First-Ever Electronic Bus Status Display Installed in Manhattan

A camera phone-toting tipster reports seeing workers installing what appears to be New York City’s first-ever real-time bus status display board this morning inside a bus shelter at First Avenue and E. 14th Street along the M15 route. We’ll put in some calls to the MTA and DOT to get the details.

Unfortunately, for now it appears that the new displays can only be read and understood by bus riders fluent in Klingon.

Correction: The digital sign displays text smoothly. Our tipster’s camera phone was unable to capture a clear image.

Update: A Dept. of Transportation source says that the MTA is installing 15 of these real-time bus information displays around Manhattan as a pilot program. DOT is responsible for the shelters, MTA is responsible for the electronic signs. The project is part of the city’s contract with Cemusa, the company that builds and sells ads on the new bus shelters as DOT’s sub-contractor.

  • sam

    When I was living in Milan, many of the bus stops had electronic signs showing the eta of the next 2-3 buses. It was fantastic, because you could figure out right away whether you needed to just get a cab or walk instead. Or, you know, if there was a 20 minute wait (which was exceedingly rare), you could go into the bar and get an espresso without worrying that you were going to miss the one bus that came by.

    I actually found it most useful to figure out whether it was worth waiting for the *second* bus. Often, the first bus to come by would be packed to the gills, but there’d often be a second bus only one or two minutes behind that was half empty – but you wouldn’t know that there was any second bus without the signs.

  • momos

    Will they just show the time and say such revealing things like “You’re riding MTA Bus” or will they actually display information worth reading? I’d be floored if they have real-time bus scheduling info on those signs before the 2nd Ave subway gets built in 2157.

  • mike

    The reason why the sign looks like it’s in Klingon is because of the mismatch between the refresh rates of the camera and the sign.

  • Bus Rider

    I saw the sign myself this morning and not only did it tell the time, it also revealed how long until the next bus.

  • Zach

    There was already one of these at Water St & Hanover Sq, in the financial district. Doesn’t do much, though.

  • drose

    First off, hallelujah to this, as I am a frequent and frustrated user of the Upper West Side bus lines.

    I had hoped after looking at some of the new shelters that the space on the inward-facing side at the top of the solid part of the shelter (the one with the ads) could be used for such a status display system. It looks like this sign was affixed to an old shelter, however. I look forward to seeing if this display or other formats are used in the new shelters.

  • psycholist

    Amazing that we’re finally catching up with late 20th C technology… Kudos to the current DOT/MTA for stepping up to the plate!

  • mg

    I guess that top part above the ad in the new bus shelters (where it has the generic Cemusa sign for now) will be used for these signs.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Google pulled up this informative set of pages:

    It says that eventually the system can be accessed on buses and on cell phones. Pretty cool.

  • former portlander

    um, when i lived in portland, they had much larger screens like tv size (that showed lots of info like the next 10 or so buses expected, current time, and on time-ness as well as where the bus went..) they had these *before* i moved there, in like, uh, back in 1992, and they were there before i got there. we are like the most rich city in the world and we can’t do what portland did. WTF!

  • In 1991 I made my first trip to London.

    There I saw similar signs in all Tube stations and at major bus stops telling you exactly when the next train or bus was arriving.

    So here we are, SIXTEEN years later and our MTA has just discovered this. How incredibly pathetic.

    My cat could do a better job of running the MTA and she died almost eight years ago!

  • valleyguy

    They have these in Los Angeles, they tell you when the next bus will arrive and what route number it is. Works great, New York is really slow at adapting to new technology, just look at the voting machines.

  • ay

    I was at that stop a couple times this week. Once it told me the bus was 4 minutes away — which it was. The other time, I hailed a cab because instead of a time it say, “Service is temporarily delayed. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

    I my cab right up from there to 91st, I didn’t see a single bus. So yeah — I’d say the sign is working okay for now. I want more of them!

  • Ollezaza

    In 1991 I made my first trip to London.

    There I saw similar signs in all Tube stations and at major bus stops telling you exactly when the next train or bus was arriving.

    So here we are, SIXTEEN years later and our MTA has just discovered this. How incredibly pathetic.

    Welcome to America

  • Larry Littlefield

    (So here we are, SIXTEEN years later and our MTA has just discovered this. How incredibly pathetic.)

    The MTA has been trying to implement this for buses for that long. Contractors have failed because they were unable to get their GPS systems to work between the tall buildings of Manhattan. A recent contractor was defaulted, and the MTA got its money back. The MTA could have just implemented an existing system in the outer boroughs, but it wanted one system that worked. I know this because I used to work there, but it was also in the newspapers at the time the more recent contractor defaulted.

    Similarly, the MTA could have used existing technology and identified when trains were coming using track signals. But track signals can’t tell if that 6th Avenue express is a B going to the Brighton Line or a D going to the West End. Most systems don’t have routes that merge and diverge. The MTA wanted to be able to identify how far away a train was on each route.

    Spending billions twice, once with the easy tech and replacing it with more complicated stuff later? Not under federal rules, which require infrastrucutre funded in part by federal money to remain in place some number of years.

    It isn’t that easy. But it would be cheaper if the entire system could be closed overnight for maintenance, and if entire lines were shut down long term for construction projects, as in London. My daughter was just their and complained about this, but it sure is cheaper.

    Just hope the pilot project works this time.

  • Mr Bean

    Ollezaza, last time I was in England (a few years ago), I ran across many sinks/faucets which lacked a single faucet for both hot and cold water. Instead, many sinks had 2 faucets: one for hot, one for cold. To get warm water, you had to quickly move your hands between the two faucets, as if you had down syndrome.

    How is it today? Anyway, happy to be getting these timers on the bus stops here in nyc.

  • BusGrrl

    One of these signs has been at Lenox and 116th since the middle of july. anyone ever go uptown?

    Also, I know the display signs in LA are starting to fail because the hardwired telephone system that fails them is being poorly maintained. They will be switching to cellular based system. So, don’t go thinking NYC is that far behind.

  • Ollezaza

    Mr Bean, spend your decreasingly-shrinking-in-value-vacation-dollars traveling around the US and you will find many more 2-faucet systems than in the UK, even using comparative stats. They are very common thru-out America, maybe not in gentrifying New York or urban centers.


Real-Time Bus Tracking Pilot Is Live on 34th Street [Updated]

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announces the 34th Street pilot this morning. On the left are MTA Bus president Joseph Smith, Mayor Bloomberg, and acting MTA chief Helena Williams. Will the third time be the charm for reliable bus arrival displays in Manhattan? NYCDOT and the MTA announced today that, yes, they will deliver a tracking […]

Hylan Boulevard SBS Will Speed Bus Rides Starting in September

New York City’s fourth Select Bus Service route will travel down Staten Island’s Hylan Boulevard as soon as this September. The improvements are expected to speed travel times by 20 percent along the island’s second-busiest route, according to a report by the MTA [PDF]. As on existing SBS routes, the Hylan service will make fewer […]