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Metro riders rate their train operators’ announcements

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Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I read with great interest your column on audio announcements in the Metro trains. [Dr. Gridlock, April 22]

The problem is the train operators do not speak clearly. They garble their speech, speak much too fast and many times announce a station stop only once. Mumbling and swallowing their words has never worked.

I teach voice training, communication and presentation skills. The operators lack all of these skills.

— Marilou Donahue, the District

The quality of Metro announcements is one of our most discussed topics, but it’s rare to hear from someone who teaches voice skills. Donahue told me she’s a classical singer who has studied voice for many years. She has a Web site called “Artistically Speaking with Marilou Donahue,” featuring the arts and artists in the D. C. area. (The Web address is www.artisticallyspeaking.tv.)

I asked her what else she would stress if she were teaching a class on how to make train announcements.

Consonants are vital to good speech, she wrote in an e-mail. “Perhaps you can say: The NexT StoP is DuponT Circle. Speak slowly and clearly always going through your words. Don’t swallow or garble your words. Don’t let your sentence drop off.

“Remember the riders need to hear what you are saying. You must be able to speak over the noise in the cars. Which means even though you are probably using a microphone, you should learn how to project your voice.”

It helps if you have a good voice, she said, but “every person has the correct voice within them.”

When I’m speaking to community groups, and I ask, “Can you hear me in the back?” everyone shakes his head no. And I speak in some pretty small rooms, with a microphone. Reviewing Donahue’s advice, I realized it’s quite challenging to speak to six or eight moving rail cars full of people, even if the audio equipment is working.

Operators and equipment

Other letter writers targeted both the operators’ delivery and the train’s audio equipment. The quality of each can very greatly from ride to ride.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

There are three issues with the horrific public address announcements on Metro.

1. The level is too low, especially to overcome all of the other noise.

2. System quality is poor. Very distorted.

3. Persons making the announcements rush through them and do not enunciate.

— Peter Hoagland, Warrenton, Va.


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Each train is different, depending on the operators. Some of them speak loud and clear and it’s a breath of fresh air, as if they really feel they’re doing a service and enjoying it.

Others just mumble as if talking is too much trouble and they can’t stand their jobs.

— Barbara Najar, Potomac

A welcome voice

Riders make clear that they recognize the difference. This is just the most recent letter I’ve received praising an operator who sets a tone for her train.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I nominate Kristina as the train operator who communicates best with her passengers. I hear her when she operates a southbound Red Line train from Glenmont before 7 a.m. weekdays and her voice is clear, firm, words kept to a minimum, and a legit tonic when people are unhappy with performances of public employees.

If I was on the Metro when there was more than a few minutes of delay, I’d want Kristina to be the operator. She’d calm me down.

— Marjory Olsen Olson, Silver Spring

Dr. Gridlock also appears Thursday in Local Living. Comments and questions are welcome and may be used in a column, along with the writer’s name and home community. Write Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or
e-mail .

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