Yesterday, Vulcan Real Estate unveiled an electronic transportation and amenities kiosk in the lobby of Amazon’s Phase 2 building.  The first of its kind, the touch-screen kiosk features both static and real-time information for neighborhood transit services and amenities.  If you want to get a preview on how it works, you can view the kiosk’s testing in the Youtube video above.  The project is the result of a public-private partnership between Vulcan, Metro, and the City of Seattle, which requires a Transportation Management Plan for Vulcan’s properties.  At the bare end of the plan, the City requires racks for paper brochures and schedules.  The kiosk, however, takes it up a few notches.

From the official press release (PDF):

Traditional transportation management plans include racks of brochures in downtown office buildings that display local transit agencies’ schedule information. These materials require regular updating, printing and distribution.  Because the kiosks are automatically updated, they provide a more user-friendly, eco-friendly, and accurate solution for riders. With the touch of a button, users can view real-time arrival times for Metro bus routes, find streetcar stops and arrival times, as well as pinpoint nearby restaurants, shops and services on an interactive neighborhood amenities map.

More below the jump.

Several prominent transportation officials were present at the unveiling, including Metro GM Kevin Desmond, King County Councilmember Larry Phillips, and SDOT director Peter Hahn.  Vulcan plans on rolling out seven more of the kiosks in the lobbies of all South Lake Union Amazon buildings.  Depending on feedback and how well the first is received, the developer may also consider implementing them for its other neighborhood properties.

The kiosk interface, featuring real-time information for each bus stop. Photo courtesy The Fearey Group.

The kiosk features a base map along with a main menu for both ‘Transportation’ and ‘Amenities.’  Under the ‘Transportation’ menu, users can select information from six sub-menus: bus, streetcar, Link Light Rail, bicycling/walking, ferries, and Zipcar, the first two of which have real-time information powered by the OneBusAway platform.  One can find a stop for next bus information or search for a neighborhood bus route, which gives the option of expanding the map to view the full route.  A moving streetcar/bus icon even tells you where along the line the vehicle is in real time.

The menus for Link, biking/walking, ferries, and Zipcar feature static generic information about the modes and respective routes.  I did notice, however, that Link’s menu had an adult fare from Westlake to SeaTac at $2.55, five cents too high.  The biking/walking menu maps out neighborhood bike routes and the Chesiahud loop.

The ‘Amenities’ menu is similarly divided into six smaller sub-categories: shopping, services, arts & entertainment, hotels, and schools & churches.  All of the sub-menus list each amenity by alphabetic order in a scrolling sidebar.  The amenities are also laid out on the map, and when touched, display a brief description about the selected amenity.

Though the kiosks will only see small-scale implementation for now, the use of dynamic electronic technology is a far better improvement than the typical rack of bus schedules we’re used to.  Thanks to the availability of open source data, the kiosks make transit more attractive for neighborhood visitors.  Hopefully, we’ll see more of these in the near future.

38 Replies to “Transit & Amenities E-Kiosk Unveiled in South Lake Union”

  1. I love it. Perhaps the city should require these for buildings of a certain size (or budget).

    But… more eco-friendly? How many brochures do they think it takes to manufacture this equipment?

  2. I forgot the thought that originally prompted me to comment!

    Where are they sourcing the data and imagery for businesses? Is this a partnership, or is one of the partners in this endeavor getting into the directory business?

    1. My guess is that’s all coming straight from the businesses themselves. It’s all static data so all they needed to do was get a brief description and images, if possible.

  3. This looks snazzy, but smells a solution to a problem that is rapidly becoming irrelevant. How many Amazon employees don’t have a smart phone, or won’t in the not too distant future?

    1. There are plenty of people who don’t have smart phones, though. So this is stil useful.

      1. Whether anyone uses the kiosk, it puts it in a very visible public place. I wonder if employees who drive into the garages ever go to the lobby though?

    2. I am interested in seeing the usage statistics as well. I think most Amazoners have a computer at their desk or a smartphone in their pocket that they will use to check transit times before heading out the door.

      That said, I really thought the kiosk was cool and I’d love to see it installed somewhere like the Transit tunnel, King Street Station, or the Ferry terminal: places where lots of people are going to be making transit transfers.

      1. Yeah, I think Westlake Center and Pacific Place would be good places for these Downtown, in addition to the places you mentioned. The Library as well.

    3. I dunno, jon, I don’t like the implications of assuming everyone can afford a smartphone or chooses to use their expendable income on a smartphone. Of course you’re correct in that depending on how the public-private partnership breaks down in dollars and cents, this might not be the most pressing location for the technology.

      1. I was about the last person of my generation to get a cellphone.

        And I plan on resisting the smartphone urge until the devices get cheaper, the service plans get much cheaper, and the functionality expands to the point where nearly every life function would benefit from having one.

        But even I expect to have one in about 3 years. By then they’ll be pretty universal, and this sort of thing will be redundant.

        (That said, real-time arrival screens at bus stops and on train platforms will always be useful, since they can provide more instantaneous, tactile, and potentially reliable information than any app.)

      2. I’ll probably never get a smart phone. I always find the smallest phone possible so that it will comfortably fit in my pocket. Smart phones will never be small, unless we can find a way to improve eyesight and shrink fingers.

      3. I got my first one last month. My wife’s handmedown Blackberry. I have to say I am pretty addicted. Enough that I wish STB had a mobile version! :D

      4. Pretty much agree, d.p., at least for this location and this demographic, which is why I’m curious about the public costs of the public-private partnership. That said, I think kiosks at the Koolhaas library, Pike Place, the streetcar stop at the new SLU park, transit centers, and countless other areas that serve tourists and less privileged and connected populations would make sense for far longer than three years.

      5. I think public investment was minimal. This was mostly part of the City’s TDM program and the use of Metro data. I think the capital funding was mostly from Vulcan.

    4. Nice point. Hmmm…stick a couple of ipads to a countertop and you’re good? Cheaper.

  4. Where did you guys hear about the unveiling? I could have easily come over from UW SLU but the first I heard of it was on TechFlash. :(

  5. First of its kind? What about the similar one that is (was?) at 3rd & Cherry; that one was projected in the outside of the building, so anyone could use it.

    1. There’s something like this in the bar at Boka (1st and Madison), but it’s a table-top style and I don’t remember how smart it is regarding buses.

      1. The one at 3rd & Cherry was projected from behind onto a glass building exterior. It had buses only, with no “places” element.

    2. Hornall-Anderson has their offices in the Dexter Horton Building which is why they leased one of the empty storefronts there to test out their design concepts.

      I’m not sure if it is still there since I no longer work in the building.

      I’d love to see something like this at all major bus stops, transit centers, P&R, the DSTT, in place of those tourist info kiosks, etc.

    1. The streetcar itself does use the NextBus platform, but all of the live feeds are open source data from Metro, which OBA also uses. I believe the kiosk uses the OBA platform because OBA also has information for other bus routes that it can integrate with the streetcar arrival times. NextBus is currently limited to just the streetcar.

  6. If these are for implementation in large-scale projects, why not create a smartphone app that would access the same data that could be available on a building’s website or compnay’s itnranets there?

    1. I went over and checked it out and there are actually 3 security/reception people in that lobby. Amazon has some really tight policies so it’s actually really nice that I could walk in and try it–for example non-employees are not allowed in the coffee shop next to the lobby! (Yes I asked.)

      1. Did not realize it was inside the building.

        OK, but this kind of thing won’t last a weekend at an outdoor location.

    2. Doubt it. Boren isn’t exactly an arterial. Plus, there’s nothing about it that would make the Amazon building any more attractive to loot than it already is.

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