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Write Your Own Announcement on Metrorail Stops

I've noticed that some train operators are gamely trying to figure out how to tell people on the platform that all trains are pulling all the way to the front now.

Sometimes, they'll use the phrase, "Eights to the gate," which was meant to train the operators themselves that all eight-car trains must pull to the platform front so no doors open in tunnel. That works -- sort of -- if the operator is trying to get people to spread out and use all eight cars, but it's really more for internal consumption by Metrorail staff.

Last night, I heard an operator try, "This is a six-car train making an eight-car stop." That's a good try, because it gets to the problem of people waiting at mid-platform, when they could be moving forward to reach the first car, and to people waiting too far down the platform, who are going to have to hustle forward to reach the last car. Still, it's probably baffling to tourists, who have no idea why they're supposed to be counting cars in the first place.

But I'm having trouble thinking of a better slogan. I'd like to avoid one that includes "front of the platform," because I'm not sure people get that. Some might respond, "Don't all trains stop at the front of the platform by the granite edge?"

Let's give Metro some help with this. Come up with a phrase that's short and memorable -- but polite -- that a train operator could use to remind people that the trains are stopping at the front of the platform, no matter how long they are.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 30, 2009; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  Commuting , Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail, Red Line delays, eight-car stops  
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"Attention passengers on the platform, all trains will be moving to your far left side of the platform."

Posted by: SocialConservative | June 30, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

They are not always going to the left.

"All trains will be stopping at the far end of the platform."

Posted by: SweetieJ | June 30, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't have to be catchy, just useful.

"All trains advance all the way to the end of the platform."

The person who needs to hear that announcement doesn't know, or care, that some trains are eight cars long and some six. Nor do they care that some used to be shorter than six, or that last week trains did it differently, or that next week they might do it differently again. That person doesn't care if it rhymes or what the underlying cause is. the person who needs to hear that announcement just needs to know that the butt-end of the platform is probably not going to be a useful place to be standing in order to board a train.

This morning, in Metro Center, the station manager or some other Metro employee was *reaming out* all of the passengers boarding or disembarking from Red Line trains. I heard it coming over the PA system while I was on the lower level leaving my Orange Line train and had no idea what was going on. When I was upstairs waiting for a Silver-Spring bound Red Line train, he just kept barking orders, over and over, to spread out and use all doors, and that the train would be going to the end of the platform. Which was useful, in a sense, except that all three of the next trains due to arrive (in 8, 12, and 16 minutes -- the other problem) were six-car trains, and he kept yelling at those of us who were standing in roughly the area where cars 5 and 6 would arrive to keep moving down the platform (where mythical cars 7 and 8 would fail to be). It created a lot of confusion (and resentment, and unflattering comments) among the folks waiting on the platform.

Posted by: EtoilePB | June 30, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Train will pull all the way forward to the far end of the station before stopping.

Posted by: Cirrus42 | June 30, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Does it really matter what the announcements say? It's not like they are intelligible, or anything.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | June 30, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I think something about the train stopping to your left makes sense. The only time a train will be stopping on the other side of the tracks such that the front car would be going to your right is at the end of the line, and this sort of announcement is less important at terminal stations because the dwell time is increased there (i.e., more time to board the train).

True, some passengers might not actually be facing the track where their train will stop, so for some individuals this direction might not be to the "left" at any given moment. But how is that any different from WMATA's long-standing practice of having train operators announce whether the doors will open on the "right" or the "left" at the next stop? Those announcements are "correct" only if you're facing the front of the train. Given that almost half the seats face rearwards, and given that standees face every which way, one could argue that "doors on the right" is misleading. But nobody claims that.

Ultimately, though, I wonder whether it really matters, given that the average PA announcement will sound something like "Greegle mmmfglrg {static}."

Posted by: 1995hoo | June 30, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I remember when I was visiting Montreal once, I noticed some of the stations had gates on the platforms that would be closed when all the trains were being operated shorter then the entire length of the platform. So if the trains were 6 cars instead of 9 cars, the gate would be closed to block off the area of the platform were none of the cars would stop.

Metro should put signs on the platforms of where the back end of the 6 car train will be. The signs should say something like, "If the next train is a 6 car train then you need to stand between this sign and the front end of the platform."

Posted by: dhlunar | June 30, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

"This train will stop at the end of the platform"

"This train will pull forward to the end of the platform"

Is it really that hard?

