Public Address Facilities

The Metro Rail public address facilities are unbelievably bad! I have traveled around the world and used the subway systems of many major cities. I can truthfully say that our own Los Angeles Metro Rail System has the worst public address facilities which I have experienced to date. E.g., at Metro Center/7th street the Red Line platform announcements, on one day will produce a Db level just at the threshold of pain - on another the announcements are unintelligible. Is it the equipment or the poorly trained operators who are at fault? The public is put at risk, especially in these times of concern about security, by Metro's inability to produce intelligible public address announcements.

The same complaint holds true for the on board announcements. On some Red Line trains, the audio speakers produce an unpleasant sound that is hollow and tinny. In other cases the volume is so low that even if the operator spoke distinctly, most announcements are unintelligible. I frequently joke that these PA systems would be rejected by fast food chains.

One Red Line operator who I have designated “Mr. Ok, folks”, began each of his announcements began with “Ok folks”, as in “Ok folks, the next station is ....”. Please, put yourself in the place of a tourist whose first language is not English and imagine what he or she would go through in trying to decode these announcements.

Replacing the equipment AND training operators in diction might help, but realistically, some form of automated announcement system, such as is in used on the Green/Gold Lines, is the answer here. The last time I rode the Green and Gold Line even those announcements on some trains were too LOUD. Someone needs to ensure that common best practices are in use. That someone should also be equipped with a DB (decibel) meter – that meter will have other usage detailed in the future. On Thursday, August 25, 2005 about 10:50AM, I was on the Union Station Red Line platform when a public address system announcement was made. I polled several of the people, who like myself, were waiting for a train – none could understand the announcement! Then I boarded a Wilshire-Western Red Line train and found that the on board announcements, although understandable, were so sharp and so loud as to be painful. Of course, this operator made double announcments for each station: "The next station is Civic Center", then, "Now approaching Civic Center".

The LACMTA lacks the ability to implement “best practices” so that the ridership can experience a repeatable pleasant experience. When I got off at the Civic Center station I found the up escalator was, as it is so many times, out of service. Please consider the effect of escalator outages during an emergency evacuation - pandemonium.

So much for the recently hyped security. Where is that security when "vandals" - that is who causes these escalator outages, at least, according to a Metro employee - are able to stop the escalators and run away. High resolution cameras are not needed to stop this sort of thing1. What is needed is a silent alarm trigered by pressing the escalator stop button which will summon some double-timing security officers.

(Next week: More on Subway security, or rather, the lack of security)

1 Liu, Caitlin. "Subway, Light-Rail Cameras Approved." Los Angeles Times 26 Aug. 2005: B1

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