Designing effective countdown clocks for the MTA – UX Collective

Can we do better than barely trying?

Over the course of 2017, the MTA, overlord of New York’s transit system, took on the big and much-needed project of installing countdown clocks on all of its train lines, in every station. While they were an upgrade from nothing, the clocks showed very little consideration for the specific ways trains and customers of the NYC subway operate.

I’ve been building a personal list of complaints with the MTA’s train countdown clocks for a while, but seeing this tweet was what tipped me over the edge to actually putting pen to paper on a better solution:

For those not from the area or who haven’t noticed this issue, what he’s talking about is the second row on this display. It cycles through the next six trains to arrive, showing you their estimated arrival time and destination.

This is a (lazy, obvious) solution that works for stations where more than two types of trains pass through, but this particular station is served only by the 7, in two directions. The sign should always be displaying the next train to Manhattan and the next train to Queens.

In its current form, you may have to wait as much as 30 seconds to see the next train in your direction if it isn’t in the number one spot.

Author: Adam Fisher-Cox

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