Home MTA Technology Countdown clock rollout continues in the Bronx

Countdown clock rollout continues in the Bronx

by Benjamin Kabak

The countdown clock rollout along the MTA’s A Division stations continued this past weekend as two more stops along the 6 line in the Bronx are now enjoying the real-time train arrival message screens. Buhre Ave. and Middletown Road, two lightly used stations along the IRT Pelham Line saw their PA/CIS systems activated on Friday.

With PA/CIS at these two stations now online, Transit has activated screens at seven of the 152 stations set to enjoy the new technology by the end of the first quarter of 2011. At numerous other stations throughout the system, the screens sit wrapped but unused as Transit continues to install the underlying software and accompanying communication systems. Officials at Transit say that PA/CIS will be activated at other stations not necessarily in the Bronx or along the 6 line as soon as everything is in place.

The new iteration of the countdown clocks features automated in-system announcements as well as screens in the fare control areas so that straphangers know how long they will have to wait before swiping in. Each screen features the next two trains to arrive and can be used to display and announce information related to service delays and emergency situations. For now, Transit has activated these clocks only at low-ridership stations, and Buhre Ave. and Middletown Road — the 367th and 405th most popular of the system’s 422 stops — fit that bill. I’m looking forward to seeing these debut at some of the more higher trafficked stations throughout the city.

Anyway, the photos come to me via New York City Transit, and the one below shows the clock at Middletown Road in the fare control area. As this system slowly comes online, New Yorkers can finally enjoy transit technology that others throughout the world have experienced for over a decade.

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Chicken Underwear February 1, 2010 - 6:08 pm

I just don’t get the point. You are already standing on the platform. The train is gonna come when the train is gonna come. What is the point in spending millions of dollars so you knew when.

I could see how this would be useful at a place like Times Square. You might wand to decide which platform to go to based on witch train is coming first….

Aaron February 1, 2010 - 6:16 pm

I had wondered this as well, but on a previous post a commenter noted that the real value is so that the MTA will know where their trains are – the screens themselves are only a small part of the project. The primary purpose is to give dispatchers a better idea what’s going on where, and I think that’s definitely important.

Alon Levy February 1, 2010 - 6:19 pm

If the signs are visible outside the station, they can affect people’s decision about whether to rush to the platform or buy a hot dog from a nearby street vendor first.

Scott E February 1, 2010 - 6:52 pm

Or, in the areas where different lines run on parallel Avenues, they’re helpful in deciding whether to take the downtown train to the destination, then walk a block or two, or whether to walk a block or two and take a different line downtown train.

Andrew February 1, 2010 - 7:08 pm

For shorter distance riders, they’re going to be invaluable at express stations. Get on the local that’s pulling in or wait for the express?

Cap'n Transit February 1, 2010 - 8:26 pm

When is this data going to be available on the web, for purposes like those described by Scott E?

Scott E February 1, 2010 - 9:59 pm

On the web? Don’t hold your breath — let’s worry about getting the data in the stations first.

I was just angry the one time I swiped in at the 3rd Ave “L” station, only to find the train wasn’t coming for another 8 minutes. If I could have seen a sign before swiping the card, I’d have walked to Union Square instead and taken a different train.

Kai B February 2, 2010 - 4:25 pm

Some stations on the L do have signs before the turnstiles. Too bad that some are apparently excluded.

Benjamin Kabak February 1, 2010 - 10:11 pm

This has come up before, and I’d urge you to take a read through this comment from December. Basically, the countdown clocks are a small part of a system-modernization effort that will allow Transit run trains more efficiently and more frequently along some of their at-capacity lines. It will make it easier to manage the trains on the backend, and riders will have less anxiety-producing rides. All in all, it’s both a necessary project and a win-win for everyone.

Andrew February 1, 2010 - 10:49 pm

Thanks, but to clarify, I didn’t say anything about running trains more frequently – that’s pretty much impossible on much of the A Division with the current signal system. What I said was that it would “make it possible to better manage the railroad.”

Benjamin Kabak February 1, 2010 - 10:50 pm

Isn’t a part of the countdown clocks system also an upgraded signal system? I might be wrong about that…

Andrew February 1, 2010 - 11:14 pm

Definitely not! Aside from two parts of the system that are or will soon be having their signal systems modernized (the 2/5 in the Bronx and the Flushing line), ATS-A is an overlay on top of the preexisting signal system. Signal systems aren’t cheap – they’re not replaced just to be replaced. Outside of the East 180th Street area (currently under construction), the Dyre Avenue line, and the Flushing line, the entire A Division signal system is in a state of good repair, having been replaced within the past few decades.

Most of the focus now is on the IND, which still has many of its original signals from the 30’s and 40’s.

And, by and large, modernized signal systems don’t have greater capacity than the old signal systems they replace (if anything, they tend to have somewhat lower capacity, since safety standards are higher now). The exception, of course, is CBTC, but CBTC so far is only in place on one line, and even there it’s still not completely functional yet.

ATS-A is already in place. It’s been up and running for a few years now. It’s controlling switch movements on most of the IRT.

AK February 2, 2010 - 9:17 am

I’m going to continue to be “that guy.” This is not a “win-win”. This is a $100 million+ expense (getting clocks on bus stations alone costs $80 million–> http://www.wnyc.org/news/articles/145558) . It is only a “win-win” if (a) we think this is worth $100 million, (b) we have $100 million lying around to do this and do not have to cut other services we like more than countdown clocks. I don’t believe it is worth $100 million+, some of you seem to, which is fine. But is seems obvious to me that the $100 million, at this time in the MTA’s history, could go toward solving more pressing problems, such as service cuts caused by the existing deficit.

