MTA scrapping the bus arrival board projectBy
If London can do it, so can we.
The MTA’s mediocre technological track record is about to get worse.
As we know, the MTA has its issues with late 20th Century technology. Other subway systems in lesser cities have managed to figure out ways to display when the next train is coming, where the next bus is and how delayed the service is. But in New York, while we’ve long heard promises of seemingly futuristic technology and the L trains even offer us glimpses of that future, the MTA hasn’t figured out a way to implement basic transportation system technologies.
Now, though, we have news that these technologies — this one involving bus arrival times — aren’t coming as quickly as the MTA would like or as the riders expect. In fact, they may not even be implemented at all.
According to a weekend report in The Daily News, the MTA is shelving the bus arrival time project for now. Amanda Coleman and Pete Donohue have this tale of woe:
NYC Transit’s 12-year quest to display real-time bus arrival information at bus stops has hit another bump and veered off the road. Transit officials have stopped posting estimated arrival times to electronic message boards along six different Manhattan routes because of technical problems resulting in inaccurate arrival times being given, a transit official told the Daily News.
NYC Transit spokesman Charles Seaton couldn’t say when the communications system, which went online in October, might again be put into use.
This is just sad on so many levels, and Straphangers Campaign guru Gene Russianoff offers up just that assessment. “I’m saddened because I consider real-time information one of the best things a transit system can offer, and it’s frustrating it has been so hard for them to do it,” he said.
This project has its roots in the mid-1990s, but the MTA didn’t make real progress until they reached a $13-million deal with Siemens to begin a test pilot program along six bus lines. The contract had a full-scale implementation option for $109 million, but that reality is unlikely.
For some reason — a reason I can’t explain — the MTA can’t get their technological projects off the ground. Their underground cell service plan is fraught with difficulties, and the Citizens Adivsory Committee recently criticized the MTA for falling behind schedule with their plans to install train arrival information screens throughout the system.
Maybe it’s a matter of priority. If so, the MTA should being to prioritize these projects. New Yorkers need a 21st Century subway system, and right now, we don’t even have a late 20th Century system. We have fancy new train cars and a constant stream of renovated stations, but we don’t have the infrastructure of a forward-looking subway system.
Until the MTA can figure out how to get technological innovations in place in a timely and fiscally responsible way, we’ll be stuck peering into dark tunnels or down crowded avenues looking for any glimpse of an oncoming train or bus. That’s no way to run a transit system.