Complaint Box: Someone Really Dislikes the ‘Bus Turning’ Safety Announcements

The M79 is one line that has installed new technology that announces when buses are turning.

Someone has been posting messages on light poles and bus shelters throughout the neighborhood for the past few months bemoaning the sound of automated speakers that say “Caution, bus is turning.” It’s not clear who the person is, and they don’t seem to be getting anywhere with the campaign. It’s not quite clear what “or else” means in the notice below.

West Side Rag reader Richard, who is not the person who posted the notices, tells us the alert is indeed quite loud and several of his neighbors on 79th have complained. “The loudness of the alert is crazy, it often wakes me up and we are all the way on the 3rd floor of our walkup.”

The bus turning announcements were put in place following a series of fatal crashes involving MTA buses a few years ago, according to Thomas DeVito, senior director of advocacy at Transportation Alternatives. Both Transalt and Families for Safer Streets supported the technology that announces that a bus is turning, DeVito wrote.

Sarah Crean, a spokeswoman for Council Member Helen Rosenthal, said her office was not involved in efforts to add the turning announcements, but “we definitely support efforts to increase pedestrian safety.” The office has received 2 or 3  calls complaining about the volume, she wrote.

NEWS | 51 comments | permalink
    1. Rodger Lodger says:

      I saw a sign like that. The speaker announcement has saved my life, not that it would matter to this person.

    2. Janet Sullivan says:

      The sound of that announcement all night long is loud and intrusive and bothers me tooe. Perhaps there is snother way?

    3. Kathleen says:

      If the speaker announcement saved your life, perhaps you should pay more attention before you start to cross the street. Those announcements are terribly invasive and I hate them too. I will call Rosenthal’s office and complain to the MTA (not that that does any good). There is waaay too much assault on our senses in this city. Advertisements on buses. They’re transportation, let them just be what they are!

    4. less noise; more safety says:

      If you lived above one of these bus stops and heard this incessant announcement at all hours, you might be a bit more sympathetic. Why can’t the bus and pedestrian lights be synced so there’s no chance of a turning bus and crosswalk pedestrian to have green at the same time. Is it because drivers in cars and busses don’t want to wait that long to let pedestrians cross the street?

      • Mark P says:

        In this case, the traffic signals aren’t the problem – pedestrian behavior is.

        My guess is that most of the complaints arise from the M79 turning from Amsterdam onto West 81st St. The crosswalk light there indicates *do not walk* (orange hand) when the northbound light is green. But I see pedestrians routinely cross against it. I will admit that I sometimes walk against it, but only when I can clearly see, walking southbound, that there are no cars coming to turn there.

        • Paul says:

          Pedestrian behavior is the problem?
          Nonsense. Bus drivers routinely force the intersection as they turn, and play chicken with pedestrians who are crossing the street with the light.

    5. I work on the corner of 79TH and Columbus at Halstead and my desk is close to the corner so all day long I hear that announcement so much so that I hear it in my dreams. I don’t want people to get hurt but there has to be a better way. I see people walking against the “Don’t Walk” sign all the time. It’s dangerous.

    6. Upperwestsidewally says:

      Well over 75% of pedestrians in NYC are severely hearing impaired and have lost focus on their environment.

      • Darwin says:

        I’d put the figure at closer to 95% being attention-impaired because they walk around with headphones or earbuds, or their face buried in a dumbphone. Stupidity kills.

      • Deb says:

        That percentage is greater than the percentage of cyclists. Let’s change that CPW protective bike lane into a protective hearing-impaired pedestrians’ lane. I’m serious – how do we make this a reality?

    7. Cordcutter says:

      So I guess no one here has any sympathy for the sight-impaired. smh

    8. Sheldon Burke says:

      Bus and subway passengers also have a serious problem with loudspeaker announcements. An MTA policy designed to help passengers is extremely annoying and helps no one. Passengers standing on subway platforms and riding on subways and buses are usually subject to incessant loudspeaker announcements, literally one every two minutes. Almost all these announcements are insignificant and completely unnecessary. One example is “Thank you for riding the MTA”.
      These announcements disturb people who want to read, listen to music with headphones or talk to their companions, as well as those who just want peace and quiet during their trip. If someone wanted to discourage people from riding public transit, he couldn’t do a better job than the MTA does with its incessant announcements. Only absolutely essential announcements should be made.

