Home Asides Countdown clock locations as a campaign issue

Countdown clock locations as a campaign issue

by Benjamin Kabak

Shortly after making the Metrocard’s replacement a campaign issue, Christine Quinn dragged the MTA’s countdown clocks into the fray as well. As A Division riders adjust to the comforts of life with countdown clocks, Quinn wants the MTA to expand the program so that the clocks are available outside of subway stations. Quinn claims, incorrectly, that most stations do not have clocks visible until after a customers has swiped through fare control, and she wants to make transit more efficient by eliminating the need to walk downstairs to check on the next arriving train.

“Providing riders with information is not complicated; it’s the least the MTA can do,” she said. “By taking common-sense steps and making simple changes to the way information is provided to subway riders, we take the frustration and anxiety out of daily commuting.”

The MTA hasn’t responded to Quinn’s statements, but I don’t think this is quite as big a concern as she thinks. Essentially, at an undetermined cost, Quinn wants to move countdown clocks from fare control to the surface level while other options — real-time subway tracking apps, for instance — exist. At stations where CBS Outdoors has installed their advertising screens, the MTA could incorporate the Subway Time API into the digital feeds, but this seems like a solution in search of a problem. A far better proposal would involve funding for speeding up the effort to bring these clocks to the B Division’s lettered subway lines.

In the same release, Quinn also proposed providing audio announcements on buses and subways in Spanish throughout the system and “other native languages…in communities where it is most helpful.” It’s a noble gesture, but aren’t we deluged with enough noise pollution in the subways as it is? Do we have to be told about suspicious packages or unavoidable delays in two or three other languages when we often just want to ride home in peace?

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18 comments

Stu Sutcliffe July 25, 2013 - 5:23 pm

Has Quinn ever heard the phrase “unfunded mandates” used to describe suggestions such as hers?

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JJJJ July 25, 2013 - 7:54 pm

Its actually not unfunded.

If people know they have 7 minutes to wait, they can stop by a vendor and make a purchase.

The sales tax which was generated can fund the clocks.

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Stu Sutcliffe July 26, 2013 - 4:20 pm

Of course.

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BBnet3000 July 25, 2013 - 5:50 pm

Is this her new anti-health campaign? She is sure splitting from Bloomberg who is encouraging accessible and well-marked staircases in buildings.

There are countdown clocks outside of fare control at most A division stations ive seen. The bigger (but longer term) issue is B division signalling and getting countdown clocks there.

Finally, a smartphone app with really good live info about all trains has huge potential to change the way people ride the subway. It is very, very often that I find myself in a “so many choices but no information” situation as far as the subway and what train to take.

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D.R. Graham July 25, 2013 - 5:59 pm

It’s a legal problem waiting to surface itself. NYCT already has a milder version of this problem at stations with mezzanines like Grand Central. When people walk down the steps to fair control at the Park Av entrance there’s the clock and while they wisely don’t have that clock displaying that the train has just arrived other stations like 86th do. Meaning the attitudes of most New Yorkers which is “that train has to be the last one ever coming” is amplified from a level above the platform meaning there are some steps to run and jump down causing unnecessary injury. This only gets worse from the street. Quinn should know better.

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D in Bushwick July 25, 2013 - 7:03 pm

Take a look around at the platform, ledges and ceilings in most stations and they haven’t been cleaned in months or years. Why?
There is no good excuse other than MTA workers don’t want to clean it.
Any mayoral candidate who says they want subway stations cleaned up will get noticed.
It sounds simple but this is what people care about after trains moving on time.

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Nick Ober July 25, 2013 - 7:42 pm

THIS. I’m always amazed that in a city where 5.3 million people use the subway system everyday, its state of repair — or lack thereof in some cases — is not a political issue.

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Scott E July 25, 2013 - 9:39 pm

She can make all kinds of transit wishes and dreams known during her mayoral election campaign (if I recall, Bloomberg did the same), but if elected, she’s powerless to enact them (like Bloomberg). The MTA does not fall under the mayor’s jurisdiction. She knows this, and is likely just using unachievable goals to boost image and likability among regular folks on the street.

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Chris C July 26, 2013 - 7:33 am

But the Mayor recommends 4 members of the MTA board so that’s quite a bit of influence she would have over the MTA.

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llqbtt July 26, 2013 - 10:11 am

The state runs the MTA, maybe even Cuomo himself now. Have you noticed lately that he’s the one who announces all the good news first and not Prendergast?

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Bolwerk July 25, 2013 - 11:16 pm

Hey, it could have been worse. Should could have proposed bustituting the subway so everyone could just use BusTime or something.

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AG July 25, 2013 - 11:17 pm

blah blah blah….. how is she being taken serious? countdown clocks haven’t been cheap… and phone apps are soon to be widely used.

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Henry Man July 26, 2013 - 12:04 am

Multiple languages in buses? Most buses rarely have automated announcements at ALL.

As for the subway announcements, she should focus instead on having clear and audible announcements in the English language in the first place.

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Bolwerk July 26, 2013 - 12:58 pm

The newer buses have all these automated security and courtesy announcements about not assaulting bus drivers and exiting through the rear, maybe “if you see something, say something” too.

Of course, somewhat ironically, they give moral imperative for riders to physically assault whoever thought up the aural assault.

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llqbtt July 26, 2013 - 10:14 am

She is so disconnected. Her focus should be on promoting faster, more effecient and reliable bus service. That would be understood by English, ESL and non-English speakers alike!

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Bolwerk July 26, 2013 - 1:02 pm

We have plenty of focus on buses already. We need focus on the rail network.

She, of course, wants to focus on buses and ferries. And frisking poor people for the crime of being outdoors.

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tacony palmyra July 26, 2013 - 11:55 am

How easy would it be to incorporate countdown clock information into the announcements on the trains and buses?

e.g. “This is 14th Street-Union Square. Transfer is available to the 4 train arriving in 2 minutes, the 5 train arriving in 5 minutes, the N train arriving in 8 minutes…”

This would be immensely valuable when trying to figure out whether to make transfers or not on the fly.

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Joe July 26, 2013 - 2:39 pm

The L train still has ridiculously inaccurate clocks. It regularly will say things like “3 minutes” and then the train will arrive. A few feet before the train reaches the end of the platform, the lady’s voice will say it’s arriving and it will drop to 0 minutes. CBTC is supposed to be able to safely space trains within feet of each other, but it can’t figure out the train is already in the station? Who wrote the algorithm??

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