements will be run from one central system, consolidating those systems in GCT with the outlying stations to drive visual information and announcements consistently across all information modalities.

The new boards didn’t come a day too soon: the old boards were obsolete and the supplier was no longer making replacement parts. Plus, it couldn’t function in real-time.

The new system provides greater redundancy, flexibility, and just a better overall customer experience.

With the older system, when there was a last-minute track change, customers might have to enact what some now nostalgically describe as a ‘cross-terminal dash’ — not terribly practical for most.

Customers can now see in advance where their train is leaving from, and get up-to-the minute updates, such as track assignments, track changes, and canceled train information.

That’s thanks to a new feature, a real-time train data system (RTTDS) which uses digital train data to provide a calculated prediction of train arrival times.

Before we could settle on the final look of the display of Big Board information, we had to work with the New York State Division for Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

For one, the new boards had to look like they were historic in context — but from which part of history? Though there is nostalgia for the old “flip” motion, we haven’t been using those since 1998 when we last upgraded the boards from their 1960s–era electro–mechanical, flap style version. And when GCT was built in 1913, there weren’t any boards at all!

 Still, in trying to preserve historic context our experts selected a full cap Garamond font to display on the big boards in an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant height and size, and the red, green, and blue colors reflecting the New Haven, Hudson and Harlem lines respectively.

New Gate Boards which will flank the entrances to our tracks at GCT are also in the process of being replaced. Metro-North will complete the Gate Board installations in GCT before the summer of 2020, and completing the outlying station installation and communication and signal work by early 2021.


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