      • Carolyn says:

        Complain, complain. If nothing is done, people complain. If something is done, people complain, complain. People just can’t live outside their comfort lane. Judging from the number of pedestrian and cycle accidents, this announcement is a positive attempt to alleviate the situation. No one will ever be happy!

        • Lady Di says:

          couldn’t have said it better! if there’s isn’t someone to complain about, people will make something up.

        • Ethan says:

          And then there are those who complain about the complainers…

      • Upperwestsidewally says:

        “These announcements disturb people who want to read, listen to music with headphones”

        Take a 1 train with the repeated announcement that ‘this train will only be making express stops’ and watch those people who want to “listen to music with headphones” – some of the most entertaining sights when passing local stations!
        By all means, insulate yourself, auditory, visually, but then don’t complain.

    9. Janet David says:

      The sound is extremely annoying. There must be a better way

      • Jon says:

        Janet, if it’s so obvious that there is a better way, we would all appreciate your suggestions.

        • Cato says:

          Umm, turn the sound off??

          • Jon says:

            This might be surprising to you, Cato, but the sound has a purpose (pedestrian safety). It’s not there just to annoy you.

            • Cato says:

              The safety of which pedestrians? The ones with their noses glued to their phones who can’t bother to look up while crossing the street?

              Any pedestrian with his or her eyes open will see a huge double-bus turning a corner, especially given how slowly they (have to) do it. Those pedestrians don’t need the over-and-over-again droning to protect their safety. They’re paying attention to their own safety.

              Why does everyone else have to put up with loud, repetitive noise for the sake of the phone zombies? Why don’t they just look where they’re walking?

              If they did that then, yes, MTA could just stop the noise.

    10. StoptheNoise says:

      We need to end this noise pollution NOW. I would be more sympathetic to this technology if the science were proven – but it’s not – unless of course you just want to accept the data from the underlying technology company who likely has a $1mm + contract with the city. It is a very simple test to review the accident data pre and post the adoption of this technology to determine if it is having a positive safety impact. This has not been done to my knowledge. And just try to complain to the MTA about this – which i have multiple times… Here is the response I got after multiple emails to the MTA: “For all questions regarding bids, becoming a registered vendor, or doing business with MTA New York City Transit, please contact our Division of Materiel at 646-252-6050.”

    11. KC says:

      I guess I should call Rosenthal’s office because frankly the announcements are really bugging me and waking me up at night. when I saw the signs on bus stops, I assumed there would be enough cranky upper West side people to make the calls.

      But this is really an issue for those like me who live near bus stops. I’m glad it’s finally getting some attention.

    12. 79th Street neighbor says:

      I hear it from my apartment and it doesn’t bother me at all- we live in a big coty- have to expect some noise.
      You can get double glass windows if you really can’t stand the sounds of the city.

    13. Déjà Knew says:

      Helen Rosenthal: “…“we definitely support efforts to increase pedestrian safety.”

      Yeah? Then what precisely are you doing to enhance pedestrian safety in the onslaught of cyclist mayhem on the UWS? A safety campaigin? An education campaign? Encouraging NYPC enforcement of traffic laws? Anything?

      Nothing. Just as we already knew.

    14. Ed says:

      For years, we got along just fine without announcements coming from buses. For years the subways ran just fine without station announcements or recorded announcements on trains. Sometimes progress isn’t really progress.

    15. Frequent Rider says:

      The announcements INSIDE many of the buses are out of control…every few minutes, another interrupts conversation. Today I was trying to show an out-of-town visitor various sights en route and couldn’t compete with the loud, repetitive announcements. MTA please note and edit or eliminate them.

      • B.B. says:

        Oh poor you! God forbid anything should get in the way of your actions on *public* mass transit.

