'Help Point Intercom' Phased In As Newest Emergency Fixture

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Newer technology and greater security, that’s the logic behind a program that’s been targeted for New York City subways.

CBS 2’s Scott Rapoport got a look Monday at what could be the future of subway security — a new, hi-tech intercom system — the help point intercom, or HPI — that could soon become an emergency fixture in the city’s subway system.

“This is an important priority … this is a high level priority,” said NYC Transit President Tom Prendergast.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says the digital system, which is camera capable, is a step above the city’s existing intercoms. It lets straphangers push buttons for subway information and for emergencies, like four weeks ago when a woman fell off the platform and onto the tracks in front of an incoming train. A call like that would go into the MTA’s rail control center where dispatchers can sound an alert.

“Press a button and within seconds get in touch with somebody that can not only know where you’re at but then ascertain the nature of the situation and respond accordingly,” Prendergast said.

The MTA says this is all part of a pilot program, a chance to get a working look at the HPIs on a limited basis.

Right now the plan is to install 20 HPIs in two subway stations along the “6 line” at 23rd Street and Brooklyn Bridge by the end of the year.

Riders have mixed feelings.

“I think if they work it’s a great idea. But half the stuff they put down here you can’t hear or doesn’t work,” said Richard Oliver of the Bronx.

“Now that they’re cutting back on the MTA workers at the booths you get to call somebody and hopefully they’ll answer,” Richard Abramov of Queens.

If the MTA likes what it sees with the HPIs you could see thousands of them in the city’s 468 train stations as soon as two years from now.

Prendergast shot down the idea that the technology is a replacement for the hundreds of station agents who were laid off earlier this year.

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