Last week, we saw what happens to low-tech MTA signs that are designed to help people find their ways about the subway system: Eventually, they fall victim to irate vandals. But what about the MTA’s high-tech countdown clocks? Here’s the view that awaited me in Grand Army Plaza early Saturday afternoon.
It’s tough to say what exactly happened here, but it’s easy to see the impact. Someone tried to smash the countdown clock. Perhaps he or she grew annoyed by a late-night 20-minute wait. Perhaps a aggressively drunk straphanger took out some MTA-inspired frustration on the sign. Perhaps someone with a warped sense of right and wrong decided to break stuff. The nearest victim was a sign hanging eight or nine feet above the platform.
In its annual customer information survey released today — more on those results later — the MTA trumpeted a system-wide embrace of technology. Riders who regularly use stations with countdown clocks are far more pleased with service than those stuck on B Division lines with only the lights at the end of an empty tunnel to forecast train arrival times. People find it less stressful and easier to travel if they have a sense of when the train is coming. So why the destructive tendencies?
As I mentioned on Friday, Transit is less likely to spend precious dollars on customer improvement measures if those efforts are going to waste. As most of us learned in nursery school, it takes only one person to ruin it for everyone else. Is that what we’re seeing here as New Yorkers take out their subway-inspired frustrations on the nearest inanimate object?