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Real-time bus information finally arriving at LA stops

FILE: Passengers wait at a bus stop in Pacoima. Riders without smart phones don't have access to real-time arrival information. But plans to install electronic signs at the busiest stops will change that.
FILE: Passengers wait at a bus stop in Pacoima. Riders without smart phones don't have access to real-time arrival information. But plans to install electronic signs at the busiest stops will change that.
Meghan McCarty/KPCC

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Many bus riders in Los Angeles County won't need to wonder when their buses are coming once 300 electronic signs displaying real-time arrival data and service alerts are installed at the busiest stops.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority this week approved plans to install the signs at a cost of $4 million over the next two years under a contract with Syncromatics Corp., an L.A. transportation company.

While most of Metro's train platforms already display real-time arrival information, only a few bus stops have similar signs.

Brian Taylor, UCLA urban planning professor, said factors like knowing arrival times play a large role in how people perceive public transportation. Making such information available could be key to attracting more riders, he said.

"People who use transit are actually more sensitive to the time they spend waiting and transferring than the time they spend in the vehicle," he said. "It makes a lot of sense to make the time they spend waiting as comfortable as safe and as certain as possible."

More than 60 percent of Metro riders do not have smart phones, according to customer surveys, so they don't have access to apps that provide bus arrival times. That makes information at stops all the more important, said Taylor.

"Bringing real-time information to the bus stop is a common sense technology solution to an age-old problem, and it will improve the transit experience for all," said L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin in a statement. Bonin also sits on the Metro board.

The electronic signs will be installed at stops in 25 cities throughout L.A. County. About a third of them will be powered by solar panels, which will also be installed at the stops.