Sign of genius: Avenue U subway display lets commuters stay warm

Brooklyn Daily
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A new light-up sign is helping Gravesend straphangers get the train — and more importantly stay warm.

Chilled F train commuters are cheering a simple display at the Avenue U station that lets them stay indoors next to a toasty furnace until the last possible moment rather than facing the elements on the station’s open-air platforms.

“It makes sense to put it inside a station with outdoor platforms,” said Kensington commuter Rachelle Pollock. “Now I can wait by the heater.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority installed the electronic sign just beyond the turnstiles, allowing patrons to sit tight in the station’s mezzanine level until the display lets them know their train is approaching.

The modern convenience also tells commuters which direction the next train is headed, but unlike the increasingly common countdown clocks at other stations, it doesn’t give an estimated time of arrival.

The MTA has already installed countdown clocks at more than 150 stations along numbered lines, but agency sources say bringing such advanced time-telling devices to lettered lines is more challenging because they boast twice as many stations and more than nearly three times as much track.

“With respect to the [lettered lines], installing countdown clocks has presented unique challenges due to its size and complexity when compared to the [numbered lines],” said an agency spokesman.

The L train is the only lettered line with fully functional countdown clocks and, currently, is the only train citywide with active countdown clocks at each of its stations.

The Avenue U sign isn’t the first low-tech solution for riders of alphabetic trains.

The Dekalb Station, which services the B, Q, and R trains, still relies on an archaic information board powered by bulbs that lets straphangers know which train arrives next.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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