‘Bus is Turning’ Announcements Irk Some West Siders, and Changes May be Coming

By Alex Israel

A robotic voice installed on many MTA buses announces to people outside the bus every time a “Bus is Turning.” The safety measure is meant to alert pedestrians, but some locals say it permeates their 9th-floor bedrooms too. And now the MTA may make some changes.

The Community Board 7 Transportation Committee discussed the NYC Transit (NYCT) Pedestrian Turn Warning (PTW) System at a recent meeting. The system, introduced in 2016, is automatically triggered when the bus makes a right or a left hand turn, activating an external audio warning that alerts pedestrians and bicyclists that the bus is turning.

A flyer posted earlier this year, wary of NYCT’s Pedestrian Turn Warning system.

Some residents have found that the warning is both too loud and too sensitive, activating at even the slightest angle. Deborah G., a resident at 79th and West End Avenue, expressed safety and quality of life concerns about the bus.

The bus, which shouldn’t be making a turn at this point in its route, still activates the warning when pulling out of a bus stop, or stopped at a traffic light, she said. “It’s not just that it’s annoying, it’s dangerous,” she explained, because people think the bus is turning when it is actually going straight.

She also said she can hear the announcement—as well as the announcements inside the bus—on the ninth floor of her building at all hours. “The quality of life has deteriorated,” added a neighbor, who said he finds himself “obsessively” waiting up in anticipation of the noise, to avoid being woken up by it.

After a discussion on the merits of the PTW system, which was introduced as a public safety measure and particularly benefits people who are visually impaired, the committee agreed that local residents’ quality of life should be taken into account. “Ideally we should find a less [noise] polluting way,” said Howard Yaruss.

Committee member Andrew Albert, who also serves as chair of the MTA’s NYCT Riders Council, quoted a letter from Rob Marino, NYCT’s Deputy Director, Government and Community Relations, in direct response to Deb G.’s complaints.

According to the letter, NYCT determined it would be possible to “lower the volume setting by 15 percent” and “safely adjust the turn angle setting to better prevent an announcement from being made when the bus is pulling in or out of a bus stop,”—though the group made no commitment to do so. Albert said he would make addressing the issue one of his priorities at the next MTA meeting.

NEWS | 39 comments | permalink
    1. Mark Moore says:

      “Cautious” bus is turning?

      • Cato says:

        It does make you wonder whether the people complaining about the loud announcement have ever really heard the loud announcement, doesn’t it?

    2. CM says:

      Great. Now, let’s talk about how Mt Sinai continues to get away with blaring their siren 24 hours a day, up and down the west side. No other ambulance company — nor any fire engine or cop car — makes anywhere near the level of noise that Mt Sinai does, continuously, repetitively, unnecessarily, obnoxiously, uncaringly. I sure know that feeling of “obsessively waiting in anticipation of the noise” that is referenced in this article.

      • ben says:

        5 bucks says you wouldn’t be complaining about emergency vehicle sirens when you or your family needs the help.

      • Bill says:

        Dear CM,

        When you’re clutching your chest in pain and gasping for air, I hope you won’t mind if the Mt. Sinai ambulance is 30 minutes late because they didn’t want to “continuously, repetitively, unnecessarily, obnoxiously and uncaringly” use their siren to get there sooner.

        See, here’s the deal: (1) Mt. Sinai-59th St. is the closest hospital in this neighborhood, so naturally you hear them more often. (2) Cars and people do NOT make way for a silent ambulance, and often not even for one with sirens wailing. (3) Have you looked at your fellow UWSiders recently? Many of them are not exactly spring chickens anymore.

        When it’s YOUR turn, my guess is that you’ll be “waiting in anticipation of the noise” with a slightly different perspective.

      • Honest Abe says:

        They clearly abuse the use of the siren. Sing the petition: https://www.change.org/p/mount-sinai-please-lower-the-volume-on-your-ambulance-sirens

        • Cato says:

          — “They clearly abuse the use of the siren. Sing the petition:”

          You mean if everybody sings loudly enough, we can drown out the bus announcements??

      • Paul says:

        “unnecessary?” Really?
        If your mother’s in the back of the ambulance trying to get to the hospital you damn well think it’s necessary.
        The single biggest problem with emergency vehicles is the fact that drivers don’t get out of their way.
        And the sirens are essential.

        • B.B. says:

          Once watched a female driver waiting for a parking spot refuse to move while an ambulance was two vehicles behind (it had just turned the corner and was now stuck in traffic).

          Apparently this driver wanted that spot and wasn’t going to let fact sirens were blaring order her around. She saw someone get into their car and wasn’t going to budge until they pulled out.

