BAY RIDGE – Riders waiting for the bus can no longer tell what time it will arrive after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority systematically removed schedules from bus stop poles, according to four Bay Ridge lawmakers who fired off a letter to MTA Chairperson Patrick Foye objecting to the move.
Councilmember Justin Brannan, State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus and U.S. Rep. Max Rose contend that the absence of printed schedules at bus stops is a hardship for riders who don’t have smart phones and cannot access apps like MTA Bus Time and MY MTA that offer up-to-the minute information on bus arrivals.
Brannan called the removal of bus schedules “a boneheaded move” and said he will do everything he can to get the MTA to reverse course.
The MTA allows riders to text their location to access bus schedules, but the elected officials argued that that’s also problematic for many passengers.
“The digital divide is a real thing. For those without computers, basic internet skills or simply without access to mobile technology, printed bus schedules are an essential part of getting where they need to go. Many of our constituents are senior citizens who may not have access to a working mobile phone and so insisting that customers call, text, or visit a website to obtain scheduling information creates a very real obstacle,” the four Democratic politicians wrote in their letter to Foye.
“We fear that enacting this policy means forgetting or ignoring the needs of a significant group of bus riders, which would frankly be unacceptable,” the lawmakers added.
The MTA stripped the schedules from hundreds of bus stops around the city as a cost-cutting move, Brannan said.
“There are many things with the MTA that need fixing but this isn’t one of them. I have no idea why the MTA would target the removal of printed bus schedules as a cost-saving measure. The digital divide is very real and not every commuter has an iPhone or access to mobile technology. This ill-advised change will impact senior citizens, and low-income New Yorkers most of all. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the MTA to provide schedules to all paying riders, regardless of their individual access to technology,” Brannan told the Home Reporter.
Gounardes said his office has received numerous calls from confused passengers.
“The MTA trying to save a few bucks by simply removing the bus schedule is the brightest idea since New Coke,” Gounardes said. “This is cutting corners at the expense of riders. Many seniors and low-income residents do not have smartphones and now have no way to know when the buses will come. I urge the MTA to restore the schedules immediately.”
MTA spokesperson Shams Tarek defended the removal of schedules from bus stops.
“As we modernize bus service, we’re finding ways to provide accurate arrival time information to customers in faster, more efficient ways. Moving to paperless schedules helps reduce our paper waste and makes the most of new technology that puts real-time information in customers’ hands whenever they need it,” Tarek told the Home Reporter in an email. “The $550,000 in recurring annual savings from this initiative allows NYC Transit to redirect our resources to maintaining bus service levels.”
MTA officials said New York City Transit and MTA Bus Company serve more than 16,000 bus stops and that reprinting and reposting schedules at bus stops every time there are changes is a time-consuming and expensive process.
Officials also said that even though the new signs posted at bus stops no longer list bus schedules, they do offer suggestions about the various ways passengers can find out when their bus will arrive.
Customers can use the MYmta app, call 511 or tweet the @NYCTBus Twitter account, which officials said is monitored 24/7 by customer service representatives.