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News Release

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, February 8, 2006
For More Information Contact:
Neysa Pranger or Charity Carbine at
(212) 349-6460 or (917) 532-0567

Basic Subway Car Announcements Improve, Survey Finds; Best Lines in Survey: 4 and 6; Worst: W Line

In 65% of Delays and Service Changes, There was No Announcement - Or an Inaudible, Garbled or Incorrect One

Basic informational subway car announcements improved in the last year for the system overall but delay and service change announcements remain poor, according to a NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign survey.

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 77% of the time in 2005, compared to 73% in 2004, 67% in 2003 and 73% in 2002. The improvement in the last year was statistically significant and reflected the growing number of new technology trains with automated announcements. (See attached tables one, two.)

But the survey also found that in 65% of delays and disruptions experienced by surveyors, there was either no announcement at all - 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 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 Neysa Pranger, campaign coordinator who oversaw the survey.

“Poor announcements can mean missed stops, longer trips and a lot more stress,” said Charity Carbine, field organizer for the campaign.

The survey was conducted by 75 volunteers between January 2, 2005 and May 9, 2005. They made 6,600 observations on 22 subway lines of opportunities to make car announcements. Our surveyors experienced and rated 203 delay and service change announcements during the same survey period. The survey follows eight similar surveys conducted between 1997 and 2004. (See methodology.)

Among the key findings of the survey were:

  • For all lines combined, adequate basic announcements increased from 73% in 2004 to 77% in 2005, a statistically significant improvement. Of the 23% rated inadequate, no basic announcement was made at all 36% of the time and announcements were inaudible or garbled 64% of the time.
  • In 65% of delays and disruptions experienced by our raters, there was either no announcement - or an inaudible, garbled or incorrect one. Of the 65% inadequate delay or disruption announcements, 45% were not made at all; 13% were inaudible or garbled; and 42% were rated “incorrect,” such as 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.”
  • The 4 and 6 lines performed the best in making basic announcements, while the W performed worst in our survey. Our raters heard basic announcements that were clear, ungarbled and audible a near-perfect 98% of the time on the 4 and 6, compared to 58% of the time on the W. The 6 and 4 have clearly benefited from their large complement of new technology cars with recorded announcements.
  • Nine lines improved on basic announcements between 2004 and 2005 - the 3, 4, A, C, E, G, J/Z, L, and R. The most improved line was the J/Z, which increased from a system-low 46% in 2004 to 82% in 2005.
  • There was significant worsening in basic announcements on three lines, the B, N and W. The most deteriorated line for announcements in the last year was the W, which ranks worst in this year’s survey. The line went from 69% adequate basic announcements in 2004 to 58% in 2005.
  • Ten lines showed no significant difference - the 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, D, F, M, Q and V.
  • New York City Transit reported a small increase in "percentage of cars with Public Address Announcements." The agency's figure went from 87% in the first half of 2004 to 89% in the first half of 2005. 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 poor performance in “station delay announcements,” going from 15% understandable/correct in the first half of 2004 compared to 22% in the first half of 2005.

Campaign staff met with New York City Transit officials to discuss our findings and methodologies, as well as Transit’s announcements activities. The Campaign adopted several suggestions.

“New York City Transit is in the process of implementing several key improvements in the area of announcements,” said campaign staff attorney Gene Russianoff. These include a pilot project to have Passenger Environment Survey “traffic checkers” use hand-held computers. “The computers will give the public more real time information on customer services and managers quicker access to data,” he said.

Russianoff also noted New York City Transit plans to start a communications system to give riders on subway platforms printed and oral information about train arrivals and delays on most of the 1 through 6 lines in the fall 2006.

This survey was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a leader in supporting assessment of public services across the United States. The full survey charts and tables can be found on the Internet at: http://www.straphangers.org.


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