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Cockamamie clocks confuse Bay Ridge straphangers

All flash and no function?: At the moment, the spiffy clock only keeps track of trains heading to 95th Street, the last stop on the R line in Bay Ridge.
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Long-awaited countdown clocks in many Bay Ridge train stations are finally up and running, but some of them are accurate even less often than an R train shows up.

The gizmo on 86th Street platform offers only sporadic information on Manhattan-bound locomotives, and is mostly keeping track of R trains that are 95th Street-bound — the next and final Brooklyn stop — instead of the far more populous Manhattan-bound side, leaving straphangers scratching their heads.

“What’s the point?” said Dyker Heights resident Jacob Muller. “I raised an eyebrow when I saw that — I thought I was reading it wrong. Everyone comes here to go into Brooklyn and Manhattan. No one is really itching to know when the next 95th Street train is coming.”

The newfangled tech was installed a few months ago and the system went live in the 86th and 95th Street stations on July 11. A clock just beyond the turnstiles at the 86th Street stop alerts riders of incoming 95th Street and Manhattan-bound trains, but the subway platform clock logged infrequent info on trains heading toward Sunset Park — ignoring some trains and acknowledging others.

Each clock relies on the subway’s wireless network and pings the location of trains through four bluetooth receivers at each station — a pair at each end of the platform — that connects to bluetooth devices in the first and last cars of the trains as they arrive and leave.

The result is — usually — a relatively accurate estimate of when a train will arrive at the next station, meant to give commuters some peace of mind that a train is in fact en route.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority did not respond to a request for comment on why the 86th Street clock fails to register so many Manhattan-bound trains.

The clocks are well-intended, but maybe not the best use of the authority’s cash, said one rider.

“I really like the idea of these clocks but every day there are crazy train delays. I don’t think this is the best use of their money,” said Bay Ridgite Will Lippisch. “Invest more in infrastructure, so I don’t need to worry about the train being late, rather than something telling me the train is 20, 30 minutes away.”

But others were just glad to finally have some sort of ballpark estimate of when to expect the R.

“Honestly, it’s just nice to know. Sometimes there aren’t any trains at 95th, and you have to wait for something to stop here and turn around,” said Bay Ridgite Samantha Piccolo. “It gives a general idea at least. I’ll take anything that makes taking the subway easier.”

The transportation authority aims for countdown clocks in all 269 stations to be active by the end of 2017.

Bay Ridge Avenue, 53rd Street, and the Prospect Avenue stations shuttered earlier this year for six months worth of upgrades as part of Gov. Cuomo’s initiative to gussy up dilapidated subway stations. Each stop will feature spiffy new countdown clocks once they reopen this fall.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 10:46 am, July 21, 2017
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Reader feedback

Ms. Me from Bay Ridge says:
The R train shows up as often as it needs to based on the number of people on it.
July 17, 5:42 am
Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from BS, BK, NY, US says:
What's wrong with these newer countdown clocks? They are not as accurate on both the BMT and the IND tracks as the ones on the L or most of the IRT tracks.
July 17, 10:22 am
James M Keane from Bay Ridge says:
Too often the new clocks are installed within a few feet of an existing sign installed at the same height, which completely blocks the view. In one station the sign is behind a staircase so that only the people in the first/last car can find it. 77th Street signs can only be seen for a few feet before another sign blocks it, so everyone who wants a train has to bunch up and will crowd into a single car.
July 22, 7:53 pm

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