Boston Globe By Adam Vaccaro December 2, 2016
How long will you have to wait for a Green Line train as you leave Fenway Park? A digital billboard on Lansdowne Street, across the street from storied ballpark, will help you figure that out.
The billboard shows information on Fenway-area subway, commuter rail, and bus departure times, as well as the number of bicycles available at nearby Hubway bike-share stations.
The display comes from TransitScreen, a Washington, D.C.-based startup that uses data from transportation agencies and services in more than 30 US cities to display transit information.
The transit information by Fenway is displayed for about 20 seconds of every minute, sharing the space in a rotation with advertisements.
The company has been active in Boston since 2014, and has about 50 displays in bars, apartment buildings, and public facilities in the area, including Cambridge City Hall. Some of its displays include wait times for Uber rides.
That display, however, is its largest and most noticeable in the city. It’s also the company’s first outdoor billboard display in the country, according to co-founder Ryan Croft.
“If you go to a baseball game and you’re drinking, we want to be able to promote mass transit,” Croft said.
TransitScreen’s usual customers include real estate developers and businesses who want to include public transit information inside their buildings. Bostonians can also find TransitScreen in a handful of Boston bars, including Boston Beer Garden, J.J. Foley’s, and Beantown Pub.
The Fenway billboard strategy represents a new business opportunity for TransitScreen that the company hopes to replicate elsewhere, Croft said.
Advertisers typically pay billboard owners to be showcased. But by Fenway, the billboard’s owner – Columbus, Ohio-based Orange Barrel Media – is paying TransitScreen to use its transportation display. Orange Barrel’s goal is to increase the number of eyeballs on the board by offering non-advertising content, along with its product ads.
“What we’re trying to do is add value through content on the screens, such that people want to look at them,” said Pete Scantland, chief executive of Orange Barrel Media. “Think of it like television – if there was no program between commercials, there’d be a lot less viewers.”
The company has other near-term plans in Boston, where in early 2017, it expects to launch a service allowing users within 200 feet of any TransitScreen display to access the same information on their smartphones. That system will also allow the visually impaired to receive the information audibly, Croft said.