OUTFRONT has deployed 

over 600 digital displays throughout the MBTA's subway system in...

OUTFRONT has deployed  over 600 digital displays throughout the MBTA's subway system in the past four years.


OUTFRONT Media is partnering with transit agencies across the U.S. to align the riders with the companies they trust.

This out-of-home media company is claimed to be the largest of its kind in the North American transit sector, generating more than $500 million in annual revenue on behalf of its transit authority partners before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two years later, OUTFRONT is adjusting to the agencies’  and riders’ needs through digital signage and advertising.

Being Out in Front

To better understand the benefits of digital signage, it’s important to know the company partnering with the likes of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), New York’s MTA, and many more across the nation.

“We leverage the power of technology, location, and creativity to connect brands with consumers outside of their homes through diverse sets of billboards and transit and mobile assets across North America,” says Victoria Mottesheard, VP, marketing, NY/East region, at OUTFRONT.

This is an industry many people may not know about, according to OUTFRONT’s VP, transit, Damian Gutierrez, but it’s one that is generating revenue for transit agencies.

“We are able to help our transit authority partners generate revenue from sources other than the farebox,” Gutierrez says. “They use that revenue for things like station cleaning or other operational maintenance tasks.”

There’s also the process of OUTFRONT and the transit agencies coming to an eventual partnership. The company says it’s invested in major urban centers when placing a bid. 

“We look for transit authorities that are part of the fabric of these urban centers,” Gutierrez says. “We love to be able to reach people in their commute as they go through their day and as they go back and forth in their neighborhoods within a city. The reason we love it is because our advertisers are seeking those audiences to engage.”

The company has deployed over 13,000 digital displays throughout the MTA's stations and railcars over the past three years, with 4,000 dedicated to customer information and system status. Over 400 of the displays were deployed as retrofits on rail rolling stock. 

“We are really focused on forward-thinking smart cities, opportunities for us to reach consumers throughout their daily journey, and to really help brands tell stories across the media throughout the different touch points,” Mottesheard says.

Not only can digital advertising and signage generate revenue to address an agency’s needs, OUTFRONT’s transit contracts often include significant infrastructure projects.

“In New York City, for example, we are in the process of building out thousands of digital displays, and that comes along with electrical work and network cabling and infrastructure and, just this past year, we replaced and modernized all the next-train arrival digital displays throughout Miami-Dade's Metrorail system,” Gutierrez says.

Along for the Ride

OUTFRONT is also invested in knowing more about the riders.

The company launched an engagement survey titled “MOMENTS'' to obtain more insight into the riders’ trends. This was conducted through New York City and the MTA with 1,000 respondents.

“We are really proud to say that we as a company have invested in more data and insights,” Mottesheard says. “There is more opportunity to not only provide our clients with information on behaviors and diving into who today's consumer is, but we’re able to also provide that to our transit authority partners.”

OUTFRONT has also conducted studies in Washington D.C. and is planning additional surveys in other markets in the future. The overall takeaway from the research is that today’s customer is more active and using public transit.

“What we are actually seeing is that when people are returning to office, in a more flexible style, they have a bit more joy in their day,” Mottesheard says. “They are excited to see colleagues and visit the restaurants they know. When they are working from home, they have a bit more time on their hands to engage in social activities.”

OUTFRONT has deployed over 600 digital displays throughout the MBTA's subway system in the past four years. The company recently completed a pilot deployment of 30 Customer Information Displays dedicated to passenger information and system status. 

The agency has exercised a contract option for 10 more years with OUTFRONT, which includes the expansion of digital signage across the network. 

Since 2016, the MBTA has looked for new ways to make information more widely available to customers in stations.

“There's been an evolution of our own understanding of what we can do with all of this digital signage in our system,” says the MBTA’s Director, Digital Ride, Karti Subramanian.

One of the challenges MBTA found was finding the right balance between commercial advertising and showing the real-time information riders need to know.

“We are working with OUTFRONT to deploy 250 screens that are in station lobbies dedicated exclusively to MBTA service information and where we display our real-time content 100 percent of the time,” Subramanian says.

The company has also further helped find the balance when it comes to digital advertising.

“OUTFRONT has been a really good partner here in helping us think about these kinds of rider problems,” Subramanian says. “They’re willing to work with us on segregating advertising from real-time information and making sure riders get the right information in the right place at the right time.”

Advertising Advice

As both OUTFRONT and the MBTA experience the benefits of digital signage, they are willing to share the lessons they have learned along the way.

Subramanian explains the importance of talking to the riders themselves.

“If you start by talking to riders, by trying to understand what your riders actually want at different points in their journey, that very quickly leads to certain decisions, like the decision to provide dedicated space for real-time information about the system and service,” Subramanian says.

OUTFRONT also emphasizes how riders are looking for a variety of information other than commercial advertising.