    16. DrM says:

      Once again I am astounded by the seemingly endless things about which UWsiders complain. You want peace and quiet during your trip? Bothered by street noise? Prefer to read or chat quietly instead of ride a noisy underground train? MOVE. That’s what the suburbs are for. I’ve lived here for 16 years, 2 months, 2 weeks and 1 day. Every night before I go to bed as I’m turning off lights and double checking my bolt, I pause for a moment and press the ‘listen’ button on my buzzer panel just to hear the sounds of this glorious, always bustling city one more time before I fall asleep. I no longer notice the clinking echo of bottles and cans at 2 am from the smiling Asian woman who collects them nightly for cash. Or the lightening speed stomping up 5 floors and back again of the newspaper delivery guy who brings the NY Times to my housebound elderly neighbor every day at the butt crack of dawn.
      I’ve even learned to embrace the near contact high courtesy of my downstairs wake-and-bake herbal refreshment aficionado. Because that’s what living in a city of 8 million people IS. Love it or leave it. At least STFU about such stupid, small, SO not the big picture things. Take a deep calming breath, go to a spectacular museum within walking distance of your living room and remember that the vast majority of people on Earth will never even see such a beautiful sight.

      • kate says:

        “Every night before I go to bed as I’m turning off lights and double checking my bolt, I pause for a moment and press the ‘listen’ button on my buzzer panel just to hear the sounds of this glorious, always bustling city one more time before I fall asleep”

        surely you jest….if not seek help immediately!!!

      • Woody says:

        No one should have to live their life according to your romanticized preferences and priorities. Getting woken up by a newspaper delivery guy doesn’t rank very high on most people’s list of wonderful NYC experiences.

      • apple says:

        you sir deserve your own newspaper! west side rag, please recruit this person. that’s really nice writing!

      • Cato says:

        The comments here are not about generic street noise or the “sounds of a city”. Rather, the comments are about *new* noise added to the already-existing noise, and added (according to the commenters, whom I join) totally without any need or justification.

        If someone walked up to you on the street and blew a trumpet in your ear, would you smile and say “Ah, another lovely city sound”? Or would you say “Don’t do that!”? (Or, judging from your other pseudo-clever profanities, such as the “butt crack of dawn” or “STFU”, something likely using at least one choice four-letter word, I suspect.)

        I’ve lived in this city a lot longer than you have, and I’ve gotten used to a lot of city noise. But that doesn’t mean that any of us has to silently put up with more on top of more, when there is — as has been pointed out here over and over — just no need for the additional cacophony.

        If you don’t like the fact that people in this city comment on their surroundings, then you can just move to the suburbs. Right?

      • Julia Willebrand says:

        I’m with you, Dr M. I’ve lived in Den Haag and Budapest. And spent time in 70 other cities/countries. Many of the cities/countries terrific but none better than NYC.

      • Keith says:

        Gee, DrM, when I get in a rage (because there’s nowhere to park, lol) and feel like leaning on my car horn for 15 minutes, can I come over to your window? You’ll enjoy it, I am sure. I’ll even do it in the middle of the night if you enjoy the sounds of the city that much.

        Sarcasm aside, I don’t think a single person would actually be glad to add more noise to this city. We love it, but turning up the volume doesn’t make it better. Except maybe for you.

      • Lady Di says:

        Amen! I honestly cannot comprehend this need to find something, anything, to complain about. Truly, some really unhappy, angry folks. I am thankful every day that I wake up. This is life in a big city. Jeez…..

    17. StoptheNoise says:

      Helen has mentioned that this is the MTA, not her issue. So who can we talk with at the MTA about this? A few suggestions: how about initiating the sound only when the bus is turning (and not just entering into traffic from a stop?). How about it only blares once and not three times. How about looking at the data to see when accidents are occurring – maybe during high traffic times? How about we turn it off on weekends? Frankly I think the money is better spent on driver training and safety bonus payments to the drivers than on this technology. Come on people we can do this!

      • Woody says:

        Eliminating or reducing the safety announcements should coincide with citations given to pedestrians who cross the street while looking at and/or talking on their phones.

