Stressful on-board announcements

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

Ferroequinologist

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
293
I rode Amtrak train 172 the other day. The equipment was in good shape, clean and the temperature just right. The problem was the constant announcements made in a harsh, aggressive voice over a PA system that was so loud that it must have been at maximum volume. Colleague with me is a foreigner and was really annoyed at how aggressive the announcements were - repeated blaring about the same station stops, constant orders to keep masks on etc. Then crew come through frequently with their blaring static filled walkie talkies. It was really an unpleasant experience. Must it be like this?
 

Cal

Conductor
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
1,042
Location
Socal
Most announcements I've heard have been fine, sometimes a bit loud, but nothing terrible. And personally, I like hearing the walkie talkies, it's a train vibe
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
27,551
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
I wish Amtrak would install more modern displays in cars and provide more upto date status information on them continuously rather than making frequent loud announcements. Of course announcements cannot be totally foregone since that is the only channel of information available to those that have inadequate eyesight. But display of upto date information continuously is very useful for the rest.
 
Last edited:

RebelRider

Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Messages
107
Location
America's Railroad
I rode Amtrak train 172 the other day. The equipment was in good shape, clean and the temperature just right. The problem was the constant announcements made in a harsh, aggressive voice over a PA system that was so loud that it must have been at maximum volume. Colleague with me is a foreigner and was really annoyed at how aggressive the announcements were - repeated blaring about the same station stops, constant orders to keep masks on etc. Then crew come through frequently with their blaring static filled walkie talkies. It was really an unpleasant experience. Must it be like this?
Not excusing your experience at all, which sounds very unpleasant, just a few notes:

1) The equipment is old. PA volume cannot be adjusted by crews. In some cars it is deafeningly loud and in others so quiet you can't hear it when the train is stopped with the air conditioning turned off. They get written up and eventually mechanical will adjust.

2) There are supposed to be mask announcements whenever passengers board the train and as needed in response to those "forgetting" their mask fell off, in additional to the personal follow up provided to those folks. It is required, being audited and crews have been written up for not making the mask announcements.

3) Aggressive announcements don't help at all. If someone has their headphones on and is ignoring the competent, professional announcements they're going to ignore the aggressive ones, too. And if they miss their stop as a result, maybe they'll pay better attention next time. No need to punish the many for the ignorance of a few.

I wish Amtrak would install more modern displays i cars and provide more upto date status information on them continuously rather than making frequent loud announcements. Of course announcements cannot be totally foregone sice that is the only channel of information available to those that have inadequate eyesight. But display of upto date information continuously is very useful for the rest.
The electronic dot-matrix EXIT THIS WAY signs on each end of the Amfleet cars used to be programmable, but they just cycled through a couple static messages and each sign had to be independently updated with a cable, IIRC. No provision for dynamic messaging of upcoming stations, etc. I'd love to see them replaced with LCD signs that provided all sorts of useful information, but that's not going to happen in the Amfleets. There was a Digital Train Line project installing highspeed data connections between cars, but that project seems to have been abandoned. It's a square orange box you'll see on the end of some cars. It was meant to provide faster Wi-Fi and a backbone for onboard technology like this.

The new trainsets, whenever they're ordered, will likely have these signs. Thinking about it, digital signage on new trains may also include automated, digital announcements. There are probably some ADA aspects that apply requiring both audible and visual announcements be the same. Hopefully Julie won't get mad and switch to Aggressive Announcement Mode en-route. :D
 

bratkinson

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 7, 2004
Messages
893
Location
QB 101
I rode Amtrak train 172 the other day. The problem was the constant announcements made in a harsh, aggressive voice over a PA system that was so loud that it must have been at maximum volume.
Don't ride train 66 WAS to NYP! Full volume announcements, consistently less than 10 minutes apart, repeated by assistant conductor. Repeated more frequently approaching next stop. Throw in lights on full brightness....10PM-2AM give or take! Try sleeping through THAT!
 

Ferroequinologist

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
293
Don't ride train 66 WAS to NYP! Full volume announcements, consistently less than 10 minutes apart, repeated by assistant conductor. Repeated more frequently approaching next stop. Throw in lights on full brightness....10PM-2AM give or take! Try sleeping through THAT!
That's pretty much what we experienced. Equipment appeared in excellent condition. Can't see how that was an issue. Anyway someone said mask announcements are required at each station. Is that some federal law? I can' believe that there is a person who doesn't know that - can't signs be posted? And why must announcements be shouted in such unpleasant tones - and then the endless walkie talkie static. Such an unpleasant experience. Unless the Japanese have changed since I was there, I'm sure they do it a lot better.
 

