This is starting to make its way out of RapidRide into the rest of the fleet. The description for this video says it was filmed on coaches 2554 and 2556, both serving route 177.
This is part of Metro’s ongoing rollout of GPS on all 1400 buses, which started last fall and Metro tells me should be complete in about 18 months.
73 Replies to “Stop Announcements”
Is it me, or do these announcements sound very unnatural and robotic? Same with DSTT announcements. Couldn’t they have gone the extra mile and have a real person do the recordings?
I’m assuming a third-party vendor handled it.
There are some 8,000+ stops in King County. With the need for periodic names changes and updates, text-to-speech seems like a reasonable solution to me. Plus, the voice actually sounds pretty good in my opinion.
Yeah I agree. The voice is pretty good.
I would expand upon my last post by saying that while it certainly does sound robotic the pronunciation was good (even with hard words) and extremely clear.
If you have a real person do the recordings, they sound like this. I know that sounds monotonous and robotic, but I assure you it’s a real person speaking each one of those words. It’s powered by Locution.
That timing is likely adjusted for dispatch purposes. The intercept announcements provided by telephone carriers are another example of
Oops… Borrowing a computer with an unfamiliar keyboard :) Anyhow, the intercept announcements from telephone carriers used for unassigned numbers, time and temp announcements, etc. are another example of concatenated speech. Sure, they’re automated, but they tend to sound more natural to my ear.
NORCOM uses Locution too, but their lady talks a lot faster.
NEXT STOP – Insanity. The voice is really shrill and somewhat annoying. I makes you want the driver back who just mumbles softly into the mic.
It is somewhat annoying when you listen to them rapid fire. But in the actual time that I was riding, they’re much less annoying since they are at least two minutes apart.
I think Metro should look at taking away the “Next Stop” and just say the stop name with a warning tone before the announcement.
This type of announcement is fairly common because honestly anyone, even if someone doesn’t speak english they will figure out after one or two stops what the system is doing. The “Next Stop” can also become troublesome for closely spaced stops. As Tufte would say it decreases the “density” of the information.
Announcement systems that forgo the “Next Stop” often (or almost always) have a distinct but okay sound that plays before the announcement to alert riders. My favorite is the sound used in Brussels.
What I like about it saying “next stop” is it prepares you for the street name. You perk-up and begin to pay attention. Whereas if the very first word is the street name, then a greater percentage of people will miss what was said. Sometimes it takes a second or two to snap out of a daydream.
Agreed with both Sam and Adam. The “chime” on RapidRide is a bit long (and RR also says “next stop” after it plays the chime, which is a bit redundant). I’d like to have a tone to grab my attention, but not something shrill like TransLink’s “hammer on an anvil” noise.
I like the idea of a chime followed by the cross-street name or station, maybe announcing both streets after a turn. “Next stop” seems overly verbose.
Starting with the street name works when it’s the driver speaking like a real person. But with a robotic voice, it just makes it seem that much more robotic. I don’t see why adding a “next stop” or “now arriving” (like Link does) is such a big deal.
So, you would prefer no announcement at all? Put on your iPod and crank the volume up and you won’t be bothered by the annoying announcements. Just don’t complain when you miss your stop.
I agree the synthesized voice is sub-par compared to the concatenated systems used by systems like CTA — kind of like getting into an elevator with only one control panel. It works fine, but it is clear that the implementation lacks attention to detail. I’m guessing it was probably done to make it easier and less expensive for Metro as opposed to being the optimal implementation for riders.
In any event, automated announcements will be a huge step forward compared to today where some operators are unintelligible or simply neglect to make announcements — even at major stops. This will make it much easier for riders with auditory or visual impairments to get around, not to mention individuals who are going somewhere new or taking an unfamiliar route.
Too bad there is, AFAIK, no chance that the contractor had to program “Sequim” or “Puyallup” into the prompts.
Royal Brougham doesn’t do too well in most TTS applications but did here.
Well with TTS they can put in a customized pronunciation thats tweaked by a human. It’ll probably just take a little while to get them all worked out.
Washington State is infamous for its funny names, isn’t it? I don’t think a Metro bus is headed out to Sequim anytime soon, but having “Puyallup” in there is a good idea.
Pierce Transit has Puyallup in their system already, I can’t guarantee but you can try to get on 578 in the Ride Free Area and listen to the quality.