      • HARRIET says:

        Agree completely. Why do they get “extra” volume on their sirens? Clearly not needed. Just drivers showing off would be my guess.

      • Cato says:

        — “Now, let’s talk about how Mt Sinai continues to get away with blaring their siren 24 hours a day, up and down the west side.”

        I have to admit that I have not heard this (other than when an ambulance is saving someone’s life). Where does Mt. Sinai do this?

      • dannyb says:

        To clarify and emphasize a point which is hidden and far from obvious: A big chunk of those “Mt. Sinai (St. Lukes/Roosevelt)” ambulances are handling “911” response calls.
        In other words, they’re NOT handling, so to speak, runs for the hospitals.
        One big secret in NYC is that a third of 911 EMS is turfed over to private contractors, usually under the banner of a local hospital.

      • MikeDNYC says:

        I grew up in inner city Buffalo, NY, and when an emergency vehicle came barreling down the street, cars zoomed out the way and the ambulance was gone in a wink.
        Not here, Cars, cabs, trucks seem almost to ignore sirens and emergency vehicles trying to pass by.

        Maybe emergency vehicles could have dash cams and cars that don’t clear the way could end up ticketed for failure to do so. Then maybe the inconvenience of sirens would at least be brief.

      • Mary Federico says:

        Several folks point out the need for ambulances to clear the way. Totally agree with that: ambulances need to make noise. Sometimes a LOT of noise. I’ve had to use one and was grateful that they got me to the hospital quickly.

        However, as someone who lives 2 blocks from Mt. Sinai and can watch their ambulances come up Amsterdam, I can report that something odd started earlier this year. I have many, many times seen and heard them VERY SLOWLY driving up Amsterdam with flashing lights and full siren, extremely loud even 15 floors up, at MIDNIGHT and later in the middle of the night, when there is NO vehicle or pedestrian traffic. They don’t seem to be in a hurry — they’re slowly ambling up Amsterdam. No one is in the way.

        Something isn’t right about that.

    3. Sid says:

      I’d rather hear the announcement than a horn. We live in a city, and this is far from the worst sound we hear on a daily basis.

      • HelenD says:

        ITA, and to be perfectly frank all of those sounds are just background noise to me at this point. I’d probably be more worried if I didn’t hear anything. There are so many other serious problems on the UWS. Sorry that it’s keeping people up at night but I’m sure that no one in their right mind thinks the bus is turning in the middle of the street/avenue. Maybe there should be a ‘bus is approaching,’ announcement instead. ; )

    4. ben says:

      Another compromise may be to only broadcast these announcements during the day and early evening hours and avoid doing so in the middle of the night.

    5. Harriet says:

      I think the thing not being addressed is that this is a useless thing, most likely suggested by some lawyer, as a way to protect the City from lawsuits. The fact is that if you don’t actually SEE the bus turning, what makes anyone think that an announcement (especially when so many people have “pods” in their ears), is going to help people notice a BIG BLUE BUS.

      • Cordcutter says:

        And what if you’re blind? Can’t see that BIG BLUE BUS can you?

        • GiveMeLiberty says:

          And what if you are deaf? Then you can’t hear this ridiculous announcement. Which would be a blessing.

          Public safety my eye. Useless bureaucrats sticking their noses in people’s lives to justify their position by doing something. Anything. To show they’re “engaged.”
          Plus, who’s paying for this needless so-called safety improvement? I hope not me.

          Buses (and cars, trucks, bikes, scooters) turn at all intersections everywhere every day. Do we pedestrians who have been crossing streets at intersections practically since we learned to walk all of a sudden need announcements that vehicles are turning there?

          CB7. please just chill. Don’t just do something. Sit there.

    6. Lady Di says:

      good god people! you live in one of the biggest cities in the world, not a rural town of 100. if it’s that hard to tune out all the noise, use headphones or soundproof every inch of your apartment. The UWS seems to be rife with folks who have nothing to do all day but find things to complain about. Get a life.

      • Living the life on the UWS says:

        We live to complain on the UWS!!! So stay out of our business!!!

      • B.B. says:

        Am going to have to look it up; but am guessing zip codes 10023, 10024, 10025, and 10069 have some of the highest benzodiazepines prescription levels for entire NYC.

        List of things that bother and or stress out inhabitants of UWS is legion, and seems to grow daily. To point you wonder how some manage to function living in an urban area at all.

        They don’t like this, they don’t want that; and everything is caused by some evil forces determined to disrupt their own particular quality of life.

