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MTA to introduce ‘countdown clock’ to Bklyn

In the near future, waiting might not be the hardest part.

That’s the hope held by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is planning to install technology that will tell commuters when their next train will arrive — a much-anticipated initiative that could arrive at select Brooklyn subway stations soon.

By winter 2010, the MTA plans to introduce new public address systems and customer information screens to all numbered subway lines at 156 subway stations, according to the agency’s 2010-2014 capital budget plan. The initiative will cost $171 million, according to the MTA. The agency has already installed a$213 million train tracking/signaling system at the stations, a necessary first step that make the customer displays viable.

MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz said it is too early yet to know which lines will receive the displays first. The numbered lines that rumble through Brooklyn include the 2, 3, 4 and 5 trains. He said the displays would ultimately make riding the system “a seamless experience.”

The lettered subway lines will receive the so-called countdown clocks eventually; complete funding is expected to be included in the 2015-19 budget and beyond, the MTA stated.The L line, which travels from Canarsie to Williamsburg and beyond, already had the technology installed in 2007.

New MTA Chairman Jay Walder said this week that his agency “can’t be satisfied with the status quo.” The new boss vowed to produce an action plan for “moving forward with concrete goals and timelines” in the next 100 days. Straphangers in Washington D.C. and London already benefit from the countdown displays. “New Yorkers should be able to expect the same type of customer experience riders enjoy in London, with accurate arrival information and modern fare technology,” said Walder, who served as managing director for finance and development for Transport for London until 2006.

“We like real world information for riders,” said Kate Contino, a coordinator with the Straphanger’s Campaign. While her commuter advocacy group often needles the MTA, she said there is “no downside to countdown clocks.”A commute can be made bearable “just by knowing if you’ll have to wait three minutes or six minutes for a train,” she said.

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