Trollopian

Service Attendant
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
Messages
133
Location
Washington, DC and Pittsburgh, PA
Being someone who is hard of hearing, I appreciate “loud” announcements. Soft announcements are usually just noise to me which means I could miss an important announcement.
Also hard of hearing (childhood measles, pre-vaccine). "Loud" helps, but "clear" is equally important. I wish Amtrak, DC's Metro, airlines, and any business that relies on PA systems made sure that employees doing the announcements enunciated slowly and clearly. It really is part of the job.
 

AmtrakBlue

Conductor
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
12,194
Location
Delaware
Also hard of hearing (childhood measles, pre-vaccine). "Loud" helps, but "clear" is equally important. I wish Amtrak, DC's Metro, airlines, and any business that relies on PA systems made sure that employees doing the announcements enunciated slowly and clearly. It really is part of the job.
Totally agree.
 

Maglev

Conductor
Joined
Sep 4, 2016
Messages
1,067
Location
Orcas Island, Washington
There were video monitors on the Talgo VI trains that showed a route map with current location, speed, and projected arrival times. In later years, they fell into disrepair or disuse.

I was on a Coast Starlight where the cafe attendant's microphone wasn't working properly. But he continued to make very long announcements that were barely audible, with no other staff members' telling him. It wasn't until the next day that I heard them doing sound checks from the cafe.
 

Palmland

OBS Chief
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
948
Location
Carolinas
One of our best trips was on a sleeper where the PA was broken. We didn't have to hear about wearing shoes between cars, the break schedule of the SSL server, station announcements, or the repetitive safety announcements after every stop which I guess is necessary in the coaches but why sleepers? In the 'good old day', which I'm sure many are tired of hearing about, your SCA did that face to face only as necessary for your destination. The only exception was someone from the dining car staff would walk through, often with a melodious chime, and announce 'first call for dinner in the dining car'. It can still be done, as we found on a A-T trip a couple years ago with a superb SCA (and of course no intermediate stops).
 

Dakota 400

Conductor
Joined
Mar 5, 2014
Messages
2,711
Also hard of hearing (childhood measles, pre-vaccine). "Loud" helps, but "clear" is equally important. I wish Amtrak, DC's Metro, airlines, and any business that relies on PA systems made sure that employees doing the announcements enunciated slowly and clearly. It really is part of the job.
I become irritated when some leave a message on my answering machine and they talk so rapidly that I have to play the message several times to understand what the person said.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
3,426
Count me as someone who loves hearing the chatter on the conductors radio as he walks through the train. “Amtrak 20 has a clear at Irondale OUT”

Also... while not Amtrak, I LOVED hearing the NJ Transit conductors yell out towns in a thick jersey accent. “Change for Hoboken at Seacaucus!”
 

bms

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
388
Location
Cleveland
Personally I think the announcements are just part of the train experience. I like how a lot of the conductors on the Western trains make announcements about the history of the route, the sites we are passing by, wishing a passenger a Happy Birthday. I had the same conductor, Brad, for three or four trips between Denver and Glenwood Springs; he is so knowledgable about the route that he narrated the route with totally different facts and anecdotes on each trip, and really added to the experience.
 

Cal

Conductor
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
1,042
Location
Socal
Personally I think the announcements are just part of the train experience. I like how a lot of the conductors on the Western trains make announcements about the history of the route, the sites we are passing by, wishing a passenger a Happy Birthday. I had the same conductor, Brad, for three or four trips between Denver and Glenwood Springs; he is so knowledgable about the route that he narrated the route with totally different facts and anecdotes on each trip, and really added to the experience.
Recently I haven't had many conductors do that, only a coach attendant who pointed a few things out. I think Amtrak should really get route guides again, would be very nice for passengers who care about the scenery
 

bms

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
388
Location
Cleveland
Recently I haven't had many conductors do that, only a coach attendant who pointed a few things out. I think Amtrak should really get route guides again, would be very nice for passengers who care about the scenery
Yeah it seems to be getting less and less common. There is less of a community on the train, and it's more just different people going to different places.

