B Train Rated Worst For Announcements

Source: Ralph Hockens/Flickr

The train screeched to a halt somewhere after DeKalb Avenue and before the bridge. It was summertime, probably about five years ago, and though the air conditioning stayed on, it lost out to the sweltering heat of the tunnel and the stench of other riders. A baby cried. Someone had smelly food. Everyone looked confused.

It took 10 minutes before there was an announcement, and when it finally came, it sounded like the conductor had swallowed a kazoo and was delivering his much-anticipated oration from the other end of a cave. In that cave was a large, rushing river. And bats, stirred to a screeching fury. And a very vocal constipated ox.

Needless to say, I never figured out why the train got stuck that day – for about 40 minutes, too – and I’ll likely never know. But I take heart in knowing that just about every other rider of every other train has a similar story, because, years ago, this wasn’t so uncommon.

Today, though, it’s apparently something that’s more likely to happen on the B line than anywhere else. A Straphangers Campaign survey found that the B train has the worst announcements of any subway line in New York City, with infrequent and garbled announcements rendering the system useless nearly half the time (45 percent) for basic, non-delay related announcements alone.

Overall, the system appears to be improving. The survey found that 83 percent of basic announcements – conveying information like route, station and transfer details – throughout the subway system are clear and frequent. But citywide, surveyors did find that, when delayed, there were no announcements 60 percent of the time, or those announcements were garbled.

Why the disparity? Well, newer trains are equipped with automated, pre-recorded announcements, and the better speaker systems of the newer trains – like our Q train that performed well 80 percent of the time – have cleaner audio. When delayed, though, the conductor is responsible for making timely announcements, a step it appears many are skipping.

Got a “stuck on the subway” horror story? Share it in the comments!