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Cuomo: New NYC buses will have Wi-Fi, charging ports

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo spoke at a Melville meeting of the Long Island Association business group about the importance of making improvements to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Tuesday, March 8, 2016, with an emphasis on increasing connectivity and adding Wi-Fi to MTA vehicles. (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

Seventy-five new, high-tech buses equipped with free Wi-Fi and USB charging ports will hit the streets of Queens by the end of the year — with 2,042 total added to the fleet citywide within five years to give riders “mobility plus productivity,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Tuesday.

They are designed with “European flair,” making them “Ferrari-like,” he joked. The newest vehicles in the fleet will advance the MTA’s mission to give passengers a system that fits their personal communications needs, he said.

“People spend time on a bus, you spend time on a subway car, you spend time in a subway station, you want that time to be productive,” Cuomo said at a midtown news conference. “If your electronic device is not working, you’re out of commission in so many ways.”

The upgrades will be especially appealing to millennials who see technological advances as “expectations, not desires,” MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast said.

The new buses will replace 40 percent of the current fleet and represent a $1.3 billion capital investment, officials said. The first 23 of the federally funded vehicles will debut next month, they said. The buses are made in Minnesota by Canadian-based New Flyer Industries, which plans to open a new plant in western New York soon.

The MTA also will begin retrofitting older buses this year with Wi-Fi and USB charging ports, and by the end of 2017, all express buses will have the technology, Prendergast said.

Additionally, the agency chief executive touted pilot programs for digital information screens, voice alerts to warn pedestrians when a bus is turning and cameras to help bus operators anticipate and avoid collisions.

Some riders said that they prefer to be disconnected during their commute, but most applauded the idea of more access.

“When I’m traveling, I’m just traveling,” said Philip Orlick, 75, of Greenwich Village. “I’m more likely to be reading a newspaper. . . . It won’t make any difference to me.”

But Taylor Willis, 22, of Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town, likes the ability to recharge on the bus. “I’m always looking for an outlet,” she said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio commended Cuomo for his investment in “critical tech services” for the mass transit system.

City Councilman James Vacca (D-Bronx), chair of the council’s technology committee, hailed the advances as practical.

“There are many people who are express bus users that go to Manhattan or crosstown and they hit a lot of traffic,” he said. “People need information and need to keep in touch.”

Gene Russianoff, of NYPIRG’s commuter advocacy group Straphangers Campaign, welcomed the announcement but channeled “Oliver Twist” in calling for Cuomo to allocate funds in the state budget for the MTA’s broader capital needs.

“Please sir, what we really want is some of the $7.3 billion that you pledged to fix our aging subways, buses and commuter rail,” he said in a statement.

Cuomo spokeswoman Beth DeFalco responded with a reference to $1 billion in MTA funds already in last year’s budget. “The capital plan is a five-year long commitment, and the governor put unambiguous and iron-clad language in the budget to provide $8.3 billion to the MTA during the course of the program,” she wrote.

With Ivan Pereira and Ann W. Schmidt

MTA’s new, state-of-the-art buses:

  • Cost about $755,000 each
  • Will replace 40 percent of existing fleet
  • Have sleek design representing “forward movement”
  • At least 200 will have digital information screens
  • All will have free Wi-Fi access
  • All will have between 35 and 55 USB charging ports
  • 75 added this year in Queens
  • 70 added in next two years in Brooklyn
  • 209 added in next two years in the Bronx
  • 18 added in next two years in Manhattan
  • Remainder added throughout five boroughs between 2018 and 2020 for the total fleet of about 5,700 buses

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