I never had a Pennsylvanian conductor fail to mention the Horseshoe Curve, but there are plenty of other sights in the East like the abandoned castle in the Hudson River, which is never pointed out. I saw it myself maybe my 10th time on the route.

Of course my favorite conductor Brad has the good fortune of working on a really beautiful route, but I can't think of any Amtrak route that doesn't have at least a few sights worth pointing out.
 

Seaboard92

Conductor
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
4,103
Location
South Carolina
One of my favorite crews out of Huntington in the lounge car would give a historical commentary the whole way from Charlottesville to Huntington but you had to know he was doing it. He wouldn't do it on the intercom just if you were in the lounge.
 

TrackWalker

############
AU Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 19, 2009
Messages
281
Location
Rural Pacific Northwet
There was a conductor on the AMTK Cascades that when traversing the coastline south of Bellingham spoke sympathetically of the endangered grey gulls flying outside (seagulls) and announce when we were passing Point Tunga Bunga (his name for the local nudist beach.) Of course, he did this all with a straight face.
 

PaTrainFan

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 1, 2017
Messages
268
Location
Pittsburgh, Pa.
I think it's great when on board personnel bring some personality into the trip. Of course, different strokes for different folks. It can entertain some while annoying others. But let's not go to lifeless pre-recorded announcements such as we now hear on "modern" transit systems.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Cal

Cal

Conductor
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
1,042
Location
Socal
I think it's great when on board personnel bring some personality into the trip. Of course, different strokes for different folks. It can entertain some while annoying others. But let's not go to lifeless pre-recorded announcements such as we now hear on "modern" transit systems.
Agreed!
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
3,426
I think it's great when on board personnel bring some personality into the trip. Of course, different strokes for different folks. It can entertain some while annoying others. But let's not go to lifeless pre-recorded announcements such as we now hear on "modern" transit systems.
And in Penn Station - the regular live announcer was a master! I think her voice still plays by the escalators.
 

NSC1109

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 14, 2016
Messages
401
Location
MI
I rode Amtrak train 172 the other day. The equipment was in good shape, clean and the temperature just right. The problem was the constant announcements made in a harsh, aggressive voice over a PA system that was so loud that it must have been at maximum volume. Colleague with me is a foreigner and was really annoyed at how aggressive the announcements were - repeated blaring about the same station stops, constant orders to keep masks on etc. Then crew come through frequently with their blaring static filled walkie talkies. It was really an unpleasant experience. Must it be like this?
Masks are required on all public transport systems. Trainmasters have likely been instructed to do frequent audits to ensure the crew is enforcing the law and taking action if someone is disobeying. As a result, masks announcements are frequent.

Station stop announcements are also a frequent occurrence because passengers are pretty clueless sometimes. They have headphones in, they’re talking, or otherwise not paying attention to the Conductor. If working in the airlines has taught me anything, it’s that non-attentive passengers can be some of the dumbest people on the planet.

Radios are required by company policy and I’m sure by law. The Conductor isn’t there for your aesthetic pleasure. Their first priority is the safety of the train and its passengers and crew, not comfort.

If you go to Amtrak’s website, you can see their On Board Service Standards Manual. That will provide some insight into why they do certain things.

 
Last edited:

me_little_me

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,864
Also hard of hearing (childhood measles, pre-vaccine). "Loud" helps, but "clear" is equally important. I wish Amtrak, DC's Metro, airlines, and any business that relies on PA systems made sure that employees doing the announcements enunciated slowly and clearly. It really is part of the job.
I'm had of hearing and low volume is not the problem. Clarity is. I can compensate for low volume by upping the sound in my hearing aids but there is no way to make garbled sound understandable no matter how loud it is. In fact, likely their turning up the volume is what causes the lack of clarity because of poor quality or installation of the amplifiers and speakers.
 

tim49424

Conductor
Joined
Dec 20, 2010
Messages
4,789
Location
Holland, MI
I ride in the sleepers on LD trips and rarely am I able to hear announcements. I actually enjoy hearing them and wish the sound system was better and controllable by the passengers. I also feel for those who are bothered by them as well.
 

Cal

Conductor
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
1,042
Location
Socal
Top