Find Your Way: Downtown’s New Digital Kiosks

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance introduced these touchscreen wayfinders to make it easy to search for restaurants, bus times, museums and more.
by Ayn-Monique Klahre

If it’s been a while since you’ve been downtown, you may notice something tech-y among the new restaurants and shops: giant touchscreen wayfinders.

An initiative from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA), these digital kiosks offer interactive maps to navigate downtown, along with restaurant and retail store recommendations, public service announcements, social services and real-time transit information. They offer a way for visitors and locals alike to quickly find what they need, says Bill King, the president and CEO of DRA. “What we’d found is that the static maps near parking decks or parks immediately went out of date — they could point you toward the big stuff, but not much else,” King says. “This makes it easier to find businesses and destinations.”

As of press time, seven digital kiosks had been installed at locations like West and Peace Streets, along Glenwood Avenue and Martin Street. Fifteen will be installed over the next year or so, located strategically near areas like the North Carolina Museums of History or Natural Sciences, Marbles, the convention center, Warehouse District and Glenwood South.

The DRA has been working on this project since 2016; it took years to figure out what they’d look like and get the funding. The kiosks are ADA accessible, easy to clean and super durable. “They have to be able to withstand all the elements, but also to withstand people,” King says.

Walking by, expect to see a slideshow of art by Triangle artists, mes- sages from the DRA, City of Raleigh and other community partners, and advertisements (which keep the kiosks free to taxpayers). Interact with the touchscreen — if you’re familiar with a smartphone, it’ll be easy to navigate — and you can search for, say, restaurant recommendations by cuisine.

You can also take a selfie or play a game. The DRA has already noticed that people tend to interact with them differently based on where they’re located. “The one on Glenwood Avenue South is near senior housing, so there we’ve seen a lot of use to find bus times,” he says,

“Versus the one near Marbles, people are looking up restaurants or kid- friendly activities after they leave the museum.” King expects there to be other opportunities for information- sharing, too, to advertise upcoming events or promotions and to cel- ebrate. “If the Canes win the Stanley Cup, we’ll be turning all those kiosks red!” he says.

“This helps solve a confidence problem we see when people come down- town,” says King. “This is for both true visitors to the region, but also Raleigh locals! Downtown is just one square mile in 144 square miles — if you don’t live or work here, you’ll still function as a visitor.”

This article originally appeared in March 2024 issue of WALTER magazine.