Riders on most of the lettered subway lines have long had countdown clock envy of straphangers who use numbered trains. But that's changing, as riders of two more lines now know exactly when the next train is coming. NY1 Transit Report Jose Martinez filed the following report.
Countdown clocks have been a fixture on nearly every numbered subway line since the start of the decade, leaving riders on most of the lettered lines feeling like transit have-nots.
"Sometimes, it can be frustrating because you don't know if the train is delayed and you don't know when it's coming," one man in the subway said.
But Wednesday, countdown clocks arrived at all the stations on the E and the G lines.
Riders said, It's about time. "Anything that will improve this train line is a plus," one woman waiting for a train said.
Upgraded signal technology along nearly every numbered line, known as the A division, allowed the MTA to install the countdown clocks on those routes years ago.
The new signal technology is still years away from being installed along most of the lettered lines, known as the B division, even though the MTA promised countdown clocks in all 472 stations by 2018.
So a workaround was developed using Bluetooth technology.
"If we waited for the balance of the modernization program on the B Division, we would never make the end-of-the-year deadline," MTA Managing Director Ronnie Hakim said. "So we came up with a new technology, a homegrown technology."
The new system puts beacons on the first and last cars of each train that emit signals, and Bluetooth receivers on the ends of platforms.
"Then it is able to predict the time that it will take it to get to the next station, and using the Wi-Fi technology that was recently implemented in the subway system, able to display the train arrival time," Hakim explained.
Transit advocates say the new countdown clocks are nice, but they're only a Band-Aid until the new signal system can be installed, because that system will allow the trains to run more frequently.
"Really, I think what riders want to see is, when they get down to the station, that their countdown clock never says, 'Oh sorry, the next C is 15 minutes away,'" said Nick Sifuentes, the deputy director of transit advocacy group the Riders Alliance.
After the E and G, the next lines that are set to get countdown clocks are the M, the N, and W lines, which are set to go live sometime next month.