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Queens Chronicle

‘This is a Queens-bound [inaudible]’

Subway announcements clearer, but many still poor, survey finds

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Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:28 am, Thu Oct 18, 2012.

Subway announcements of delays and other disruptions are clearer than they’ve ever been since the Straphangers Campaign started analyzing them in 1997, but they’re still comprehensible and accurate only a little more than half the time, the transit advocacy group reported Oct. 4.

Fifty-nine percent of the announcements were clear and correct in 2012, the Straphangers Campaign reported, compared to 51 percent in 2011 and 40 percent in 2010. The 2012 survey marked the 11th time since 1997 that the organization, an arm of the New York Public Interest Research Group, studied the announcements by deploying volunteers throughout the system.

“In the previous 10 surveys, in a majority of delays and disruptions experienced by our raters, there was either no announcement — or an inaudible, garbled or incorrect one,” the group said in its report.

Fourteen percent of the time there was no announcement to explain a delay, 3 percent of the statements were inaudible or garbled and 24 percent were determined to be incorrect.

To do the 2012 study, the Straphangers Campaign used 69 volunteers from mid-January through the end of April to make 6,000 observations of in-car announcements on 20 subway lines. The participants experienced 116 delays during that time.

For the 2011 survey, which was released last Thursday in conjunction with the 2012 report, 62 volunteers made the same number of observations on the same number of lines, experiencing 148 delays and service changes.

The reports were not broken down by specific routes. But the Straphangers also reported on basic in-car announcements, those naming the next stop, a train’s direction and the like, and in that case did report its findings for individual lines.

It found that announcements such as “This is a Manhattan-bound E train; the next stop is Queens Plaza” and “Stand clear of the closing doors” were also made more often and more clearly than before —but that they were least comprehensible on two lines that run through Queens, the R and the 7.

Only 56 percent of those basic announcements were clear and accurate on the R train in 2012, down from 70 percent in 2011 and 62 percent the year before. On the 7 train, clarity and accuracy were achieved 64 percent of the time this year, compared to 76 percent last year and 63 percent in 2010.

Systemwide, the notifications were audible and correct 85 percent of the time this year, virtually the same as the 86 percent in 2011 and the 83 percent in 2010.

The best line for in-car announcements was the 4, on which the Straphangers found that 100 percent were clear in 2012. Several others scored 99 percent, including, in Queens, the N and Q.

The audibility of other Queens lines rated as follows:

• M and E — 98 percent;

• J — 97 percent;

• F — 96 percent;

• A — 79 percent;

• G — 71 percent; and

• C — 69 percent.

The R was the citywide leader in garbled or inaudible announcements, with those being made 27 percent of the time; while 7 train riders heard no announcement more often than anyone else, 20 percent of the time.

Overall, however, “We found that transit officials are doing a better job keeping riders informed,” the Straphangers’ campaign field organizer, Jason Chin-Fatt, said in the report.

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