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Subway announcements getting better, still not perfect: Survey

Announcements have improved on subways, although those having to do with delays are often missing, inaudible or wrong, the Straphangers Campaign has reported.

The transit advocacy agency said general announcements have been clear and accurate 83 percent of the time with the best performance by the Nos. 5 and 6 trains. The worst was the B line, providing satisfactory announcements 55 percent of the time.

The Straphangers said many of the incorrect announcements were meaningless to riders, such as, “We have a red signal” or “We have a schedule adjustment.”

Official Transit Authority guidelines require conductors to make basic in-car announcements including the line, station name and any transfer points. The guidelines also list 18 possible delay announcements with detailed reasons.

These announcements range from “unruly person on the train” to “waiting for a connecting train.”

The conductor is required to make announcements immediately and again within two minutes afterward.

“A failure to make delay announcements means more stress and confusion for riders,” said Jason Chin-Fat, field organizer of the Straphangers Campaign.

The Straphangers reported that announcements were not made at all 22 percent of the time, 11 percent were inaudible or garbled and 27 percent were rated as incorrect.

The New York City Transit Authority, which operates buses and subways, does not conduct surveys of delays and disruptions on subway cars. The TA surveyed the percentage of cars equipped with public address systems in the first half of 2010. Around 92 percent of subway cars are listed as being equipped with pubic address systems.

The Straphangers Campaign conducted the survey using 51 volunteers from Jan. 26, 2010, to June 25, 2010, making 6,600 observations of in-car announcement opportunities on 22 subway lines. The agency conducted nine similar surveys between 1997 and 2010.

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

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