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?