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News Release

For Immediate release:
Thursday, September 18, 2003                 
For info, contact:
Neysa Pranger or Gene Russianoff at (212) 349-6460

BASIC SUBWAY CAR ANNOUNCEMENTS WORSEN, SURVEY FINDS; PERFORMANCE ON 12 LINES WORSEN, SIX IMPROVE, FOUR ARE UNCHANGED

BEST LINE IN SURVEY: 6; WORST: B

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

Subway car announcements grew worse in the last year for the subway system overall and announcements of delays remain poor, according to a new NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign survey of subway car announcements.  
News Coverage of this Survey:
New York Times
Newsday
Post
Daily News

The survey found that basic subway car announcements—those giving the names of upcoming stations and transfer information—worsened. Basic car announcements were found to be made 67% of the time in 2003, compared to 73% in 2002 and 69% in 2001. The decline in the last year was statistically significant. (See attached tables.)

The survey also found that in more than three of every four delays and disruptions experienced by surveyors (76%), 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."

"Riders need better announcements to get around the system and to cope with delays and re-routings," said Neysa Pranger, the campaign coordinator who oversaw the survey.

"In age of terrorism, blackouts and massive subway reconstruction, announcements should be getting better, not worse," said Gene Russianoff, campaign staff attorney.

The survey was conducted by 37 volunteers between March 31 and July 24, 2003. They made 6,600 observations on 22 subway lines of opportunities to make car announcements.

The survey follows six similar surveys conducted between 1997 and 2002. (See methodology.) Among the key findings of the survey were:

  • For all lines combined, adequate basic announcements decreased from 73% in 2002 to 67% in 2003, a statistically significant deterioration. Specifically, no basic announcement was made at all 9% of the time and announcements were inaudible or garbled 24% of the time.

  • The 6 line performed the best in making basic announcements, while the B performed worst in our survey. Our raters heard basic announcements that were clear, ungarbled and audible a near perfect 99% of the time on the 6, compared to 42% of the time on the B. The 6 has clearly benefited from its large complement of new technology cars with recorded announcements.

  • Twelve lines deteriorated on basic announcements between 2002 and 2003, the 1, 3, 4, A, B, D, E, F, N, Q, V and W. The most deteriorated line was the B, which dropped from 70% in 2002 to 42% in 2003.

  • There was significant improvement in basic announcements on six lines, the 2, 5, 6, 7, G and L. The most improved line for announcements in the last year was the 5, which ranked worse in 2002. The line went from 56% adequate basic announcements in 2002 to 93% in 2003.

  • Four lines showed no significant difference, the C, M, J and R.

  • In three out of every four delays and disruptions experienced by our raters (76%), there was either no announcement—or an inaudible, garbled or useless one. Specifically, 29% were not made at all; 9% were inaudible or garbled; and 39% 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."

  • New York City Transit reported a small decline in "percentage of cars with Public Address Announcements." The agency's figure went from 90% in the first quarter of 2002 to 86% in the second quarter of 2003. NYC Transit adopted a more lenient standard for rating subway car announcements in the fall of 2000, raising their performance on paper. The agency also found a decline in performance in station delay announcements, going from 43% either marginally understandable/correct or not understandable/correct in the second quarter of 2002 compared to 62% in the first quarter of 2003.

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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