New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

NY1 Manhattan Bus Routes to Get Countdown Clocks by Jose Martinez

Manhattan Bus Routes to Get Countdown Clocks

The days of relying on a schedule posted to a bus stop are no more, with the citywide arrival of GPS tracking on phones. But as NY1’s transit reporter Jose Martinez tells us, riders can never have enough next-bus information and in one Manhattan neighborhood, they're about to get more.

They're among the busiest bus routes in Manhattan, shuttling more than 70,000 riders across town every weekday.

But riders at 15 stops along the westbound M66, M79, M86 and M96 will soon have one more way of finding out just where that next bus is.

The real-time bus signs are thanks to a city-funded measure pushed by an Upper East Side councilman in the city's latest round of Participatory Budgeting.

They're also coming to the southbound M31 on York Avenue.

"People from all over the district voted for bus clocks. It was something that they wanted and there was a need for,” said Councilman Ben Kallos.

But is there, really?

There's already Bus Time, which uses GPS to let riders track a bus's whereabouts by text messaging or smart phone.

"We could spend our money elsewhere, and it's, we already have everything on the phone, so what's the point?" said one rider.

The MTA says BusTime was used close to 3 million times in April.

But Kallos says the clocks, which popped up last year at two Staten Island bus stops as part of a pilot program, are a plus for riders who aren't so tech-savvy.

"Fifty percent of this district is over 50 and it's a lot more convenient to able to look, see the sign and see when the next bus is coming and make the decision. Are you going to wait for the bus or are you going to walk to a subway?" said Kallos.

So how soon before you see the signs at stops the one on East 79th Street?

There's no timetable for the arrival of the clocks, though funding for the project is expected to be in this month's city budget, meaning riders should have another tool at their disposal sometime this year.

Some riders say they'll be a welcome addition that could save them a few bucks.

"I'm often almost late to a place I'm supposed to be, and if I don't see a bus down there, I'll probably grab a cab and it will be a lot more expensive,” said a rider.
"It's just better to know. And if it's a long time. Well, I have arthritis, but a lot of people might just say the hell with it, I'll walk to the subway,” said another rider.

And what about riders crossing from west to east? Talk to your council person.

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