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News Release

For Immediate Release      
Thursday, July 18, 2002
Contact: Farouk Abdallah or
Gene Russianoff (212) 349-6460


BASIC SUBWAY CAR ANNOUNCEMENTS IMPROVE, SURVEY FINDS

BUT IN 3 OF EVERY 4 DELAYS, SURVEY FOUND NO ANNOUNCEMENT — OR AN INAUDIBLE, GARBLED OR USELESS ONE

BEST: 2 AND A LINES; WORST: N AND 5 LINES; 2 LINE MOST IMPROVED — BENEFICIARY OF AUTOMATED ANNOUNCEMENTS

Subway car announcements giving basic information continued to improve for the subway system overall, but announcements of delays remain poor, according to a new NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign survey of subway car announcements.
The survey found that basic subway car announcements—those giving the names of upcoming stations and transfer information—improved. Basic car announcements were found to be made 73% of the time in 2002, compared to 69% in 2001 and 47% in 1999. (See attached tables.)

But the survey also found that in three of every four delays and disruptions experienced by surveyors (74%), there was either no announcement at all—or an inaudible, garbled or useless one.

Official transit guidelines require conductors to make basic announcements when the doors of the subway car are open in a station, including the line, station name and any transfer points. The guidelines list 17 possible delay announcements with reasons for the delay ranging from "unruly person on train" to "waiting for a connecting train." The policy says, "If there is a delay, the conductor must make an announcement immediately [and again] within two minutes."

"We are glad there are more basic information announcements in subway cars, but we’re disappointed that most riders are not getting the information they need to cope with delays and re-routings," said Farouk Abdallah, the campaign organizer who oversaw the survey.

"Riders shouldn’t be kept in the dark during delays," said Gene Russianoff, campaign staff attorney.

The survey was conducted by 61 volunteers between February 2 and June 14, 2002. They made 6,600 observations on 22 subway lines of opportunities to make car announcements. The survey follows five similar surveys conducted between 1997 and 2001. (See methodology.)

    Among the key findings of the survey were:
  • For all lines combined, adequate basic announcements increased from 69% in 2001 to 73% in 2002, a statistically significant improvement. Of the 27% rated inadequate, no basic announcement was made at all 29% of the time and announcements were inaudible or garbled 71% of the time.

  • The A and 2 lines performed the best in making basic announcements, while the N and 5 performed worst. Our raters heard basic announcements that were clear, ungarbled and audible 90% of the time on the A and 2, compared to 56% of the time on the N and 5.
  • The most improved line for announcements in the last year was the 2, which ranked worst in 2001. The line went from 54% adequate basic announcements in 2001 to 90% in 2002. Since 2001, there are significantly more new cars on the 2 line with automated announcements of basic information.
  • There was significant improvement in basic announcements on nine lines between 2001 and 2002. These were the 1, 2, 4, 6, A, B, E, F and Q.
  • Seven lines deteriorated on basic announcements, the 3, 5, C, D, J, N and R. The most deteriorated line was the N, which dropped from 76% in 2001 to 56% in 2002.
  • Four lines showed no significant difference, the 7, G, L and M. Two lines were new, the V and W.
  • For all 22 lines combined, surveyors found that clear basic announcements were made nearly three quarters of the time (73%); no basic announcement was made 8% of the time and a garbled or inaudible announcement was made 19% of the time.
  • In three out of every four delays and disruptions experienced by our raters (74%), there was either no announcement—or an inaudible, garbled or useless one. Of the 74% inadequate delay or disruption announcements, 25% were not made at all; 11% were inaudible or garbled; and 64% were rated "not useful," such as meaningless announcements that "we have a red signal" or ones with jargon such as "we’re being held by supervision." (The difference in results from past surveys is statistically significant.)

This survey was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a leader in supporting assessment of public services across the United States.
news release | methodology | tables

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