New York City subway riders will be able to see when their next train will arrive through a smartphone application, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota said.
The app, developed by the MTA for Apple's iPhone and iPad devices, will also be adaptable for Google’s Android software, Lhota said. Called MTA Subway Time, it will work above ground at 156 stations on seven of the city’s 24 subway routes. Lines with older technology will require more time before joining the system.
“This would have been unthinkable a generation ago, but now it’s a reality,” Lhota said at a news briefing in Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal. “You can find out whether you need to go downstairs right away or whether or not you can continue to make your phone call from upstairs.”
For Lhota, 58, the announcement was one of the last official acts of his one-year stint as chairman of the biggest U.S. transit agency. Last week he resigned, effective tomorrow, saying he’s considering running for the Republican mayoral nomination in 2013.
The system required installation of about $228 million of new signal technology over the past 11 years, Lhota said. It’s an extension of countdown clocks installed in many of the city’s busiest subway stations by Lhota’s predecessor, Jay Walder. The programs use the same technology, Lhota said.
“I think it’s fantastic, exactly the kind of information riders want, and it will get them to use subways more often,” said Gene Russianoff, an attorney and spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign, a riders’ advocacy group.
The stations accessible through hand-held devices are the numbered lines -- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 -- as well as the shuttle between Grand Central Terminal and Times Square, Lhota said.
Two other lines, the L between northern Brooklyn and lower Manhattan to 14th Street, and the No. 7 line that runs between Manhattan and Queens, are being similarly updated and will be available for users of the service soon, said Adam Lisberg, an MTA spokesman.
The New York subway system handled 1.6 billion passengers in 2011, and transports 5.3 million riders a day.