Buses that shriek about their turns need to turn down volume

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have noticed that the X8 Metrobus screams, "Pedestrians, bus is turning!" and then repeats the horrid screeching in Spanish. This goes on while my family is trying to sleep. It can be heard from several blocks away.

Is Metro aware that this is highly annoying and that it destroys the quiet of our Capitol Hill neighborhood?

Phil Risinger, the District

DG: This was one of several complaints I've gotten about the transit authority's new talking buses. It's part of Metro's well-intentioned safety campaign, but D.C. residents want the buses to keep their voices down.

Metro says it started street testing the automated voice-mobiles last month on 10 buses in the District. The experiment will continue for about a year, and then transit officials will decide whether the talking buses are an effective deterrent to pedestrian accidents, which became such a concern in 2007.

While restless sleepers are getting the word that the bus is turning, the bus driver is hearing a message, "Caution, look both ways." This inside voice also is targeting a safety problem, although we'd like to think that this basic turn-your-head action would be part of a driver's muscle memory.

The transit authority says the volume is designed to automatically adjust to outdoor noise, operating at a lower volume at night and in quieter neighborhoods. But people are saying they can hear the warnings from a block away, day and night. Perhaps we all would sleep a lot better if pedestrians would just look where they're going.

Navigational aids

Metro riders have been telling me that it's increasingly difficult to figure out where to get off the train. They wait for audio and visual queues that are sometimes missing.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

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