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MTA to Ditch Pre-Recorded Messages in Favor of Live Announcements of Delays

By Gwynne Hogan | June 19, 2017 2:20pm
 An F train stalled in an underground tunnel for 48 minutes without air conditioning on June 5, according to the MTA.
An F train stalled in an underground tunnel for 48 minutes without air conditioning on June 5, according to the MTA.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Keith

NEW YORK CITY — Who would you rather deliver the news that you're trapped in a steamy, airless subway car? A human or a robot?

The MTA is slated to do away with some prerecorded messages for routine communication, as well as during stalls and delays — an effort to better communicate with riders in the wake of a June 5 incident where straphangers were trapped in a stalled F train for nearly an hour without air conditioning, agency officials said Monday.

"While announcements were made both on the train and in the affected stations during the incident, this messaging did not meet the needs of our customers," Wynton Habersham, the acting vice president of the MTA's Subways said at a Monday meeting of the MTA's board.

He described the nightmarish incident where riders were trapped in a steamy, southbound F train for 48 minutes with no air or electricity when multiple backup systems failed as, "something that did not go so well."

"We are moving to improve communication with our passengers both on a regular basis and the case of an incident," he said. "In doing so, we are eliminating many of the repeat recorded announcements and are making greater use of live announcements from the train crew themselves."

On June 5, when the lights and air flickered and then cut out about 10 minutes after the F train had stalled, the MTA conductor was informing passengers there was train traffic before they eventually entered the cars to admit to riders that there was a "severe" mechanical issue, Gothamist reported.

As a new policy, riders should start to hear train operators speaking more frequently to passengers. Every time a train is stalled, the operator — who rides in front and thus has the best vantage point to understand the cause of the delay — will give riders updates, Habersham explained.

The MTA still doesn't know the root cause behind the F train's failure on June 5, and it is looking at all other R46 train cars to see if they have similar issues, Habersham said.

The F train incident comes amid a groundswell of criticism of the MTA for deteriorating subway service and increased delays.

The agency recently unveiled a six-point plan to combat delays while Governor Andrew Cuomo launched his own "genius" award for bright ideas on how to fix the subway.