Subways to feature live announcements instead of recordings, MTA says

Expect a more personal touch to future subway delays.

The MTA is transitioning from pre-recorded to live announcements in an effort to better communicate with riders faced with the ever-more frequent delays that are plaguing the system.

“We’re moving to improve communications with passengers both on a regular basis and in the case of an incident,” said Wynton Habersham, the acting vice president of the MTA’s Department of Subways, at an agency committee meeting on Monday. “In doing so, we’re eliminating many of the repeat recorded announcements and are making greater use of live announcements from the train crew themselves.”

When it comes to delivering the bad news, Habersham said an emphasis will be placed on getting riders accurate information as quickly as possible. That means train operators will begin giving delay-related updates to riders, according to Habersham. This task is currently the responsibility of the train conductors who are stationed at the middle of a given train, generally either the fourth or fifth car, depending on a train’s length.

Conductors are also responsible for opening and closing doors as well as other general customer service-related issues. Train operators, on the other hand, drive the train over its tracks.

“We’re doing that because the train operator is at the front of the train obviously and is really in the best position to see and describe the situation to the passengers,” Habersham said.

Habersham outlined the policy shift as part of a response to the disastrous power failure earlier this month that caused a southbound F train to stall as it approached the Broadway-Lafayette station, leaving hundreds of commuters trapped without light or air conditioning for about 48 minutes.

Several riders stuck on that sweltering F train complained that multiple announcements were made toward the beginning of the outage warning riders of a delay caused by “train traffic ahead,” when the situation seemed much more severe. The MTA is still investigating the June 5 incident and have not verified the accounts three riders provided amNewYork.

“We remain committed to giving customers updates as information becomes available,” Habersham said. “Improved communications is essential to not only those on the train but also those waiting on the platforms and those planning their commute as well. That event is not at all reflective of the kind of service the subways team works to provide.”