Should I Go Or Should I Stay? Now East Siders Get Vital Intel - Manhattan Express | Manhattan Express

Should I Go Or Should I Stay? Now East Siders Get Vital Intel

City Councilmember Dan Garodnick. | Photo by Manhattan Express

BY JACKSON CHEN | The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s buses may at times — many times! — struggle to make their way through Manhattan’s asphalt sea of congestion, but at least East Siders will know when they’re coming.

City Councilmember Dan Garodnick unveiled four bus time countdown signs for Midtown East and the Upper East Side on June 20. The councilmember is providing $950,000 in discretionary funding for 48 new signs, the first group of which can be found at East 60th Street and Third Avenue, East 50th Street and Third Avenue, West 57th Street and Sixth Avenue, and East 68th Street and Lexington Avenue. The full complement of new countdown signs, which also offer audio alerts, are due to be installed by the end of the year.

“With more and more delays below ground, it’s time we stop ignoring our transit above ground,” Garodnick said in a written statement. “My $1 million investment in 48 bus stop countdown clocks will give riders critical real-time data to reduce stress and help them make the best decisions for their trip.”

When determining locations for countdown signs, the city Department of Transportation looks for locations that have high ridership as well as construction feasibility, while working to spread them evenly across the city, an agency spokesperson explained, emphasizing that the evaluation is done in consultation with elected officials and the MTA.

The first four sites completed in Garodnick’s district, the spokesperson added, were selected because they were “installation-ready.”

Responding to advocacy from a variety of civic and transit users groups, the DOT, to date, has installed 225 bus time signs across the city with $6 million in funding from elected officials.

“This expansion of bus stop clocks is an important step that the city has taken to signal to riders that they matter,” Rebecca Bailin, the Riders Alliance campaign manager, said. “As we fight to make buses faster and more reliable, improvements like these are about equity.”

Bailin explained that the majority of those who use the buses are either lower-income or more elderly than the average city resident.

The city has already selected five additional locations within Garodnick’s district for countdown sign installations — at East 49th Street and Madison Avenue, West 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, East 40th Street and Madison Avenue, East 57th and Lexington Avenue, and East 59th Street and Lexington Avenue.

Garodnick’s office could not provide a date for when the next five will be installed.

For the Upper East Side, buses are a crucial form of transportation for the community’s large elderly population. And those residents have brought up concerns in the past about bus infrequency and the need for greater Select Bus Service availability.

Judy Schneider, co-president of the East Sixties Neighborhood Association, said the most recent complaints she’s heard have involved riders waiting 30 to 45 minutes at local bus stops. She added the bus countdown signs would help those who feel stranded at stops under the current setup.

“There are those poles [with] those printed schedules, but they don’t allow for traffic problems or whatever,” Schneider said of the information currently available at bus stops.

As for spots that could benefit from having countdown signs, she recommended the city look into First Avenue at East 63rd and East 67th Streets due to their proximity to two area hospitals, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Memorial Sloan Kettering.

“You get these elderly sick people standing there and are waiting for a bus to take them home,” Schneider said of the First Avenue stops. “And the bus doesn’t come.”

Real-time bus location information is currently available on smartphones at bustime.mta.info

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