Photo by Atomic Taco

After my post on incorrect transit information, and Matt’s follow-up on crowdsourcing, on July 25 STB received this email from Sound Transit Link Operations:

As of this morning I have directed the SCADA technical staff to remove Convention Place Station from all recurring informational messages. What this means is that Adhoc messages about tunnel emergencies, reroutes and shutdowns will still play, as well as all Fire Life Safety emergency information but passengers will no longer hear the recurring messaging regarding light rail procedures.

I still find it remarkable that something like this could have gone unnoticed for so long, but many thanks to Sound Transit for a quick response.

40 Replies to “A Crowdsourcing Win”

  1. Thanks, Zach. And thanks to everybody involved at Sound Transit Operations, who really do try to get things right.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Is there a Sound Transit Operations group other than the one that operates Tacoma Link? My impression is that Metro operates King County ST service.

      1. The only service sound transit operates is tacoma link. Sound transit routes 566, 574, 577, 578, 586, 590, 592, 594, 595 and 596 (some of which are king county only routes) are operated by pierce transit. king county metro operates 522, 540, 542, 545, 550, 554, 555, 556, 560 as well as central link. Community transit operates 510, 511, 512, 513, 532 and 535. BNSF operates Sounder commuter rail from Seattle to tacoma (lakewood effective in Sept) and Everett.

    2. If Sound Transit cares about what riders think/want, how about publishing the Link schedules, at least outside of peak? We know the operators have a schedule and OneBusAway does, but it’s neither in the printed schedule book nor on the website, and there’s no good reason not to put it in both places.

  2. I’m glad ST is removing the messages that don’t apply to Convention Place Station.

    I hope that in a larger sense though, the message of this very important post by Zach doesn’t go unheeded. There are a lot of ways both Sound Transit and Metro confuse riders with outdated information/signage and it’s important that they realize this and takes steps to fix the underlying problem, not just the symptom.

      1. Of course, all the time. There are several ST Staffers of various stripes on my Link ride in every morning, and I’ve ridden with staff between meetings. Many of Metro and ST’s planners and staff ride regularly, and many are ‘Transit Dependent’, as well.

  3. Do you think they could be convinced to get rid of the recurring messages in ALL the stations? I actually find them offensive.

    1. Offensive? You must be pretty easily offended.

      They are needed to comply with ADA requirements. Not everyone can read signs on the wall.

      1. Offensive? You must be pretty easily offended.

        Distinctly possible.

        They are needed to comply with ADA requirements. Not everyone can read signs on the wall.

        I’m not sure I buy the ADA thing, though I freely admit I don’t know exactly what the ADA mandates. Wouldn’t it suffice to have instructions in Braille? It’s not like the announcements that are there actually tell you that much. Heck, I strongly suspect that if I were blind, I’d vastly prefer having a braille set of bus schedules then an automated voice telling me to hold onto the handrails.

        I don’t have a problem with “mind the gap” style announcements, but I find the “behave, citizen!” ones quite insulting. They’re just so much more invasive than signs, being so much harder to tune out. And if I do manage to tune them out then I’m more likely to miss an actually important one.

        Hypothetically, would you be OK if every street corner had a loudspeaker reminding you to wait for the signal to cross, to look both ways before crossing the street, and to stay back from the edge of the curb?

      2. Those platforms are 400′ long. Where are you going to mount a set of Braille instructions/schedules that a vision-impaired user can easily locate them — never mind inform them that such documentation is available in the first place?

        That said: The New York City subway stations I’ve been through don’t have all those repetitive announcements. I know I’m comparing blueberries to watermelons in terms of systems, but why are such notifications required here but not there?

      3. The New York City subway stations I’ve been through don’t have all those repetitive announcements. I know I’m comparing blueberries to watermelons in terms of systems, but why are such notifications required here but not there?

        ADA passed in 1990. NYC subway opened in 1904.

      4. The platforms are 400′ long, and to board your bus/train, you have to know where on that platform to stand. That’s the sort of information that I wouldn’t mind audio messages conveying, if necessary. But they don’t convey that information with those announcements, they tell you to stand away from the platform edge instead. I think blind people can figure that out on their own.

        As for how to make the braille signs discoverable, they could be on the wall next to the signposts for the stops, which blind people already have to find on their own and seem to do okay. There could even be a small plaque on the signpost itself directing users to where more information is. Better still, you could have textured flooring around the informational area. Seems like there’s lots of way to do it, and you’d end up with better results for everyone.

      5. Heck, I strongly suspect that if I were blind, I’d vastly prefer having a braille set of bus schedules then an automated voice telling me to hold onto the handrails.

        Yes, because it is really easy to imagine what your preferences would be if your life were completely different. I strongly suspect if I were blind, I’d be a gold-medal archer.

        :)

      6. New York City subway stations I’ve been through don’t have all those repetitive announcements… why are such notifications required here but not there?

