When Announcements Cease to be Useful

October 9, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Ding-dong. Doors closing.

Anyone who’s been on a CTA train is familiar with the announcement that comes just before the doors close. I can recall several times when the announcement plays just before the doors close.

I can’t count the number of times it is played 2, 3, 4, even 5 times before the doors close. Or just when the doors have opened to a crowded platform.

That’s when announcements such as the “doors closing” announcement on many train lines ceases to be useful. At least in Chicago, the announcement is commanded by the driver, who often plays it just as the doors open. The doors never close just as they open, especially during crowded weekday rush periods. So why do the drivers find it necessary to play the announcement several times before the doors actually close? It certainly doesn’t get anyone on or off the train faster. I wouldn’t even call the announcement on the CTA’s new 5000-series rail cars an improvement. There is a small white light (it’s not very noticeable from a distance like a red light would be) and a faint chime that plays as the doors are closing, in addition to the same announcement that is already played [several times].

Maybe I’m being picky, but doesn’t this just render the announcement useless? If the purpose of it is to inform people that the doors are closing, shouldn’t it play once just before the doors actually close? On many other transportation systems, the announcement plays just before and while the doors are closing, stopping only once all doors are closed. This is kind of annoying on the Paris Métro (as well as the RER, Transilien, and TGV), where it is a constant buzzing noise that (I’m guessing) starts when the driver presses a button and does not stop buzzing until all the doors are shut. It may be annoying, but it plays once, and it is effective. The S-Bahn in Berlin has a three-tone chime that plays, with the final tone playing as the doors are shutting. Also effective and without words, so it’s understandable to people of many languages.

The “doors closing” announcement on the CTA isn’t useful because people widely ignore it. When the drivers play the announcement so often (sometimes, it seems, out of annoyance or to rush people), it stops being an announcement of information and announcement of formality.

If you have heard a more effective announcement on other transportation systems, tell me about it in the comments. I haven’t been on too many other networks outside of western Europe and North America, so I’d be interested in learning.