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Not All Riders Feel The Time Is Right For Subway Station Countdown Clocks

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TWC News: Not All Riders Feel The Time Is Right For Subway Station Countdown Clocks
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As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to have countdown clocks at 75 subway stations by the end of the year, there have been hiccups and hijinks along the way to the hi-tech future. NY1's Transit reporter John Mancini filed the following report.

Waiting for the subway may one of the hardest parts of New Yorkers' lives, but countdown clocks that easing their way into the transit system are designed to alleviate some of the daily stress.

Some local pranksters, though, wonder how the clocks will affect the city's collective soul.

"The train is so reliable, and five million people ride it every day. What we're saying is just trust it," says subway rider Jason Eppink. "You know the train is going to come. Why do you need to know exactly when?"

To highlight the limits of heightened awareness, Eppink and his merry group clipped signs reading "Spoiler Alert" to countdown clocks at three L line stations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. They were gone within hours, but the installation was well-documented.

"So really, what the LED signs do is they create expectations that can't always be met," says Eppink. "They can create false hope and they erode the mystery and the magic of the subway."

Speaking of magic, a disappearing act has been part of the installation of countdown clocks at the West 72nd Street train station, one of 75 that are to have the clocks by year's end. Last week, a rider alerted NY1 to a screen installed behind an exit sign. Since then, the sign was removed, as promised.

"A little bit crazy over here, a big waste of time and money, but ultimately, a success," says transit rider Steven Weisz.

Versions of the countdown signs are now are in 60 stations. They are at every L train stop, along parts of the Number 6 line in the Bronx, some A and C stops in upper Manhattan and some Number 2 and 3 stops in Brooklyn.

By early spring, the MTA's goal is to have 152 IRT stations on line.

"With any new technology, especially when you're grafting it on to an old technology, and sort of updating the signal system at the same time, there are going to be some hiccups," says Ben Kabak, the transit blogger for "Second Avenue Sagas." "I've noticed that sometimes the signs can freeze. Sometimes they cycle through with wrong information. Sometimes two signs at one station will disagree, but by and large, they've been pretty accurate."

Some riders say they count on knowing how long they will have to wait, even if it is for a while.

"I still relax, because I've already had two strokes and I don't want to have a third one," says transit rider Angella Brown.

So take a deep breath, and look away perhaps, if the clocks cause you tension. Who says you have to be on time anyway?

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