577 and all the 590-series routes too. It works pretty good, though this shakeup it’s been announcing things way too early (like 4th & University while we’re on I-5 just south of BFI).
A few April 15ths ago, I called the Postal Service to find out where one could drop off one’s tax filing after 5-6pm but before midnight and still get the April 15 postmark. The automated response told me that amongst the Seattle-area places this could be done was…
Google must use the same engine for it’s GOOG 411. By the way, that post office–right by TIBS–no longer has its late pickup time. I think it’s 17:30 or 18:00 now.
Does this system really announce every stop? I think that would be really annoying, especially on routes that go mostly in straight lines over numbered streets. When the last two stops have been 60th Street and 65th Street, I don’t need to be told that 70th Street is coming up soon.
I think the system could be very useful if it announced major stops and transfer points in a consistent way that doesn’t vary from driver to driver, but announcing every single stop is overkill.
I can’t wait ’til they roll this out on route 25, which has stops on almost every block in Montlake.
Or route 66, which stops every 1.5 blocks.
However it’s being rolled out per coach, not per route.
Wow, that’s a lot of stops between Chicago and L.A. :=
They want to make sure you have plenty of time to get your kicks.
It will only announce major stops, just as currently, operators need only announce major stops. That is all that is required under the Americans with Diabilities Act. If you care to look it up, I believe ADA also defines what constitutes a major stop.
Nope, much more than just “major stops”. Read all about it. Also check out Metro’s Announcement Reference Guide.
Wow, the one thing that surprised me about the guidelines is that without an automated system
“At transit centers, drivers should exit the bus and announce the route information to waiting passengers. This should be done when the bus first arrives, before it departs, and at other times in between if the bus has a long layover at the center.”
When is the last time you saw that happen?
I like it to announce every stop, just get rid out the “next stop” and replace it with a short sound. Let’s go above and beyond the ADA here. It also helps people unfamiliar with the system. I found it very useful when I visited San Francisco and Vancouver.
Agreed. Same with CTA in this case.
So glad they’re getting around to doing this, finally! My partner (who is blind) has had negative experiences in the past with drivers who don’t announce stops even when requested to do so. She’s also had a pleasant experience recently with a ST bus that had an automated announcement when the doors opened about which bus it was and which direction it was going. She transfers at the Renton Transit Center, and often there are 2-3 buses pulling up at the same time, so being able to quickly determine which bus is hers is a boon.
Now, if we can only get the tactile/Braille signage standardized at all of the transit centers…
I’m guessing that your partner took the Pierce Transit run ST 566 Overlake-Auburn.
I wonder on articulated buses do we get a second LCD screen in the bus? Or is just one per bus?
Also are the head signs and fares going to be integrated into this system as well?
Yeah, there’s a second one in the back, just after the articulated joint, same as RapidRide. On the high floor articulated coaches, it’s easier to tape it from the front than the back (because of the seats that sit up higher).
Headsigns are changed automatically. Not sure about the fares, but I imagine so.
Just to be clear. They are both LED screens not LCD.
Does this system have the same “This is the last stop. All passengers should deboard at this time” announcement as RapidRide?
Also, call me wierd, but I think Metro should chose different voices to distinguish RapidRide from other routes.
Not currently. Nor does it have the “last stop in the ride free area” or “last stop in Seattle”, both of which are needed.
I’m calling you weird. But it may be a technical limitation of init’s system. However I’d rather have one voice across all systems, for consistency.
Ditto about consistency.
Agreed. Why would RR vs. non-RR matter once you are on the bus?
“deboard”? Well, I suppose that’s better than asking customers to “get off”!
INIT must license the locution system as part of their standard package that they install. Vancouver, B.C. and Toronto’s AVA announcements have the same verbal nuances of Seattle. Of course its interesting to be watching a video on Youtube of a TTC Fishbowl making AVA announcements…
Locution is concatenated. The system installed in Seattle and Vancouver, BC is synthesized.
I think they should use a male British voice. It would add a touch of class and sophistication to our transit system:
“Ello govner, last stop of the line. Disembark the trolley. Cheerio.”
Actually, the conductors used to say “All change please, all change.” Now the robo-voice says “This is the last stop. All passengers must disembark the train.” Sometimes progress sucks.
Doesn’t sound very different from Link’s announcements.
