A survey of announcements on New York City’s subway system showed many of the same complaints about garbled, incorrect or meaningless information from train operators as we hear in the Washington region — but Metro riders may find themselves wishing they only experienced it at Big Apple rates.
The Straphangers Campaign recorded 6,600 opportunities for announcements on station names, transfer opportunities, delay explanations, destination information and the like on New York’s subway. It found that the system did a good job of conveying basic information like station names, doing so clearly and accurately 83 percent of the time.
That’s because the best-performing lines relied on automated recordings.
But when it came to explaining delays, the information conveyed was often difficult to hear, loaded with jargon meaningless to riders, or downright wrong -- or no explanation came at all. NYC operators are supposed to make delay announcements immediately and again within two minutes of holding time, according to the Straphangers Campaign.
“In the delays and disruptions experienced by our raters, 60% of the time (78 out of 132) there was either no announcement—or an inaudible, garbled or incorrect one.
Announcements were not made at all 22% of the time (29 out of 132); 11% were inaudible or garbled (14 out of 132) and 27% (35 out of 132) were rated ‘incorrect.’ These were announcements like “we have a red signal,” ones lacking key information such as, ‘This local is now an express’ (with no explanation), or ones with jargon such as, ‘We have a schedule adjustment.’” Some NYC announcements are unheard in D.C, such as “unruly person on the train.”
Metro trains lack automated recordings — except for the familiar doors opening and closing announcements — even though some buses do automatically announce major stops and transfer opportunities.
Metro operators vary widely in their demeanors and styles on the microphone. Can you hear train announcements? Can you understand them? Is the language helpful or odd? (“Stand clear. Train moving forward.”) Who’s your favorite? What can Metro operators do better?
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