Guide-A-Ride is the bus stop information display for MTA Regional Bus Operations of New York City. It is a rectangular box attached to the bus stop pole that displays a route map and a schedule. Originally designed for MTA New York City Transit operations, it is also used for routes of the MTA Bus Company that were formerly privately operated.
The Guide-A-Ride canister is vandal-resistant and was designed for easy updating of the information displayed; though as a partly analog tool still requiring visits to the site – requiring some planning during the massive system-wide service reductions the MTA was forced to implement at the end of December 2009.
The New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA, NYCT, or TA) first announced a plan for "metal diagrammatic maps of bus routes on bus-stop stanchions" in 1964. These consisted of large metal signs (14 x 8 1⁄2 inches) with pictographic depictions of bus routes. Sometimes installed in the place of conventional bus stops, these signs were often considered confusing, as they attempted to consolidate multiple route maps onto a single sign and sometimes omitted routes. The prototype for Guide-A-Ride was developed in 1977, the key novelty in the display of times to the minute the bus was due at the individual stop. Although skeptics doubted the ability of buses on New York’s densely packed streets to show up anything like the times posted, on-time performance proved fairly reliable. In any event, customers had the comfort of knowing they were in the right place at the right time. The actual displays began appearing at New York City bus stops a few years later. Transit operations did not have a good reputation at the time, but Guide-A-Ride came to be viewed as one bright spot.
Even in an age when customers can access on their smartphones real-time bus arrivals as projected by satellite, Guide-A-Ride over three decades on remains an aid to bus riders needing a quick sense at a bus stop of the service offered. Similar transit aids can be seen in at bus stops in other cities including Boston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, while still attracting the astonished notice of visitors to the Big Apple.
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