It makes sense. The robotic announcement is pretty much universally applicable and far easier for limited-English speakers to understand. It would be hard to construct something that was shorter yet still as clear. But I’ll always fondly remember the curt and scratchy “This is London St Pancras. All change…”
But…it didn’t say “Doors to my right.” :)
In Eugene, where its BRT system, the EmX has doors on both side of the bus, they do announce “Doors on the left/right” in both English and Spanish.
Just returned from Portland. The MAX announcements are quite pleasant-sounding in comparison. Clearly warn when last free stop is coming up. There is also an announcement at each new stop reminding riders that the disabled and seniors have priority to front seats. Wish something like this would happen here. Their ‘priority’ signs are also much larger and easier to read.
They need a longer pause between “the doors are closing” and “in the priority seating area, you…”. To me, it sounds like “the doors are closing in the priority seating area. You are required to move…”
To answer the “when is it coming to my bus” question, so far me and some others over at CPTDB have determined that 2554 and 2556 have it for sure, and 1100, 6837, 6865, 7000 and 4200 have a new antenna installed on the roof but may or may not have boards and announcements.
the 1100 series buses will not have the visual board announcement. Yep, look for the round white antenna on top of the roof on the buses.
Stop announcements are great but I will point out that when I lived in Heidelberg, Germany all the buses and trams had these systems. That was 1997. And I imagine they had them much earlier than that.
Not to mention it’s only a bit bigger than Bellevue and has a Tram system that looks like this:
Where did you live? I was up in the Neustadt, off the Handschuhsheim Burgstrasse stop.
For a few months I lived just off the old part of town, towards the castle. Then for a couple years off the Rombachweg bus stop, which is why I remember the announcement system so well: “Nacheste Haltestelle, Rombachweg” in a soothing female voice…
Great city and country if you’re a transit buff.
Great city period really.
Yes, but you can’t squeeze the fruit at the supermarket.
I lived in Munich from 1981-1984, and in Frankfurt from 1985-1989 and all the buses, U-bahnen, trams, etc and automated stop announcements.
An example of the current announcements in Munich: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7odNTmli3Y
How difficult would it be to add additional languages to the announcement? I know my neighborhood has many riders who would find Spanish and Vietnamese announcements helpful. Additional languages could be tailored to the route or even the stop.
Here’s an example from the NYC subway system. This is concatenated speech recorded by a real human being. Hundreds of phrases and words were recorded to cover the entire system and the computer puts them together to fit the situation.
Sorry, looks like the link didn’t take. Here it is:
I drove coach 6865 on the route 101 on it’s second day out and it also has the OBS. the only annoying part is everytime I opened the door I had to hear her say, “101 to Seattle” besides that I love it…. 1 funny thing was I was playing around with the DDU and hit a button and all the sudden some guy came on and said, “Please make sure you have your fare as ready when leaving the bus” or something like that but I had to get on the PA to tell everyone he was just kiddn’ cause I was doing an inbound.
If the announcement button is tied to a computer with a clock, the computer could instantly warn the operator that that stop is a timed stop, and the scheduled arrival time has not occured yet.
It’s tied to GPS. Which has a clock, but that’s not the point.
I live in central Seattle and my bus comes only once every half hour, doesn’t connect easily to light rail, is usually late in the afternoons outbound and frequently there are social problems and harassments on it. I don’t need a flipping stop announcement! I need a comfortable, safe, frequent, and reliable bus.
Did I see you on the bus the other day? If we’re talking about the same route, you should be grateful that the bus came at all.
And don’t you understand how utterly urgent it is to provide real-time stop announcements on the very frequent routes first?
If they come for the 10-minute headway schedules, then whose to say they won’t come for the 15-minute headway schedules? Then they’ll come for the 20-minute headway schedules. Then they’ll come for the 30-minute headway schedules. If those of us who depend on hour-headway buses don’t stand up now, there’ll be nobody left but us to defend our schedules.
Stop the schedule massacre now!
But seriously, the stop announcements aren’t for most of us. They’re an ADA feature, hopefully with positive externalities for the other 90% of the ridership.
Nice job with the video. She’s got a clear but loud voice by the sounds of it…so much for sleeping past my stop, or falling asleep for that matter. Of course, the bus looks packed, so sleeping wouldn’t be much of an option. That’s an incredible undertaking for such a huge network of stops, particularly as it’s going on during/before a major restructuring.
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