        Mind the Gap! Starts to play in your mind like “It’s a Small World” :=

      7. ADA passed in 1990. NYC subway opened in 1904.

        Reading between the lines, I think you mean that it’s covered under a grandfather clause. Gotcha. Thanks.

      8. “Wouldn’t it suffice to have instructions in Braille?”

        Messages such as “then next northbound train will be arriving n 2 minutes” wouldn’t be functional. Messages about standing behind the yellow line are necessary to save lives (people still manage to screw it up), and not everyone is literate so even written messages would be missed.

      9. The “stand behind the yellow line” messages are NOT required by the ADA or the ADAAG.

        (The textured platform edge IS required.)

        The “stand behind the yellow line” messages are the usual American lawsuit-avoidance; repeat messages telling idiots not to be stupid, because otherwise some idiot will sue you because they were stupid and you didn’t tell them not to be stupid.

      1. Would you find rules-of-the-road announcements on every street corner annoying? Is that hypothetical really that different?

      2. 1) Street corners are much more common than train stations.
        2) In the future trains may be going to more than one location. I don’t know how you expect braille to tell you the next train coming is going to Bellevue instead of the Airport.
        3) New street crossings do have similar features. “Wait” and “Chirp” sounds.

      3. I do agree with you a bit: I think they are annoying. But I’m annoyed by tons of things.

      4. I wouldn’t mind an announcement saying where the train is going. That’s why I didn’t call out the “next train… northbound… is arriving in…” announcements. They are comparable to the wait/chirp/bleep of the crosswalks and those are fine. They convey timely information.

        I don’t even have an issue with the (new?) semi-automated rules announcements on some of the metro buses (“Do not eat, or drink, from uncovered containers” / move to the back of the bus / stand behind the yellow line). Those are driver-initiated and so are theoretically only triggered when they are relevant, plus they provide a pseudo third-party that I suspect helps prevent driver/rider confrontations.

        What I take issue with is the recurring, vacuous, sheep-herding junk. Those messages are not useful, they’re belittling, and they just add to the noise. (And if they ever broadcast “I’m so glad I’m a beta”, then forget it, I’m out.)

      5. Ok I am with you. Let’s talk to KCM about it, because it is annoying and it seems to come just often enough to be obnoxious.

        And if they ever broadcast “I’m so glad I’m a beta”, then forget it, I’m out.

        Yes, but you’ll have soma…

  4. Now convince them to get a better voice for the announcements. It would also be great if they did a “service quality” announcement every 10 minutes like the London Underground.

    “Attention all passengers. Central Link is operating with good service at this time.”

    Or:

    “Attention all passengers. Central Link is operating with minor delays between the International District Station and Stadium Station. A good service is operating on the rest of the line.”

    1. I second the better voice recommendation. Text-to-speech has come a long way; way beyond the barely intelligible tunnel voice which doesn’t pause properly between words or even emphasize the correct syllables. Also, let’s use the real time info signs to display real time info, starting with arrivals. With no cellular or wifi in the tunnel, arrival info is a necessity.

      1. And, yet again, a printed schedule for Link – at the earliest opportunity (already 3+ years late).

  5. Why do we spend the money on electronic display screens in the tunnel stations, only to fill them with information that’s always the same and everyone should already know (e.g. “downtown transit tunnel”), when we could instead populate the signs with real-time arrival info on buses and trains that serve the station.

    This would be especially useful given the tunnel’s lack of cell phone reception blocking OneBusAway, and considering the fact that there are several types of connections where real-time information would be important into deciding whether to stay in the tunnel or exit to the street to catch your desired bus.

    1. I agree with this comment. When I was in the Bay Area a couple years back, the real-time arrival system on BART was exceedingly convenient.

      1. Long-term, we should really have real-time arrival signs at both the street-level entrance and the platform level of all the tunnel stops.

        I once had an experience with Bart where I paid my fare and walked down to the platform level only to see that my train wasn’t coming for another 20 minutes. However, since I had already paid my fare and couldn’t leave the station and come back when the train got closer without having to pay again, I was left with no alternative but to sit there and wait the full 20 minutes until the train showed up. Had the same arrival information signs been present at the entrance level, before the fare gates, the trip would have been much more pleasant.

      2. That situation wouldn’t really apply to Link here. You could either tap out and leave the fare paid area, or don’t tap out, then when you return don’t tap in. Either way, you’re good if a fare inspector comes around to check you.

      3. Also with Link, if you tap a second time at the same station within 15-ish minutes, it cancels the trip and refunds your deposit.

  6. From what I remember, the automated messages were very loud and FREQUENT. Super annoying and made me want to tune everything out – which like another commenter noted, might make me miss a more important announcement. I watched a london tube video and they had someone watch the live feeds of the stations and would use an automated message or a personal message (Hey! Guy with red shirt standing too close to the ledge – step back!) when needed. But I think we have those people in bright green vests who walk around and….do what?

    1. Indeed. Making loud announcements which provide no useful information causes people to IGNORE the important announcements.

      Auditory information, over a PA system, needs to be restricted to key information so that people don’t tune it out.

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