Subway Car Announcement Report Released

It is that time of year again, where the NYPIRG Straphangers’ Campaign releases its Subway Car Announcement Report. The report focuses on the clarity & accuracy of subway car announcements. Here is the press release they issued this morning for the report:

More than 80% of basic announcements made on subway cars are clear and accurate, according to the annual survey of subway car announcement released today by the Straphangers Campaign. (See Table One.)

At the same time, in 55% of delays and disruptions experienced by our raters, there was either no announcement — or an inaudible, garbled or incorrect one.

Official transit guidelines require conductors to make basic, in-car announcements including the line, station name and any transfer points.

The guidelines also list 18 possible delay announcements with detailed reasons for the delay ranging from “unruly person on the train” to “waiting for connecting train.” The policy says, “If there is a delay, [the conductor] must make an announcement immediately [and again] within 2 minutes after that.”

“We’re glad basic subway car announcements are improving, but disappointed most riders are being left in the dark to cope with delays and reroutings,” said Cate Contino, Campaign coordinator who oversaw the survey.

“Poor announcements can mean missed stops, longer trips and a lot more stress,” said Jason Chin-Fatt, field organizer for the Campaign.

The survey was conducted by 51 staff and volunteers between February 3 and July 11, 2009.

They made 6,600 observations of in-car announcement opportunities on 22 subway lines. Our surveyors experienced and rated 121 delay and service change announcement opportunities during the same survey period. The survey follows eight similar surveys conducted between 1997 and 2006. We privately released our findings in 2007 to New York City Transit in deference of the start of a new transit administration. This is the first survey we have released since then. (See methodology.)

Among the key findings of the survey were:

• The 4, 5, 6, L, M and N lines performed the best in making basic announcements. Our raters heard basic announcements that were clear, ungarbled and correct for a perfect 100% of the time on the 6 and M; all the top-performing lines had automated announcements and performed perfectly or near perfectly.

• The D, G and 7 performed worst in our survey, with 61% adequate basic announcements on the G, and 62% on the D and 7.

• In the delays and disruptions experienced by out raters, 55% of the time (67 out of 121) there was either no announcement — or an inaudible, garbled or incorrect one.

• Announcements were not made at all 26% of the time (31 out of 121); 2% were inaudible or garbled (3) and 27% (33) were rated “incorrect.” These were meaningless announcements that “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.”

MTA New York City Transit does not survey delay and disruption delays on subway cars. The agency did survey the “percentage of cars with public address announcements” in the first half of 2009.

Some 90% of cars are rated as having public address announcements. This is broken down by cars with automated announcements (99%) and conductor announcements (84%).

Click here to view “Table 1“.

Click here to view their “Methodology“.


The report contained no huge surprises. The lines one would expect to be strong were, & the ones one would expect to perform poorly did just that. Until the MTA has advanced technological subway cars on all lines, the ones that have them will always outperform their older equipment counterparts.

The biggest gripe I have with human announcements is the lack of clarity due to faulty equipment along with the lack of information given. I feel that sometimes, conductors tend to assume that the majority of riders know alternatives if things suddenly change. This is an assumption that is wrong as most are programmed to know the standard route they take. How many realistically research every possible way to get to destinations in case of an emergency? The answer is an extremely low percentage.

What should be addressed is spreading out better equipment on all lines so surveys like these can make accurate & legitimate comparisons. Anything else seems like a waste of time & resources.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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