A few weeks ago I was transferring from the Green Line to the Red Line at Gallery Place. The sign on the train said its final destination was Silver Spring, but when I got on the operator said the next stop was Metro Center. Sure enough, the next stop was Judiciary Square. Why doesn’t Metro use automated recordings to announce stops on trains like they do on Metrobuses? It’s easier to understand and isn’t prone to human error.
The Americans With Disabilities Act requires public transportation systems to announce all stops. But rather than have coldly artificial automated messages make those announcements, Metro requires train operators to announce their stops so that passengers feel the comfort of a human voice, says system spokesperson Taryn McNeil. Making announcements, she says, also helps operators pay attention—aside from an occasional lapse, like not knowing which direction the train is running. The announcements “reinforce to our operators their operating stats, such as approach speed, station name, and station configuration (side platform or center platform),” McNeil says.
Metrobuses use an automated system to ensure that disabled passengers’ needs are met because bus lines have more stops than rail lines, says McNeil.
But what about the problems that result from that human voice, like incorrect or indecipherable announcements?
Metro operates training programs that instruct operators on “proper elocution and how to correctly speak into the microphone,” McNeil says, but some muddled announcements are not due to the operator at all, but rather are the result of Metro cars’ old voice systems. (They’re built differently from the doors’ voice systems.) And the errors that are the result of the operator are worth the tradeoff, McNeil says.
If you notice a problem with the audio system, McNeil suggests you jot down the train number and time and let Metro know.
Every Monday, the ‘Huh?’ Bub takes your questions. Got one?