It is true that the funds for teh clocks have been designated from the capital budget– which means Ben would probably be against moving those funds to operations. I am actually quite sympathetic to that position. However, if you aren’t going to use the $100 million for operations, at least use them to plug holes in existing gaps in the capital budget (cost overruns at Fulton/SAS dwarf the $100 million), rather than spending it on a project that people, rightly or wrongly, view as wasteful and luxurious, at a time when the MTA’s political capital is near an all time low.

John February 2, 2010 - 9:49 am

That link didn’t work. Can you post another link showing how much just the subway clocks cost? The bus clocks are a different animal…

AK February 2, 2010 - 10:44 am

Sure John, copy and paste the URL– the link unfortunately caught the parenthesis and that’s why it isn’t working. Here are some links referencing the cost (and cost overruns of the subway clocks):




The Times numbers appear to be the best– they break down the costs into two categories: $213 for the signaling system and $171 million for countdown clocks/PA system. The signaling system upgrade I can understand. The clocks, I oppose in the current fiscal environment.

Benjamin Kabak February 2, 2010 - 12:06 pm

I know the cost seems steep, but it’s a capital expense, not an operating one. This money was already there because it was guaranteed in the 2005-2009 five-year capital plan, and the $200 million represents approximately 1 percent of the spending from that plan. Does that change your view of the clocks?

AK February 2, 2010 - 12:12 pm

Indeed, it is a capital expense, which, like you, I take pains to guard from those who would raid it for operations. I just happen to believe that the $200 million can be put to far better use in the capital plan than via the introduction of clocks.

In fact, even if we assumed (and this is a big assumption), that we are getting a “good deal” on the clocks, I would still redirect the money to other, more pressing capital needs that would improve the user experience more than clocks. For example, I would rather see the money spent on speeding up the Metrocard–>Oystercard transition or as a partial payment for a station at 41st and 10th on the 7 extension.

Jeffrey J. Early February 2, 2010 - 12:07 pm

It’s not clear that the oft-cited $200 million figure is actually just about the clocks; I think it’s the whole ATS-A system (of which the clocks are just a small part). According to the systems engineer guidebook, the major parts of the upgrade are to the real time tracking, the communications, and the new Rail Control Center. My guess is that when this story is typically picked up by news outlets, they only focus on the component the public will see, yet cite the bill for all the upgrades.

Jeffrey J. Early February 2, 2010 - 12:08 pm

Thanks AK — you found a good source clarifying the issue.

Anon February 1, 2010 - 11:07 pm

’cause it might stop dumb@sses from leaning over the track to see if a train is coming and falling into the track.

No I don’t understand why they lean over to see why the train is coming either.

SEAN February 1, 2010 - 7:21 pm

the sooner the better.

MTA installs more countdown signs February 2, 2010 - 5:40 am

[…] MTA New York City Transit installed countdown signs at two more subway stations in The Bronx. The signs post arrival information for the next two trains and can provide announcements about service delays and emergency situations. The project is still in the testing phase, and initial roll-out has been limited to low-ridership stations. Link to full story in Second Avenue Sagas. […]

Joe February 2, 2010 - 11:34 am

Not that this is a great reason, and I wish the NY magazine article I was citing had a source, but an article from 5 years detailing the dream modern subway in NYC included countdown clocks. The article makes the claim that “psychologists tell us that you can wait comfortably two or three times as long for something if you know how long you have to wait.” Now I don’t know if this should be a primary motivation (and apparently it isn’t) but considering the increase of service cuts, it will be nice to know just how long we have to wait for the next train.

And if they are placed outside of the turnstyles, even more power to the rider, who can get a paper or a coffee before they start the morning commute.

NY Mag article: http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/features/11162/
It was part of a feature on the sub par state of the MTA, five years ago, when it was at least more financially secure due to a strong real estate market.

momos February 3, 2010 - 12:18 am

Great project, but after all that work on signaling the signage is low quality. Two changes are needed:

-Place additional signs at STATION ENTRANCES so people can decide whether to take the train BEFORE swiping their Metrocards and going through the turnstiles, when it’s basically too late to go back.

-Make signage as CLEAR and CONCISE as possible. The numbers “1” and “2” may cause confusion among city visitors who will think the signs are reporting about trains on the Number 1 and 2 lines, not the 4,5,6. Also, those arrows are unhelpful. Get rid of them.

Andrew February 3, 2010 - 7:19 am

As others have already stated, there are signs at the entrances, outside the turnstiles. The same applies at some (although apparently not all) stations on the L.

The second line alternates between the second and third train. That’s why the lines are numbered.

FEB. Newsletter | New Yorkers for Safe Transit NYFST February 15, 2010 - 9:09 pm

[…] Countdown clock rollout continues in the Bronx – Second Avenue Sagas 2/2/10 The countdown clock rollout along the MTA’s A Division stations continued this past weekend as two more stops along the 6 line in the Bronx are now enjoying the real-time train arrival message screens. [Read More] […]

Along the B division, a cheaper countdown clock :: Second Ave. Sagas April 26, 2010 - 2:04 am

[…] deployed along the A Division lines, riders will receive less detailed information than the signs currently in place in the Bronx […]

jay April 11, 2011 - 9:42 pm

when will they put the countdown clocks on the 2 and 5 line?


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