LIRR escalators give riders a talking-to

The repaired escalator at the Lindenhurst LIRR station has a recorded message warning riders about getting caught in the escalator and instructions about what not to do. The message, which runs nonstop, annoys many passengers. Videojournalist: Amanda Voisard (Oct. 5, 2012)

The Long Island Rail Road's station escalators are getting chatty.

As part of its work to upgrade 11 of its oldest escalators, the LIRR is installing recorded audio announcements on the devices that warn riders of various dangers.

The recording gives riders no fewer than seven admonishments, including to face forward at all times and to not bring a hand truck along on your escalator ride.


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The audio announcements are not required by law, but Joe Calderone, vice president of customer service for the LIRR, said the railroad believes it's worthwhile to drive home the message of keeping safe while riding escalators.

"There are just so many distractions now than there have been in the past," Calderone said. "It's absolutely worth recommending to customers that you should just put your stuff away for the moment that you're riding an escalator and pay attention to what you're doing. We're trying to reinforce that message."

After using the escalator at the Lindenhurst station, Kevin Seymour, 33, questioned the usefulness of the recorded announcements.

"I guess they're just doing it to take precaution," he said. "Most people probably know how to use an escalator."

The addition of the audio recordings is part of an ongoing review of station escalators spurred by the March death of Irene Bernatzky, who fell while riding up on the Lindenhurst station escalator and was asphyxiated when a piece of clothing jammed in the moving stairs.

The LIRR is spending more than $5 million on upgrades, including new components and safety sensors.

LIRR officials said the audio announcements are similar to those used for years at Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway stations.

The 26-second recording loops around-the-clock and can be quite loud. LIRR officials said they had not received any complaints about the noise, but they plan to use timers to lower the volume during evening and night hours when ridership is lighter.

Andrea Clayton, 20, of Amityville, rushed up the recently upgraded Amityville station escalator without noticing the audio recording, but she said she noticed it was "noisy" while she waited for her train on the platform.

Clayton, who works as a Manhattan bartender, said she appreciates the other safety improvements made on station escalators, but she is indifferent about the recorded warnings.

"They have them all over the city," Clayton said, referring to subway escalator announcements. "Everybody just ignores them."


The LIRR escalator announcement

What it's saying over and over to keep riders safer:

"Please keep feet and personal items away from sides. Please watch your step.

"Face forward at all times while on the moving walk.

"Attend to small children while holding their hand while riding. No strollers, hand trucks or similar devices allowed on escalators.

"Riding on handrails not allowed. No playing on or near the escalator is allowed. Welcome to the Long Island Rail Road," followed by the station name.

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