Real-time transit info now available at Reading Terminal Market

Screens installed recently at Reading Terminal Market offer visitors a real-time guide to transportation options near the Philadelphia food mecca, a sign of the growing importance of up-to-date transit data in cities.

Two large flat-screen televisions installed near the market’s restrooms display information about the latest arrivals from SEPTA and PATCO’s bus, train, subway, or trolley services. The screens also have information  on bike-share bicycles available at nearby Indego stations and the Zipcars and Ubers in the area.

“We know from doing research the majority of the people that shop in Reading Terminal Market either come on foot or ride their bikes or take public transit,” said Sarah Levitsky, marketing director at the terminal. “They’re basically hyperlocal.”

Real-time transit data are becoming a priority as people become accustomed to the immediate convenience of services such as Amazon and Uber. The transportation options shown on the market’s screens also have apps that offer constantly updated information. SEPTA, which is seeking to modernize its real-time data systems, is investing about $11 million for an upgrade. This month, the transportation authority began making more accurate data on vehicle locations available through its app, and it intends to have countdown timers installed in all subway stops by next year.

The Reading Terminal screens aren’t in the most central location, Levitsky said, because they’re just too big to fit elsewhere. The company that installed them and maintains the software, TransitScreen of Washington, is open to finding ways to add more screens to the market, cofounder Ryan Croft said.

“We’re just trying to learn what’s the best location for it,” he said. “Is it worth having at all the exits?”

The Center City market between 11th and 12th Streets, stretching from Arch Street nearly two blocks south, was itself once a train station and is next door to Jefferson Station, a Regional Rail stop.

The market’s management became interested in the screens after a board member noticed similar screens elsewhere in the city,  Levitsky said.

TransitScreen has installed its information boards at four Philadelphia buildings: Commerce Square, NorthXNorthwest, 1515 Market St., and One South Broad, as well as including transit information in jukeboxes in the city, but the display at Reading Terminal Market, which draws about 6.5 million visitors a year, is different, Croft said.

“I don’t know if it’s ever really been done before in Philadelphia with real-time information in a public space like this,” he said.

TransitScreen draws from open data maintained by the various transportation outlets to keep the screens current.