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Have You Heard? Metro Upgrades Public Address System

Metro says it has completed a $7.5 million program to replace the public address system in 38 underground stations.

The clarity of the audio communications has been a top issue among riders for many years. So how do the announcements sound to you now? Do you find them clearer? Notice they're now preceded by two chimes, to help get your attention.

The speakers are installed on most of the pylons on the platforms and along the walls, to enhance the sound quality. Originally, the transit authority said, the speakers were placed behind parapet walls, adjacent to where people stand on the platforms. But it turned out the sound quality wasn't the best, and in some stations, the sound would bounce off the parapet walls.

Besides the new installation on the platforms, Metro also replaced the communications radio system inside its Operations Control Center, which dated to the opening of the rail system in 1976.

Here's a list of the stations that got the upgrated: Friendship Heights, Pentagon City, Ballston, Farragut West, Crystal City, Rosslyn, Capitol South, Metro Center (lower level), Gallery-Pl Chinatown (lower level), Tenleytown, Van Ness, Bethesda,
Medical Center, U Street, Columbia Heights, Georgia Avenue, Waterfront,
Archives, Congress Heights, Anacostia, Federal Triangle, Federal Center SW, Foggy Bottom, Eastern Market, Navy Yard, Potomac Avenue, McPherson Square, Clarendon, Virginia Square, Benning Road, Court House, Woodley Park, Cleveland Park,
Glenmont, Wheaton, Capitol Heights and Stadium-Armory.

By Robert Thomson  |  December 15, 2008; 1:41 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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I have noticed the change in the quality of the sound at Eastern Market station (where in the past it was muffled and echoed - I suspect it was one of the stations where the speakers were behind the parapets.) Now if only those making the announcements would speak slowy and ennunciate clearly, we'd be good to go.

Posted by: kbockl | December 15, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

When the source is hardly understandable, no sound system will help.

Posted by: JoePantes | December 15, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

As there is obviously a problem with enunciation/diction/pronunciation (?), perhaps it would be better to have more recorded (Digitally recorded that is) announcements. Or perhaps Metro can have one or two professional announcers located at the main headquarters making the announcements. Station managers can notify the announcers via phone or text alert or something (?) and the announcers can make the announcements. Also, maybe if Metro Station Managers keep a written log of the announcements they make, the more common ones could be pre-recorded in the event they are needed in the future.

Posted by: djwpost | December 15, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I have notice the improvement but i also noticed metro making more announcement then before

Posted by: JeroRobson1 | December 15, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I've defintly noticed a big improvement in the Ballston station. I don't even have to take my ear buds out to hear what's being said.

Posted by: josh703 | December 15, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I have noticed the louder annoucements, but personally I think they are too loud. They are also waaaaaaaay too frequent. While waiting for a train at Greenbelt metro, I heard the same annoucement about "Is that your bag?" 3 times in ten minutes, plus one about extended early morning service on a Saturday and one of those "new to metro?". It's incredibly annoying. I generally listen to my ipod when using metro, and when these annoucements are louder than my music, it means they are too loud.

Perhaps if they were shorter they wouldn't be so annoying, but some of the messages are just way too long. I don't ride metro to hear PSA's. I ride metro to get me to my destination.

Also, I dislike the tone of the two chimes. I find it very grating. I think it needs to be a lower pitch.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | December 15, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Thank God and baby Jebus that Miss Othmar got fired! Send her back to Peanuts! Yeagh!

Posted by: bs2004 | December 15, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

I fund that the communication system on the train and the metro rail station is very clear. Try the metrorail in Miami: 1) very infrequent, 2) dirty, 3) very crowded, 4) have to drive 1/2 hour to the station 5) very costly, 6) VERY HEAVY ACCENT in some type of Spanglish, and the announcements are made in English and Spanish..go figure. Oh, by the way, residents had to pay an extra penny tax years ago for additional lines, but they haven't started as yet, and now they want to tax the residents more. Be VERY HAPPY with what your have!!!

Posted by: Hello_Now | December 15, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse

The announcements are easier to hear. They're also too loud. Maybe the solution would be to alter the volume according to the hour. If it's rush hour, then there are more people on the platform, and so a higher volume may be necessary. But, perhaps between 9:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., the volume should be set lower.

Posted by: rbn1211 | December 15, 2008 6:56 PM | Report abuse

I was happy to have the sound of the "Is that your bag" announcement be muffled. I've heard it at least 100 times and I really do know that I'm not to leave my bag on the metro.

If Metro has that much money to spend, more 8 car trains would be nice.

Posted by: DWinFC | December 15, 2008 8:03 PM | Report abuse

"See it, say it... if you notice a suspicious package.."

Yeah they updated the system to spread propaganda. great

Posted by: roosh4 | December 15, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

THANK YOU, Metro. I've always wondered about that chaos and carnage that would ensue if there was some kind of emergency in which people really needed to be able to hear what those people are saying.

Now, if only they would start to enforce the "no eating or drinking" rules rather than just repeating them over and over and over and over. PG Plaza station is constantly filthy with fast food debris and sticky floors from spilled sodas.

Posted by: Neighbor3413 | December 15, 2008 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Both the elevator and metro station announcements are excessively loud and obnoxious. WMATA, please turn down the volume (if you are listening) and shorten the length of the announcements as much as possible.

Posted by: becke | December 16, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the technology upgrade, Metro. But you still have to upgrade your people:

Start to realize that the system is visited and used by persons from around the globe. Allowing workers with questionable diction, muddled accent, poor grammar, etc. to bombard your passengers with announcements is hardly world-class, or the good communication we need. If you travel to similar systems in Europe or Asia, you will note that announcements are spoken clearly and at a proper pace and length, at all hours of the day. Obviously, they have a concern for good announcements, and staff appropriately.

Is it too much to ask that you only allow people who can speak clearly behind the microphone? Ditto for your train operators. Good Communication is a SAFETY issue.

Posted by: borkborkbork | December 16, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

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