For immediate release: For more information, contact:
Tuesday, June 20, 2000 Farouk Abdallah or Gene Russianoff at (212) 349-6460



Announcements of subway delays and disruptions are “awful.” according to a new survey by the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. The group also criticized transit officials for a change in announcements that gives riders less advance notice of upcoming subway stations.

The survey found that in 78% of the delays and service disruptions experienced by surveyors, there was either no announcement or an inaudible, garbled or useless one.

"All too often, our raters heard either no announcement or a useless one such as ‘We have a red signal.” said Farouk Abdallah, campaign organizer. “Or they were told, ‘We’re going out of service’ without explanation.”

The survey was conducted by 58 volunteers, who observed 6,000 opportunities to make subway car announcements on 20 subway lines between February 25, 2000 and May 26, 2000. During that time, they rated 148 service disruptions or delays of two minutes or more. (See methodology.)

In a similar survey conducted between late 1998 and early1999, the campaign found either no announcement or an inaudible, garbled, or useless one 73% of the time. In a 1997/1998 survey, these announcements were made 67% of the time. The decline between the current survey and the 1997/1998 survey is statistically significant.

In 1997, transit officials set up a task force after an earlier survey “to focus on train announcements, especially those made when there is a service change or delay.” It recommended: “maintaining regular communication with conductors regarding delays and changes in service" and “beginning a ‘back to basics’ announcements training syllabus" known as the Blue Book.

The Blue Book lists 17 possible delay announcements with “reasons for the delay" ranging from “unruly person on train" to “waiting for a connecting train.” The policy is that “if there is a delay, [the conductor] must make an announcement immediately [and again] within 2 minutes.”

The campaign also criticized transit officials for changes in subway announcements, charging that riders are now given less notice of upcoming stations and transfer points.

In the past, conductors were instructed that “as the train is arriving, and before it stops in the station, identify the station, and announce any transfer options.”

In March 1999, a new rule went into effect that: “The routine cycle of announcements should be made in the station with the doors open, not while the train is moving.”

"Advance notice of upcoming stations gave riders the information and time they need to get ready to exit the train.” said campaign staff attorney Gene Russianoff. “This is important for all passengers, but particularly people with disabilities, senior citizens and those traveling with children.”

Russianoff noted that leaving the announcement to the last minute was “stressful" for both riders and conductors.

The campaign called on transit officials to reconsider the announcement change, noting that it had been adopted without public notice or comment. (See letter.)

The survey was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which is a leader in supporting assessment of public services.


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