Gianaris pushes for subway countdowns

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State Assemblyman Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) wrote a letter to MTA Chairman Jay Walder last week requesting that countdown clocks be installed on subway platforms in Queens, but the MTA said they will not be coming for a while.

“It seems to me that Queens is being neglected, and that is not fair,” Gianaris said.

Countdown clocks are electric signs that state when the next train is estimated to arrive at the platform. For $200 million, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to bring countdown clocks to the Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 lines, all of which operate outside of Queens.

“Apparently, only stations in Brooklyn and Manhattan have them so far,” Gianaris said.

Gianaris said Queens riders, especially those in his district in Astoria, could greatly benefit from the use of countdown clocks. Riders in Astoria and Long Island City recently lost the W line, which ran along the same track as the N line. While it was replaced with the Q line, the Q does not travel as far and the wait times along that area of the subway line have increased. He said that since many of the stations in Queens are above ground, the information is needed.

“People can take shelter if it’s going to be awhile before the train arrives instead of standing out in the freezing cold waiting,” Gianaris said.

Gianaris said he is starting to reach out to other local officials for help on this issue.

As of press time, Walder had not responded to the letter.

But Charles Seaton, a spokesman for the MTA, said the countdown clocks would eventually come to Queens but not in the near future.

The only line slated for countdown clocks now is the No. 7, which runs from Times Square in Manhattan to Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, ending at Main Street in Flushing. Seaton said the countdown clocks will be installed when a communications-based train control is put in on the No. 7 line.

“So when we add new technology to the No. 7 line, we will be able to include it,” Seaton said.

But this will not come about until a couple of years, Seaton said, adding this new technology will also not be coming soon to any of the lettered lines. A different signaling system is going on the lettered lines as a pilot, although this is currently only on the A line, which goes into southeast Queens.

“We are including the countdown clocks and adding them as technology allows,” Seaton said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 6:21 pm, October 10, 2011
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