Bus Riders Hail City Council For Allocating Funds to Install Over 100 New Countdown Clocks at Bus Stops

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 29, 2014

Contact: Rebecca Bailin (Riders Alliance), 516-592-2869

Bus Riders Hail City Council For Allocating Funds to Install Over 100 New Countdown Clocks at Bus Stops

Council Members Cabrera, Chin, Cohen, Garodnick, Johnson, Kallos, Lander, Matteo, Treyger, Ulrich and Weprin Guarantee That Bus Stop Countdown Clocks Will Now Expand to All 5 Boroughs

Clocks Tell Riders in Real Time When Bus Will Arrive

New York, NY— Members of the Riders Alliance, a grassroots organization of subway and bus riders, thanked members of the City Council on Sunday for allocating City funds to expand the successful “bus countdown clock” program that has been popular in in its first two locations on Staten Island.  The clocks are installed and maintained by the City Department of Transportation (DOT) and are built on new MTA technology that shows where the bus really is at any given moment.

Riders Alliance members had requested that the City Council allocate discretionary funds to bring bus countdown clocks to more communities around the city, and 11 City Council Members responded with funds.   In total, Council Members allocated almost $2.8 million, enough to install more than 100 bus countdown clocks.

Bus countdown clocks will now be appearing in the following City Council districts:

·         Bronx:  Fernando Cabrera ($113,000); Andrew Cohen ($40,000)

·         Brooklyn:  Brad Lander ($240,000); Mark Treyger ($100,000)

·         Manhattan: Margaret Chin ($260,000); Dan Garodnick ($950,000); Corey Johnson ($35,000); Ben Kallos ($640,000)

·         Queens: Eric Ulrich ($180,000); Mark Weprin ($35,000)

·         Staten Island: Steven Matteo ($200,000)

The City’s Department of Transportation has estimated that each bus stop can be outfitted with a real-time countdown clock for approximately $20,000.  The Riders Alliance is pushing for all the clocks to be installed in 2015, after DOT consults with each local Council Member about where the clocks are most needed in each district.

Bus riders hailed these 11 members of the City Council for allocating funds, and thanked the City’s Department of Transportation for working with the Council to make the funding possible.  The riders also recognized the MTA for installing GPS on all its buses, a project that was completed this past year and that allows for the countdown clocks to work.

John Raskin, Executive Director of the Riders Alliance, said, “These clocks will be a great service to frustrated riders waiting in the heat or the cold for their buses.  With real-time arrival information, riders can decide if they’d rather walk, or wait in a store, or take a different bus that might arrive sooner.  Once the clocks are installed, a lot of happy bus riders will have these 11 members of the City Council to thank.  We also appreciate the willingness of DOT to work with the City Council, and we note that it’s the MTA’s technology that has made the entire program possible.”

"This is one of the best things that Council Members can do for their constituents who travel by bus," said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, a transit riders group.

"I prefer taking the bus to get around the city as a greener alternative to taxis - but unpredictable schedules made it difficult to plan my trip,” says Riders Alliance member Thomasin Bentley from Windsor Terrace.  “Countdown clocks will make bus transit so much more convenient. Thanks to the City Council for making this important investment in our community." 

“The quickest way for me to get to work is by bus. Having information about where the bus is at the stop can help me decide if it's worth waiting for it or if I should just walk to work,” said Nigel Teekasingh, a Riders Alliance member who lives in Queens. “I want to thank all the City Council members for supporting this; it is a great step forward in providing better, clearer and more accessible transit service in New York City.

“I am excited about the partnership between my office and the Department of Transportation to bring the countdown clocks technology to bus stops in district 14 of the Bronx. The $113,000 I secured will give passengers an improved ride experience by making accurate timetable information accessible. This valuable addition will be beneficial especially among the elderly and parents with children in days of extreme hot or cold,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera.

“I’m excited about the benefits these countdown clocks will provide for seniors who sometimes struggle with public transportation, and that’s one of the reasons I provided $260,000 in capital funding to start installing the clocks along bus routes in my district,” said Council Member Margaret Chin, chair of the Council’s Committee on Aging. “Along with the modernizing of our transit system and making it more accessible to everyone, the clocks will really help seniors who don’t have access to smartphone apps and can become nervous or anxious about long waits at the bus stop. I’d like to thank Riders Alliance for their advocacy on this, and I look forward to working with the Department of Transportation to implement the program.”

