Many Philadelphia commuters who can't make it home in time for the evening news are catching the latest weather and sports information -- with plenty of commercials -- before they even board their homebound trains. Three years ago, Metro Vision, a computer-operated cable television network, installed television monitors and projection screens in several high-volume SEPTA terminals. The screens broadcast round-the-clock advertisements and information to thousands of commuters. The company, which is owned by the Syracuse-based Metro Vision of North America, developed the system four years ago with the sole purpose of providing a unique passenger information system for mass transit commuters, said Joe Calabrese, Metro Vision vice president. · Although the system features news, weather and sports information, revised train schedules and a trivia quiz, many commuters seem overwhelmed by the advertising segments. Several lunchtime commuters passing through the Blue Line's 8th Street and 15th Street stations yesterday said that the system seems to offer mainly advertising and very little substanitive information. "I would rather read the paper," said Doug Jones, a New Jersey resident who said he rides SEPTA a few times each week. "It is just advertising, who cares what advertising there is." The program runs in a loop as a series of still photographs with text, and is divided into three segments. The first segment is input by the transit authority, which is used to announce delay or schedule information. "If there is an emergency situation of some kind we can get right out to the passengers," she said. The second segment is used for entertainment purposes, providing news, weather, sports and trivia. And the third segment is for select advertising, which is run through the Syracuse office. Calabrese said Philadelphia advertisers include ABC News, Miller Brewing Co., Dow Jones and WCAU-TV. Some commuters said that Metro Vision is most useful when they cannot get home in time for the evening news. Carol Wicker, a Philadelphian who uses SEPTA each day to get to and from work, said that she does not pay attention to Metro Vision in the morning because she is either "engaged in conversation" or waiting far from the Metro Vision screens. But she does watch the screens when she is taking the subway home late at night. "It is good at night because if it is late it is nice to find out what is going on in the world," she said. Abdula Muquit, who works at a kiosk at the 15th Street station, said that while the system may be "interesting," the information it disseminates is not always correct. "Sometimes it is interesting, but a lot of the stuff isn't true," he said. Muquit could not remember any specific examples. And for many area high school students who commute to school by subway, the system serves as a diversion from the wait for the subway. "It is a good time killer," said Tabitha Harrison, a student at Girls' High School. "It keeps you occupied while waiting. "It does show that SEPTA cares about you beside just raising fares." · Calabrese said Metro Vision monitors are placed in terminals based on ridership. Metro Vision screens are located at the Philadelphia International Airport, Bryn Mawr, Jenkintown and Market East stations, and the 8th, 13th and 15th street stations on the Market-Frankford Blue Line. Philadelphia was the first city to receive the network, in 1987. Metro Vision's only cost to the city is for the electricity required to keep the monitors going 24 hours per day, Calabrese said. Cities receive a percentage of the advertising revenue -- in Philadelphia, hundreds of thousands of dollars each year which he said "should offset the cost of electricity but not solve the [financial] crisis." The network was installed in Chicago's mass transit system in 1988, and New York City's in 1989. The four-year old company also serves areas in New Jersey, Ohio and California.Comments powered by Disqus
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