A conductor gives an announcement on the 6 train at 59th and Lexington. (Photo by Tiffany L. Clark)
Yes, your ride has gotten a bit more boring.
Those chatty, cheerful subway conductors who entertain riders with jokes or by adding some flair to their announcements are becoming an endangered species.
As more subway cars get equipped with digital announcements, train conductors adlibbing about the Flower District and creamy Junior’s cheesecake as they approach DeKalb Avenue seem to be becoming a thing of the past.
“Certainly growing up in New York, and even in the ’90s, you would find conductors who would talk about New York’s attributes. They are fewer and farther between,” said Gene Russianoff, of the Straphangers Campaign.
For years, some conductors have been punching up their messages with tips for tourists and warm remarks. Riffs have included:
- On the F train: “Next stop, West 4th Street. This stop is my personal favorite.”
- An announcement on the N in Brooklyn that there would be a delay during the removal of a shopping cart on the tracks
- On the A train last Friday: “Have a safe and cozy night.”
- In a sing-songy voice on the uptown B: “Change here for the A-B-C-D-E-F-and-V”
Adlibbing is explicitly banned by MTA rules, and transit workers have been written up for getting too aggressive with passengers blocking the doors, union officials said.
“There is a fine line between clever and obnoxious, and between cute and offensive,” according to the “Blue Book,” transit’s handbook for how to make announcements. “We want you to be cautious and conservative.”
The number of digital trains with automated announcements has also increased vastly, now making up 51 percent of transit’s 6,310 subway cars, according to the most recent figures. The MTA is looking to purchase 340 new subway cars that would add digital trains on the A line and the Staten Island Railroad in the coming years, documents show.
Riders were mixed about the steady loss of glib announcements.
“It does not matter if it is digital or a manual voice as long as I know what is going on with the service,” said Samantha Miller, 30, a Brooklyn straphanger.
Lisa Yoo, 29, a rider from Manhattan said, “I prefer the computerized (announcement). It’s clearer.”
Conductors are supposed to deliver five pieces of information at a stop, including transfer options and, of course, the “stand clear of the closing doors” warning. They also have 18 scripted announcements for delays. The MTA once directed conductors to mention the “Top of the Rock” observatory when arriving at the 47th-50th St. station, but it was scrapped in 2008 after workers protested.
(Taneish Hamilton and amNY staff contributed to this story)
- Periodically say, “Thank you for riding with MTA New York Transit”
- Make announcements about delays immediately
- As a courtesy, say “Ladies and gentlemen, the time is …”
- Blow into the microphone
- Use “railroad talk” in announcements
- Attack riders over the PA for holding the doors open
Source: NYC Transit