NJ transport goes for IP-based PA

NJ Transit, New Jersey state’s public transportation corporation, is using Barix Audio over IP equipment for IP-based distribution of public address (PA) announcements at railway and bus stations. The install is part of NJ Transit’s roll out of an IP-based PA and digital display network.

NJ Transit worked with consultant Baran Design Associates to specify Barix Exstreamers to receive and decode PA messages at every NJ Transit location. The devices are currently operational across the River Line light rail system and Northeast Corridor rail lines, as well as a number of bus stations.

Audio messages with relevant passenger information are continuously updated and streamed to pre-assigned, IP-addressable Exstreamers to ensure that stations are receiving the right message. The messages originate as WAV files out of a centralised text-to-speech engine before being encoded to mp3 for distribution to rail and bus stations. The Exstreamers convert the streams back to audio at the stations and send them to various digital processing systems and amplifiers for immediate playout over the speaker systems.

“We are improving the quality of our PA systems as part of our efforts to improve customer communications,” said David Rountree, manager of public address communications for NJ Transit. “It is important that our customers hear announcements in the rail station environment, and this new system is very clear and concise. Barix plays a key role in both maintaining the audio quality and giving our customers up-to-the-minute, accurate information.”

NJ Transit is also using Barix Instreamer audio encoders to monitor audio quality and levels at every station. An Instreamer will be connected to every digital processor in the network, capturing live audio picked up by ambient noise sensing microphones on each rail and bus platform. The Instreamer encodes the audio and streams it to offices where personnel can confirm signal intelligibility, send test signals and adjust audio levels in response.

Rountree added that he is planning to add Barix Exstreamer 200 IP decoders at remote bus stations that cannot connect to the network infrastructure. The Exstreamer 200 features an integrated amplifier, ideal for installations where space is at a premium while reducing equipment costs. NJ Transit is currently testing the Exstreamer 200 at selected sites, co-located with two speakers and a small digital sign. Passenger information is delivered over a wireless connection, providing audio and visual information to bus stations where only print schedules were previously available.

Rountree added: “We realised that IP-based network technology was the best way to reach all of our stations. The older systems were using drop lines and individual copper lines that would run 40-to-50 miles. The information was somewhat unintelligible by the time it reached the end of the line. There is virtually no loss the way we are doing it now thanks to Barix and other IP-based technology. We simply fire a packet down the line and the quality and intelligibility of the announcement is maintained throughout the system.”

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