This Monday, the MBTA officially enabled countdown clocks on pre-existing LED signage boards at an additional 24 stations across the system, bringing the total to 190 individual signs now counting down the minutes to train arrivals at 30 stations. This also marked Dr. Beverly Scott's first day on the job as MBTA GM, driving home her remark that she is a 'start-up, fix-it, turnaround, transition manager...a high impact player.'
The countdown clock project itself has been in process for many years before her arrival. Richard Davey laid the groundwork the top-down changes he's made since moving from MBCR to MassDOT/MBTA three years ago. Director of Innovation Josh Robin, whom Davey brought over from MassDOT to the MBTA because of his work on the MassDOT Developers project, led actual implementation of the project. The project was first tested at South Station several months ago and full rollout has been quietly in the works.
Regardless, the introduction of countdown clocks will be beneficial for all riders, especially those at stations without cellular service where the only way to know a train is coming is by looking at a smartphone app with stale data that was last pulled before arriving at the platform.
This is a far cry from actual service improvements, but any real changes to bring an end to broken down trains and delays from switch and signal problems will carry a much higher pricetag, one neither the MBTA nor MassDOT can afford to buy or ignore. We'll have to wait and see if Dr. Scott is the 'high impact player' that can be the final cog in the machine that will get our transit system running smoothly.