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Most subway messages inaudible: Report

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On more than half the occasions when subway trains screech to unscheduled stops, train crew members offer no announcement as to what is going on, a new survey reports.

Is the delay because power is off due to police activity in the next station? A breakdown of another train up ahead? Smoke in the tunnel? How long will we sit here?

The transit advocacy agency Straphangers Campaign reported in a survey it conducted that 55 percent of the time riders got no clue.

Straphangers were told nothing or the announcements were garbled or otherwise unintelligible, the group said.

“Poor announcements can mean missed stops, longer trips and a lot more stress,” said Jason Chin-Fatt, field organizer for the Straphangers Campaign.

New York City Transit Authority guidelines specify what train crews are required to do in informing passengers when a train is delayed — that is, give detailed reasons for the delay along with the nearest stations and transfer points.

The staff members and volunteers of the Straphangers Campaign made 6,600 observations of in-car announcement opportunities on 22 subway lines between Feb. 3 and July 11, 2009.

As to basic, routine announcements such as “this is a No. 4 express to the Bronx,” those conducting the survey found that more than 80 percent were clear and accurate.

The Straphangers Campaign said it found that in basic announcements, the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 and M and N subway lines did the best, but the D, G and No. 7 performed the worst, with 61 percent adequate basic announcements on the G and 62 percent on the D and 7.

When it came to announcements after disruptions or stalled trains, no announcements were made 26 percent of the time, 2 percent were inaudible or garbled and 27 percent were rated inadequate, such as “we have a red signal.”

Others lacked important information such as “this local is now an express” with no explanation or “we have a schedule adjustment.”

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

Updated 5:49 pm, October 10, 2011
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