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First electronic message board installed by MBTA for aging Green Line

Boston Celtics first-round pick Kelly Olynyk and secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Richard A. Davey promote the newly built MBTA electronic message board Thursday at Kenmore station. These message boards inside Kenmore Station now tell passengers which Green Line train will arrive next. PHOTO BY KENSHIN OKUBO/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Boston Celtics first-round pick Kelly Olynyk and secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Richard A. Davey promote the newly built MBTA electronic message board Thursday at Kenmore station. These message boards inside Kenmore Station now tell passengers which Green Line train will arrive next. PHOTO BY KENSHIN OKUBO/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

In order to update the oldest subway system in America, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority installed the first electronic message board on the Green Line on Thursday.

“This really is the beginning of significant Green Line improvements,” said Richard Davey, secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. “It’s a small step today but an important step. And it’s a reminder to our customers that we haven’t forgotten about you and the Green Line.”

The Blue, Red and Orange lines already display how far away approaching trains are from the station. The Green Line tracking technology is required to be more advanced because it deals with weather and traffic above ground, which is not a concern on other lines, according to a Thursday press release. A schedule of when the tracking technology will be installed will be available in the coming months.

In an effort to welcome him to the city, Davey invited Boston Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk to the ceremony, because they both graduated from Gonzaga University, Davey in 1999 and Olynyk in 2013. Olynyk said he is still getting used to the T as the basketball team prepares for an Oct. 7 opening game against the Toronto Raptors.

“Hopefully I get a chance to ride a couple of these, help the fans and experience some of what the fans do,” he said. “It’s always great to give back, and it’s always great to get out and interact with the fans. They’re what makes us run.”

Davey and Olynyk presented the boards at a small ceremony in Kenmore Station, and then took a train from there to North Station, which is immediately below the Celtics home court in the TD Garden.

There are two signs in the station — one underground near the bus port entrance, and the other inside the south entrance. They display the two upcoming outbound trains, and whether they are B, C or D lines. They do not display the approximated arrival times of the trains yet, but they will in future, pending the development of the appropriate technology, Davey said.

Signs are only present in the Kenmore station at present, but officials are looking to expand in the near future, he said.

Dr. Beverly Scott, general manager of the MBTA, said while the improvements may be in the early stages for the Green Line, the boards mark the beginning of a series of improvements the T will greatly benefit from.

“The MBTA is very proud to be the operators of the nation’s first subway,” she said in a Thursday press release. “But being 116 years old doesn’t mean we have to act like it! We are equally proud of our record of integrating the latest technology into the system, and we intend to keep building on that record.”

Despite updating the system to match the other lines, several residents said the electronic message boards would not be helpful.

“The only people who will really be able to use the information are tourists,” said Michael Moylan, 46, a resident of Brookline. “It doesn’t really change anything for me because I know where I’m going. It’s nice to know in advance which trains are coming, but in the end, I know what to look for, and it’s not going to change how long I’m waiting.”

Jessie Mooney, 20, a resident of Boston, said the signs would help T riders, but it would not drastically affect the overall transportation experience.

“It looks great for people,” she said. “It’s a great idea for commuters. I’ve gone from Copley and needed a B line train and I never knew which train was coming. These will make situations like that a lot easier, but in the end, doesn’t make the T go any faster, so not a lot will change.”

Tim Flaherdy, 29, a resident of Dorchester, said the signs were only slightly useful, but they were a great sign for future developments.

“It’s got to be hard to get as many people around as it [the T] does,” he said. “Sure, it has its issues, but I like what they [the MBTA] have done. I think they’re doing a heck of a job.”