The company surveyed over 350 subway riders in four weeks to better understand consumer attention in transit. The results showed 91% of riders enjoyed the experience of MOMENTS by OUTFRONT (the company’s in-house content publisher platform) and 60% of riders noticed the campaign during their morning and afternoon rush hours.

“We are proud to share content with our transit authority partners to draw in riders who are looking forward to not just seeing the advertisement, but also to see relevant content that matters to them,” Mottesheard says. “So whether it's related to weather or transit authority information, or arts and culture, or food recipes, we have those spots on the digital side to really draw in consumer attention.”

Lastly, OUTFRONT has noticed a trend while gravitating toward major urban centers that other agencies can keep an eye on when considering digital advertising.

“One of the more interesting trends that we've seen is the surge of public transit usage on the weekends, and transit patterns tend to be more neighborhood-to-neighborhood these days,” Gutierrez says. “So we’re seeing more vibrant, self-contained transit commuting patterns happening in the cities that we are fortunate to work with, and we are encouraged by what that might mean for post-pandemic ridership returns.”

Product Roundup

Peerless-AV’s Xtreme™ High Bright Outdoor Displays provide capabilities for greater public engagement and seamless updates of dynamic digital content for transit applications. Offering top-of-the-line outdoor video quality, along with the durability to withstand harsh outdoor elements, the Xtreme High Bright line of commercial displays are the ideal solution to share engaging content, such as passenger information, wayfinding, advertising, and entertainment.

Urban Solar
The PV Stop Max is the most powerful system in the PV Stop family, making it ideal for powering digital amenities, as well as illuminating the area around bus stops. Multiple sizing options allow for successful deployment even in northern locations with limited solar energy. The result: enhanced safety at bus stops, reduced pass-bys, and increased choice ridership. Since the system is completely standalone, significant costs associated with trenching and cabling are eliminated.

Connectpoint Inc.
Connectpoint’s CP-32 is their most versatile ePaper display. It offers a customizable presentation of real-time departures and alerts, custom messaging, and graphics. This display has been deployed at agencies throughout the U.S. and can be either AC or solar-powered and mounted to a shelter frame or enclosed in a freestanding totem. The system’s power and content are remotely managed by its cloud-based Connectpoint Asset Management System. This ePaper display gives riders updated information 24/7.

LG Electronics USA
Specifically designed for single-day installation, the LG 136-inch All-in-One DVLED display combines a 1080p screen, on-board webOS™ controller and built-in speakers to offer immediate operation in virtually any environment, including transit centers. With this model, technology integrators can say goodbye to complicated installation procedures and wiring. The display ships ready-to-assemble in a professional wheeled flight case and includes every component necessary to serve various needs.

Luminator Technology Group
Luminator Technology Group’s INFOtransit solutions provide maximum flexibility and options for delivering on-board passenger information. With message and dynamic content control by location, Luminator’s INFOtransit software delivers real-time updates and facilitates easy administration, content management, and diagnostics, as well as integration to other systems. INFOtransit keeps passengers informed through high resolution, TFT display technology, available in several sizes with optional voice announcement features enhancing ADA compliance and on-board accessibility for all passengers.

Tolar Manufacturing Company
Nationwide, advertisers are requesting enhancements to digital-signage kiosks. Tolar and partner Urban Solar Corporation have developed solar-lit signage kiosks, integrating 10-years of Solar Data from NASA for up to 10-hours of cost-effective and reliable illumination. Solar-lit signage can be installed on any timetable, with no trenching, meters, or connection fees. The 17-ft Signature Sunset shelter in San Diego, Calif., offers dusk-to-dawn, LED illumination along a discreet architectural strip and 10-hours of advertising with solar-lit signage.

Hanover Displays
Since 1985, Hanover Displays has focused on designing and manufacturing state-of-the-art Passenger Information Systems around the world. Operating in over 76 countries, with manufacturing in both UK headquarters and its U.S. subsidiary, Hanover has set the industry standard for quality, warranty, and customer support. With a manufacturing facility located in Elk Grove Village, Ill., the company’s products meet Buy America standards. 

Safe Fleet
Enhance on-board safety, the passenger experience and build a foundation for increased ridership by giving passengers real-time information during their commute. Infotainment Monitors help passengers feel more secure, discourage unwanted behavior, and keep riders informed by displaying live camera views and relevant updates onboard the bus. And through increased passenger security, decreased unwanted behavior, and more access to relevant information agencies can create a climate for increased ridership. 

Sharp NEC
Imagine being able to detect how many oversized bags are brought to a departure gate or terminal and deploying content on a screen reminding passengers to check their oversized bags to minimize friction at the gate or detecting customer wait times at a departure gate and being able to deploy additional agents or add self-service kiosks in high volume areas to improve customer satisfaction. Learn how NaViSense can detect your world of objects. 

About the author
Louis Prejean

Louis Prejean

Assistant Editor

Assistant editor Louis Prejean works on Metro Magazine and Automotive Fleet. The Louisiana native is now covering the fleet industry after years of radio and reporting experience.

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