As MTA removes printed bus schedules from stops, elected officials push back on behalf of the tech-challenged

As the MTA removes printed bus schedules from stops, some politicians are pushing back, citing the need for those without tech. 
As the MTA removes printed bus schedules from stops, some politicians are pushing back, citing the need for those without tech.  Photo Credit: Children International

The cash-strapped MTA is removing arrival schedules from all its bus stops in order to save some money, angering elected officials in bus-dominant Queens.

The removals began last month in the borough, where the MTA has instead posted information recommending riders either open the authority’s MyMTA app, text the MTA’s arrival number, call 511 or check social media.

Sixteen Queens politicians have penned a letter urging the MTA to reconsider its plans.

“Replacing bus schedules…does not help those riders without access to a charged cell phone, especially senior citizens, low-income New Yorkers, and even tourists,” the politicians wrote in the letter, dated Aug. 5.

“We believe it must be the ultimate responsibility of the MTA to provide accessible and accurate schedules to all paying riders, regardless of their individual access to technology,” the letter continued.

The MTA, overseeing 326 routes and more than 16,000 stops, estimates it will save $550,000 a year by no longer having to reprint and repost bus schedules when they are altered.

“As we modernize bus service, we’re finding ways to provide `accurate arrival time information to customers in faster, more efficient ways,” said Sarah Meyer, the MTA’s chief customer officer, in a statement. “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.”

The authority is grappling with large budget gaps and forecasts a billion-dollar deficit in 2022, at least partially due to bad management. To keep out of the red, the MTA is searching for ways to save while pursuing a reorganization plan that would eliminate 2,700 jobs.

And removing the bus arrival times, Meyer said, helps keep the MTA from cutting service.

“The $550,000 in recurring annual savings from this initiative allows NYC Transit to redirect our resources to maintaining bus service levels,” she noted.

The letter to the MTA was signed by City Council members Peter Koo, Adrienne Adams, Karen Koslowitz, Barry Grodenchik, Costa Constantinides, Donovan Richards, Paul Vallone, Robert Holden, Daneek Miller, Antonio Reynoso, Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm; Assembly members Edward Braunstein and Nily Rozic; State Sen. John Liu; and Rep. Grace Meng.