    18. Scott says:

      And for this, we pay a premium

    19. Richard says:

      Yes, this is a bad idea. We don’t need yet another loud, obnoxious noise in our daily lives. Buses that loudly shriek when raising and lowering, ambulance sirens that can wake the dead, garbage trucks seemingly designed to create as much noise as possible, and obnoxious back-up alarms all add to the cacophony that not just compromises quality-of-life, but also raises blood pressures and negatively affects general health and well-being. Sometimes the welfare of the many should take precedent over the welfare of the few. Citizens must take the responsibility to look when they walk. Is there no city group, board or person charged with protecting us from all this unnecessary noise? And make no mistake — this is not so much about saving lives as about keeping the city from losing lawsuits; they can now claim “but your Honor, we did everything humanly imaginable to alert pedestrians to this turning bus!!!”

    20. Kat French says:

      No one wants to admit what would REALLY make the streets safer: 100% compliance with the laws due to an absolute crack-down on all violators.

      Think of it! No more jaywalking by crossing during the red countdown. No more delivery guys going the wrong way in the bike lanes. No more drivers sneaking through on the yellow lights. A strong law enforcement presence would be necessary, and fines would have to be huge to be a real deterrent. That’s what it would take. Are we willing?

    21. crankpants says:

      I live above an M86 stop & it is annoying, not in the least because it’s inaccurate. The bus is not turning – the route is straight line, at least for the majority of it. Maybe if it said “Caution, bus is approaching”, it would annoy me less.

    22. B.B. says:

      For the love of God, not another one.

      Some people need to move back to the woods/suburbs where they came from; and or consider relocating there if they cannot cope.

      This is New York City baby! We move with the dollar and there is always *NOISE* of some sort.

      New Yorker’s never have been short of opinions; but this constant moaning and whinging over every single perceived irritant must cease.

      Has the price of meprobamate or diazepam gone up or something? Have all the analysts gone on strike? Learn some soothing chakras and relax.

      Those huge long buses are twice the size of singles. And despite all buses having for ages big stickers on their rear stating “Warning, Do Not Pass On Right”, pedistrians, joggers, bikers and others do so; injuries and or even deaths have followed.

      Because driver sits on left side of bus his vision of right side is limited. It isn’t like driving a passenger vehicle where rear view and passenger side mirrors allow driver to see what is going on.

      More to the point since everyone and their mother is now tethered to their phone/device and totally oblivious to what is going on around them, some sort of audible signal is not out of place.

    23. B.B. says:

      Case in point how much attention New Yorkers pay to transit announcements.

      Got on the “R” train at City Hall last night. Upon reaching Canal Street before closing doors conductor made a loud and clear announcement; “this R train will be running express on the local track to 57th street and 7th avenue…”. After a few moments announcement was repeated, doors closed and train pulled out of station.

      Soon it was like a scene out of that film “Taking of Pelham, 1-2-3”; as train sped past Prince, 8th street, 14th street, etc… many began to look up and realized train was not stopping.

      In short order many began asking around as to what was going on. Those of us who had paid attention/heard announcement replied train was running express to 57th. “Oh really?” I didn’t hear…” was the usual response.

      Which goes to show even with announcements MTA/NYCT is darned if they do, and if they don’t. But at least by doing so it does cover their behinds from claims by those who weren’t paying attention that some great wrong or harm was committed.

    24. Nice argumentation. It doesn’t apply to me, but it’s good to hear our harmonies. I never jaywalk, religiously. Even at 3 a.m., I use eyes and ears, look in all 4 directions several times, before and while crossing! Rarely do I deliberately jaywalk. Moms with strollers sure do. People are so zoned out, today! And, home is meant to be a refuge from all the hyperactivity. I’m for pedestrian attentiveness (ain’t gonna happen).

    25. RK says:

      You’re right, the MTA should eliminate that recording to soothe our jangled nerves.

      After all, the lives of a few distracted, self-absorbed, jaywalking city dwellers is certainly worth the price of making this city a tiny bit more livable.

      They had it coming to them anyway. They should have listened to their mother who told them to look both ways before they cross the street.

    26. Andrew says:

      Maybe shut the system off after 11pm. The bus PSA that grinds me is something about how it’s a Federal offense to assault a bus driver. I’m not for certain, but I think it’s a Federal offense to assault anyone.

      • B.B. says:

        Again, obviously someone isn’t paying close attention.

        Announcement clearly states “bus drivers are protected by NYS law….”

        In NYS assaulting an MTA employee is a Class D felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.