Countdown clocks have finally hit the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Green Line.
The MBTA on Friday unveiled two of the new signs that indicate when a train is arriving — at the Newton Centre and Newton Highlands stations on the Green Line’s D branch.
Frank DePaola, interim general manager of the T, said it was a necessary step for the agency.
“It’s giving our customers the tools they need to plan their trips wisely,” he said at a news conference at the Newton Centre station.
It’s not groundbreaking technology by any means, but it’s groundbreaking for the Green Line.
The T began installing countdown clocks for the other subway lines in 2012, but not the Green Line. Some Green Line stations got electronic clocks but they didn’t display train arrival times.
With no set schedule and no tracking system, Green Line customers continued to operate as they always had: Show up at a stop and hope the train would come sooner, rather than later.
But last fall, the agency finally released real-time arrival data for the line , allowing programmers to develop applications that could show arrival times. At the time, the T said that clocks at Green Line stations would eventually begin displaying arrival times. The project was slated to cost the agency about $1 million.
Arrival times now will be displayed at the 26 Green Line stations where the clocks were installed. Those clocks are mostly along the D branch and in the underground stations. The clocks on the D branch will be displaying arrival times within the next few weeks and at the underground stops by early summer, according to officials.
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said such real-time data is an “important development” that has been shown to increase ridership in Boston and other cities.
“It’s the kind of service improvement that we need to be making as we built trust with our riders after the long, cold winter,” she said.
Green Line commuters are already noticing. Sarah Bolts, of Brookline, looked astonished Friday morning when she spotted the signs at the Newton Centre station.
“When did that happen?” she said. “That’s great.”
Officials scheduled the announcement to coincide with their Customer Appreciation Day, which offered free rides to customers as a way to mollify anger over this winter’s disastrous service.
Bolts, who commutes from Brookline to Newton on the Green Line, said she appreciated the free rides Friday, but she said hasn’t completely forgiven the agency for her rough winter commute.
“It’s a nice gesture, but something more needs to happen for the T,” she said.
City seeks help shaping plan
What do Bostonians want for the future of their transportation system?
The city of Boston has an idea. Actually, it has about 5,000.
A new city initiative, called GoBoston2030, has collected more than 5,000 questions from Bostonians as they try to create a blueprint of the city’s future transportation plans. Vineet Gupta, the transportation department’s director of planning, said those questions will help shape the projects the city will pursue in the future.
The city hopes to release a report this summer that prioritizes projects it must undertake to improve its transportation network, Gupta said. That can include anything from pursuing better bus routes to building more cycle tracks.
“It’s structured to not only have a broad vision, but to come up with some specific projects at the end of the day that would become priorities for the city for the next decade or so,” he said.
Developing that plan is an expensive undertaking: The Barr Foundation has given the city about $400,000, and the city has budgeted about that amount to gather the data, analyze it, and develop new policies and projects.
Gupta said he thinks the initiative is necessary to build a “bold new transportation plan” that includes ideas from residents all over the city. When the city last developed a long-term transportation plan in the early 1990s, the same few people gave their input, he said.
The city tried to change that this time. Officials parked a “Question Truck” in 15 locations to talk to residents and a GoBoston2030.org website allowed any user to submit a question about the future of transportation.
The questions, now up on their website, are all over the place:
“Will you speed up traffic in Boston by getting rid of a number of traffic lights?”
“How will public transportation be prepared for global warming and rising water levels?”
And, of course: “Will there be flying cars?”
Gupta said it’s too early to release a list of projects they might pursue, but this summer’s report will be more specific, he said.
And in case those thousands of questions aren’t enough data, the city is going to give residents another chance to deluge them with information. On May 8 and 9 at the China Trade Center, at 2 Boylston St., residents can again tell city officials what transportation projects they want to see in the future.Nicole Dungca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.