        UWS seems to have become the urban version of the suburbs. But instead of alter kaker sitting on their front steps or peeping out from behind curtain windows they take to social media or elsewhere to moan, whinge, and otherwise strike out at every little thing that bothers them.

    7. Naomi Davies says:

      I think it says “ Caution. Bus is turning.”
      Even more annoying, there is a longer announcement which says that it is the 86th street West end Avenue crosstown bus. Passengers on the bus know that. That is why they are on the bus! I think it also says it is at Columbus. I am on the fifth floor above a Columbus Avenue bus stop. The announcements do not help my insomnia!

    8. UWS_lifer says:

      Haven’t you all heard that old expression…

      The needs of the many outweigh the needs of a couple of people on 79th Street that should buy some noise cancellation headphones.

    9. your_neighbor says:

      You aren’t even going to notice the bus turning announcements or ambulance sirens in a year or so when federal regulations start requiring all electric powered vehicles to make beeping or other sounds when traveling below 18.6 mph to assist the visually impaired. I like that Tesla drivers might be given the option of having their cars make goat sounds.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/21/business/electric-car-noises.html

    10. Cordcutter says:

      That flyer is hilarious!!

      … or else what? Post more misspelled flyers?

      Where is this poster getting their data from? Every vehicle on this planet, uses a horn? O K

      I bet the poster felt really good about themselves after typing and printing that flyer!

      Someone a while back posted on WSR about this same ‘problem’. I started to read up on what other cities do. And this system is used in other cities. Why? Public safety that’s why.

      Sure, the decibel level could be lowered but the purpose is to keep pedestrians, cyclists and drivers safe and aware of their surroundings.

      Want to laugh?
      https://youtu.be/ute_YCUyRWQ

    11. Come on Now says:

      Support them. The “Caution! Bus is turning” announcement is stupid, unnecessary, and irksome to me just when I *happen* to be waiting to cross at W 81 and Amsterdam. I cannot imagine what it’s like to live over that corner. Emergency sirens are a different matter. If you don’t understand what a quality of life issue it is to have the same robotic phrase amplified into your home every 7 minutes day and night, maybe try playing the ice cream truck tune or the “1 877 Kars 4 Kids” jingle for yourself at the same volume and frequency, and see how long it takes to drive you crazy. City noise is inevitable and we all signed up for it; lawyer-created, city-imposed BS crazy-making noise is entirely avoidable and we should work to avoid it.

      • liz says:

        Come on Now is absolutely correct. This stuff intrudes upon your concentration, sleep, and sanity. Even if you live as I do opposite the Natural History Museum you go crazy: trucks with back-up beeping arriving there at all hours. Since they are expecting deliveries, the beeping hardly seems necessary.

        • B.B. says:

          IIRC that “beeping” like back-up cameras on new automobiles is required by law or mandated safety rules. This and or for the former came about after numerous high judgement awards for someone run over by a motor vehicle backing up.

          The sounds aren’t for the persons inside expecting a delivery. But to warn persons to keep clear.

          Am guessing as usual many UWS inhabitants making these posts see things from their own point of (non driving) view.

          I do drive and can tell you people walk behind my vehicle all the time when brake lights are on, and it is clear am backing up.

          These are same persons who believe it is their God given right to walk out into middle of street, against traffic signals, and traffic is supposed to stop just for them.

    12. Trudke says:

      Glad someone mentioned the blind or those with visual problems. A woman in my building was hit by one of the turning buses that she didn’t see and she died a few weeks later. The drivers don’t always see pedestrians. Maybe they can lower the volume but some kind of alert is needed.

      • Chrigid says:

        “The drivers don’t always see pedestrians.”

        Why? Car drivers are expected to see pedestrians. Why not public servants? Is this a problem in bus design?

    13. Susan Franks says:

      Speaking of buses turning… I think there was a law passed (I signed a petition) in the 1980’s that NO BUSES would run west of West End Avenue on 86th street… meaning when the M18 86th street crosstown turns around they are NOT supposed to go over to RSD drive or WEA and come around on 86th street. I see a disregard of this daily on 86th between WEA and RSD and it just started in the last year, I believe.
      Is there someone I can contact to look into this?
      Thank you!

    14. Terry says:

      Someone has been driving up Amsterdam avenue at 4AM on either a noisy motorcycle or in a car with a bad muffler. It happens every morning at the same time. Is there someone who can do something about that?

    15. Davide says:

      I tore every single one of those flyers down that I saw on WEA. I think the bus turning announcements are completely wholesome and beneficial at the busy cross streets where the buses turn. It is not like they turn on *every* corner. Every bus should have those announcements and I have e-mailed all our elected city reps of my sentiments.