What the Tech?: Find Out How Late Your Bus Will Be

The MBTA is putting up countdown signs at various bus stations.

Photo Via MBTA

Photo Via MBTA

After a successful installation and positive response from riders for their train arrival signs, the MBTA has decided to put up new screens at several stations around the transit system that will display a similar message for buses, allowing passengers to spend their time wisely while they wait for a vehicle.

“I’ve often said our buses are the work horses of our system, serving more than 375,000 people on a typical weekday,” said MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott, in a statement. “The countdown signs at our busiest bus stops will provide customers with information that will make their public transit experience easier and more convenient.”

The T turned on the first signboard at Forest Hills on Thursday, and expects to add another two to the Dudley Square station in the spring. From there, one will go up at Ruggles Station this summer, with the possibility of eight more signs being installed at some of the other busy bus hubs around Boston around the same date. MBTA officials said they would likely flip the switch on the latter installations come summer, but the first three new signs at Dudley and Ruggles are a go.

Sites tentatively chosen for the remaining eight signs include Harvard, Haymarket, Ashmont, Kenmore, Maverick, Wonderland, Jackson Square, and Central Station.

The software for the technology, which was developed in-house, allows for 13 routes to be displayed on the electronic signs at one time. The signs show the bus number and destination, as well as how many minutes remain until a vehicle is scheduled to arrive. Each sign cost around $50,000, but were paid for using federal stimulus grant funding, according to officials.

The bus countdown signs are a follow-up to the more than 300 LED displays placed at 53 of the T’s train stations in and around the city.  Those signs announce when a train is arriving, and display information letting riders know how far away a vehicle is.

That particular program first rolled out in August of 2012, at South Station, and based on good customer feedback it expanded.  “We have received overwhelming response from customers that they love the Countdown Clock system,” said Scott in June of that year. “This type of service alleviates some of the stress of commuting and I’m thrilled we can bring this innovative service to even more of our riders.”