SEPTA piloting flat screen station displays for papal visit

The sight of new, dynamic information displays at a few SEPTA stations has some riders singing “Hallelujah,” while a few others cast disparging glances for their fellow passenger’s worship of false flat-screen idols.

And like everything else in Philly days, there’s a Pope angle.

SEPTA has begun a pilot of new flat screen displays at ten stations across greater Center City in advance of the papal visit in late September.

The 55-inch displays will show service, weather and other information during the papal visit, and will eventually show more SEPTA-related content as well as general news and advertising, SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch told PlanPhilly via email.

As SEPTA completes the implementation of real time ETA technology on its vehicles, that information should be made available on the displays as well.

SEPTA decided to pilot the screens before Pope Francis graces Philly “to provide travel information – and if needed, emergency messages – during the Papal Visit,” wrote Busch.

SEPTA is soliciting public feedback during the pilot stage. Other new, electronic displays in public spheres, such as the signs above the Lit Brothers building and the trio of 3-D billboards proposed for parts of Center City, have been criticized by design advocates who fear harshly lit signs could diminish the city’s architectural beauty.

“Input from the community and other stakeholders will help determine the long-term status of the screens, and whether additional locations would be considered,” Busch said.

The signs are being paid for out of the advertising revenues they raise, so they are effectively free for SEPTA to install and operate.


If you find yourself wishing that I wrote at least four thousand words on this topic, you are probably not alone, as much as that surprises me.

Thankfully for you, the Philadelphia Center of Architecture is holding a panel discussion on neon signs, digital billboards and the future of signage on Sept. 10th from 6 to 7:30 p.m. That’s a full hour and a half of sign talk, not to be confused with sign language, where you can expect lengthy discussions about how one man’s tawdry, gaudy and annoying is another man’s delightful, dazzling and amusing.   

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