Countdown clocks coming to bus stops on Manhattan’s East Side

Forty-eight new bus countdown clocks are coming to Manhattan’s East Side this year, officials announced Tuesday calling the project a small but important step in improving MTA’s beleaguered bus network.

The digital clocks are attached to stop polls, offering minute-to-minute countdowns and auditory announcements. The clocks will use the same bus GPS data that is displayed in smartphone travel apps.

Manhattan Councilman Daniel Garodnick acknowledged that city buses are mired in traffic, and said the clocks are “one piece in the puzzle to improving” service.

“I could jog backwards carrying my 6-year-old son faster than the M66 gets to the West Side,” Garodnick said underneath one of the new clocks installed at the Lexington Avenue and 68th Street stop Tuesday. “These clocks will allow us to make an informed decision on whether our time is best spent waiting at the bus stop, running some errands before the bus arrives or just walking.”

Garodnick provided $950,000 in discretionary funds to pay for the clocks, which will be installed in his district by the end of the year. The first four are already online at Lexington Avenue and 68th Street, Sixth Avenue and 57th Street and Third Avenue at 50th and 60th streets.

Similar clocks are already in use at some stops around the city. Between fiscal years 2013 and 2015, the city’s Department of Transportation spent $6 million to install 225 clocks.

Advocates say the feature is a boon for older riders who may not use smartphones, and could help attract impulse riders who might be passing by.

“Bus riders are on average lower income and more elderly than the city as a whole,” said John Raskin, the executive director of the Riders Alliance, part of the coalition behind the Bus Turnaround Campaign to improve service. “These bus stop countdown clocks are a way that bus riders, without having to use data, or have a smartphone, or do the work themselves … bus riders can walk by a bus stop, or approach a bus stop and see immediately which buses are coming and when.”

Riders waiting for the M66 Tuesday morning at the corner voiced their approval of the addition, but wanted better service, too.

“Sometimes a long line wraps around the block and I might just want to walk. So this helps,” said Rosie Mejia, a lab technician who commutes to the East Side from the Bronx. “It’s a good thing, but they should run more buses.”