Posted by: zizzy | June 30, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

All trains pull to the front of the platform, 8 car trains fill the entire platform.

hat's what the operator on my train said today, albeit a bit to verbosely "All trains, repeat all trains will be pulling to front of the platform. All 6 and 8 car trains will be pulling to front of the platform, passengers take note that all trains will now be pulling to front of the platform..." Anybody on his train has no excuse for being at the end of the platform now when a six car train pulls up.

Posted by: josh703 | June 30, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

@1995hoo: On the contrary, MANY times the train advances to the right of the waiting passengers instead of to the left. For example: at Clarendon on the Orange Line, or at Metro Center on the Red Line. Or, if my memory of my morning commute serves, at McPherson Square or Farragut West on the Orange / Blue lines.

Posted by: EtoilePB | June 30, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Does it really matter where they stop? Most people won't be able to get on them anyway.

Posted by: djones13 | June 30, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Ultimately, it's more important to remind people on the platform as they enter the station, not when the train arrives, so signage is more important than operator announcements. I like a big sign at the end of the platform visible down the platform "Train stops here." At the tail of the train, mark the platform clearly where cars 7-8 will be and mark it "8-car loading only" and put yellow stripes on the granite in that area. People will get the idea.

Posted by: rickblum | June 30, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

EtoilePB.....duhhhhh, you're absolutely right. Anywhere there are side platforms that happens. Don't know WHAT I was thinking when I typed that post other than a total brain fart. Wow!

"All trains will pull all the way forward to the end of the platform" seems like about as clear as can be if the announcement is to be a system-wide announcement, then.

Posted by: 1995hoo | June 30, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

If its a center platform they'll pull to the far left. If its a side platform they'll pull to the far right. Which makes sense because you're standing on different sides of the train depending on what kind of platform you're standing on.

You will never come up with something that make sense to everyone. For those stations that have exits at the end of a platform I know people will wait there for a train and then wonder why they have to run two car lengths to get on the last car because they were waiting at the end of the platform. This happens all the time at Dunn Loring - the regulars know to move up (even before last week). The tourist don't and even when we tell them to move up they often ignore us and then end up running.

So rather than trying to figure out something that makes sense to everyone try to figure out something that works for the majority and the rest will simply have to figure it out.

And if this becomes a permanent situation then they can look at marking the platform with strips noting where a 6 car train ends (approximately) and where an 8 car train ends.

Posted by: archers44 | June 30, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I think the better solution is what dhlunar wrote above about posting a sign for where the last car will stop for 6 and 8 car trains. The sign could be painted or engraved on the floor.

In addition, they could make announcements. My announcement language suggestion involves the train operator remembering how many cars their train has. In order to remember it, they could use a refridgerator magnet that is a 6 or 8 and post it somewhere in front of them.

"Because this is an eight-car train, customers on the platform need to spread out across the entire platform"

"Because this is a six-car train, customers on the platform near the TAIL end of the train will need to walk forward to get to the rear car of the train".

Posted by: data-driven24 | June 30, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I agree with a couple of the above comments - one positive byproduct of having trains pull all the way to the end of the platform is that the doors will always stop in a relatively consistent location. Why not mark the portion of the platform where a six-car train would not stop? That would eliminate the need for most announcements (except when an eight-car train operator wants to remind customers to use the entire platform).

Posted by: Tybsnowman | June 30, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

If you look across the tracks (just under the platform edge), you can often see signs that say "6" or "8" - indicating where the 6 and 8 car trains begin and end when at the platform. Why not move these signs up to the walls along the platform so that people can actually see them? If all trains will be stopping at the front end of the platform, just post signs that say "1" "2" "3" and so on - anyone looking at the boards that give train length can then figure out just how much space they have to spread out.

As for not liking the phrase "front the platform" - that makes the most sense of any suggestion. "Far end" or "front end" also works.

Posted by: sciencegrrl | June 30, 2009 11:33 PM | Report abuse

"Due to my inability to remember whether this train has six or eight cars, I'm not taking any chances of losing my job in this godawful economy by letting those of you in the last two cars out in the tunnel. So I'll be going all the way to the end of the platform."

Posted by: MelMoitzen | July 1, 2009 5:29 AM | Report abuse

Paris, one of the most well-constructed metro systems in the world, has a simple solution. All trains pull to the end of the platform and there is a line on the platform where the tail of shorter trains will end. The line is well marked as the "end of short trains". If you are standing on the platform behind where the end of the train will be, there is also a hanging sign that says something like, "short train ends -->". Seems simple to me.

Posted by: howardmarshall | July 1, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

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