Councilmembers Call for “Bus Clocks” at NYC Bus Stops
It’s an age-old question, “Where’s my bus?”
Today, City Councilmembers, joined by transit advocates and riders, introduced a resolution calling on city agencies to install “bus clocks” at bus stops across the city. Bus clocks give real-time bus arrival information using digital displays, so that riders know how far away their bus is. New York is behind other cities, including Washington, DC, Albany, and Syracuse, where bus clocks are already in use.
“We have the technology to make our buses more accessible and predictable - we just need to put it to use,” said City Councilmember Brad Lander. “Bus Time is a great resource, but it should be available to all New Yorkers, including seniors and others who are less likely to use cell phones. I look forward to working with DOT, MTA, and Cemusa to make bus clocks a reality.”
"Bus Time and subway countdown clocks have been tremendously helpful technologies for straphangers," said Councilmember James Vacca, Chair of the Transportation Committee. "Knowing when the next bus or train will arrive gives straphangers time to pick up a coffee or the morning paper rather than standing around with no information. Expanding countdown clocks to bus shelters is the logical next step in providing as much real-time information as possible."
The MTA is installing Global Positioning System (GPS) devices on all buses in New York City through the “Bus Time” program, which will allow riders to use their smartphone, text messaging, or MTA’s website to find out how many stops away the next bus is from their stop. First installed as a pilot on the B63 line in Brooklyn, Bus Time has since expanded to Brooklyn’s B61 line and to all Staten Island and Bronx bus routes. By the end of 2013, Bus Time will be available for all bus routes in New York City.
But for many elderly and low income residents, cell phones are not a viable way to get this information.
“As we look elsewhere, we see NYC beginning to lag behind other cities in terms of real-time public transit information,” said Councilmember Vincent Ignizio. “I have funded, or at least tried to fund, similar projects on the Staten Island railroad but have been told that the MTA did not have the capability. We need to continue working to make sure our transit system stays current, and that our commuters have the most information to make the best possible choice when it comes to their daily grind”
“There are few things as frustrating as waiting for a bus without knowing when it will show up, especially if you’re already running late for work or the weather isn’t cooperating,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin. “Installing countdown clocks in bus shelters is an easy step that the MTA can and should take to ensure that all riders know when to expect the next bus. Simple measures like this will make everyone’s commute more convenient.”
“The addition of bus countdown clocks will be great for my district where we have many seniors who rely on buses for daily transportation,” said Councilmember Vincent Gentile. “The fixed paper schedule doesn’t account for traffic and other unexpected delays that may occur. However, countdown clocks will provide real-time information. By leveraging modern technology, we can help make our surface transit system more efficient for everyone.”
“Whereas the Bus Time System requires expensive smart phones to utilize, the bus shelter arrival time displays are accessible to all people,” said Councilmember Sara M. González. “Given the need to keep constituents informed and the economic realities of my District, I am delighted to be a sponsor of this bill.”
“I believe ‘Bus Time’ is going to become an important part of using public transportation in the near future,” said Councilmember Deborah Rose. “It is imbedded in the New York City culture to have busy and packed schedules. Bus Clocks will provide riders with up to the minute information to help them properly plan out their travel time and their day. Making this resource available by publically displaying the time will allow all riders to have this valuable information, not just those lucky enough to own smart phones. Staten Islanders have grown to love the system and I believe that all New Yorkers should be able to utilize these features.”
Leading transportation experts joined elected officials at the event.
“Bus Time is a great innovation providing real-time information for bus riders in the Bronx, Staten Island and two routes here in Brooklyn,” said Cate Contino, Straphangers Campaign Coordinator. “We look forward to the expansion of the project to all five boroughs. Bus clocks at bus shelters would serve to make this service available to an even larger swath of bus riders.”
"Nothing makes the bus more reliable than knowing exactly when the next one will arrive," said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. "These countdown clocks will take the guessing game out of waiting for the bus. Installing these clocks will be a boon for New Yorkers who rely on the bus to get where they need to go."
"Countdown clocks have been such a hit in the subways that we should expand the technology to the rest of the system as soon as possible. It's these low-cost, common-sense upgrades that improve the experience for riders and draw more people out of their cars and onto public transit," said John Raskin, Executive Director of the Riders Alliance, a grass-roots membership organization of subway and bus riders.
What does your neighborhood need? An improved park? Safer streets? New school technology? In participatory budgeting, you give your ideas and City Councilmember Brad Lander has set aside $1 million to fund them. And your votes will decide which projects get funded.