"I am proud to fund the installation of two bus countdown clocks in my district. Commuters will now know how long they have to wait for the bus which will make their trip less strenuous.  This technology is widely popular among subway riders and I am certain it will be just as popular with commuters who ride the bus," said Council Member Andrew Cohen.

"New Yorkers hate to wait," said Council Member Dan Garodnick. "While we can't make a bus materialize on demand, we can give a time frame so people can make the best possible choices."

"Knowing when the next bus is due to arrive will benefit thousands of riders who depend on the bus to access their jobs, families, and the entire city,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “I’m especially proud to support this program because anyone without the right smartphone or app will now have information to make decisions that will improve their daily commute."

"Residents overwhelmingly voted to fund bus countdown clocks through participatory budgeting so we can all get where we want to get by the fastest route possible.  It's nice to know when the next bus is coming without having to pull out your phone, text or check an app, especially for our seniors," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Thank you to Riders Alliance and advocates for ensuring that all communities that want countdown clocks can get them in order to improve their daily commute."

“Bus arrival countdown clocks are part of a robust transit infrastructure and a recognition of the importance of busses and bus riders,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “We have all experienced the real benefit of countdown clocks in the subway system: knowing how long until the next train makes waiting more tolerable.  Bus riders deserve this service as well.   But what is more, for seniors, the disabled, and other vulnerable populations who often rely the most on bus service, and who frequently don’t have smartphones that allow New Yorkers to access this real time information for all bus routes, knowing bus arrival times can be critical.   The commitment by 11 Councilmembers in this budget cycle to expanding this service, in all five boroughs, is a great step forward and I commend my colleagues for supporting it in their districts.”

"I am glad that I was able to dedicate funds to make the lives of Staten Island bus riders a little easier,” said Council Member Steven Matteo. “Countdown clocks will make a world of difference to the many borough residents who rely on MTA buses to commute, to run errands, or just to simply get around. This will also tremendously help seniors and other riders who might not have access Bus Time."

 “I am very committed to making sure that Southern Brooklyn is not left out of the technological movement that is taking shape across the city. These clocks will make catching the bus more convenient and less frustrating for thousands of residents each day,” said Council Member Mark Treyger. “We must continue to find ways to use technology to improve transit option for all New Yorkers, so I am proud to fund this great initiative and to work with the Riders Alliance on its implementation at key locations throughout Southern Brooklyn. With so many constituents relying on buses to get around, this is something that I am very excited to bring to the district.”

“We are very excited that bus count down clocks will be coming to Community Board 9,” said Council Member Eric Ulrich. “My constituents voted for these through the participatory budgeting process and they proved to be one of the most popular items on the ballot.  We should always be looking for new and innovative ways to make people’s commute easier and I look forward to expanding this system to other parts of my district in the future.”

"Countdown clocks have been a huge success on subway platforms. By bringing solar powered countdown clocks to bus stations, we are improving the rider experience for New Yorkers," said Council Member Mark Weprin.

"We thank the Council for championing bus countdown clocks in the City budget. Now New Yorkers will be able to get real-time bus information without having to download a smartphone app," said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. "When riders know what time to expect the bus, it takes the guesswork and frustration out of people's commutes."

For the first time ever this year, technology now exists to allow bus countdown clocks to be posted anywhere in the city: the MTA’s “Bus Time” program has placed GPS devices on all MTA buses in the city, and riders can already access real-time bus information on their smartphones or by using SMS texting in those locations.  Bus countdown clocks, like the more than 100 clocks that received funding in this year’s budget, use GPS data from the buses to tell riders how many stops away their bus is right now.

In February, Riders Alliance members began reaching out to members of the City Council, requesting that they use their discretionary capital funds to expand the initial pilot project and install more bus countdown clocks.  Target bus stops could include stops that serve multiple routes, stops that have particularly heavy ridership, or stops that serve communities with less access to smartphones, such as senior citizens.

Other cities already have bus countdown clocks, including: Chicago, Washington DC, Vancouver (Canada), Portland (Oregon), Albany, and Syracuse.  Boston is currently installing them.

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