[Editor's Note: Please see my post noting that the bulletin I'm reporting on here was not complete and not ready for release.]
The CTA is training motormen to give its riders a clear, consistent message explaining the cause of rail delays, according to a rail service bulletin issued last week.
The bulletin, found by a CTA Tattler reader on a train, states the problem that I've been complaining about for the last nine years on this blog:
"One of the biggest challenges that we face is getting clear, concise and accurate information to our customers during delays and incidents. The pre-recorded announcement system assures consistently correct, clear and helpful announcements. However, there are times when a manual announcement from the Operator can be more effective. . . . One issue with manual announcements is making sure that we are giving customers accurate information about the delay or incident and that we are all not only saying the same thing, but we are saying it in the same way. [Emphasis mine.]
The memo goes on to give an example where "Tower 18 experiences a total loss of indications and the switches and the switches have to be manually operated during the heart of the PM rush hour."
It notes that a Pink Line operator may attribute the delay to" switching problems." A Pink Line rider may then exit at Clark/Lake to await a Purple Line train, and hear the communications coordinator tell riders that the delay is due to "track circuit failures in the Loop." Then the rider boards a Purple Line train and gets an announcement explaining that there was a "micro lock failure in the tower."
"Even though all these announcements may be accurate, a customer . . . may be left confused and thinking that we don't know what is going on or how to fix it." [Emphasis mine.]
Yes, that's exactly what we're thinking! So here's how the CTA is trying to fix that and "make sure we are telling the customer the same thing in the same way when we make manual announcements:"
The CTA is posting in all motor cabs and kiosks what it calls "Manual Announcement Delays Messages" decals. One column lists "delay types" such as (B) "Attention customers: We are experiencing major delays due to...." And the second column details the "incident types" such as (5) "signal problems."
So in the example above, the rail controller will call the runs involved and tell them to inform "your customers using Manual Announcement B5."
The operator would look in the left column for "B" and in the right column for "5" and announce:
"Attention customers: We are experiencing major delays due to signal problems. We apologize for the delay. Thank you."
So simple. And yet this could be very effective. Let's hope it works.
Read the full text of the CTA Rail Service Bulletin on Manual Announcement Delay Messages. (NOTE: I have removed this link because I subsequently learned this bulletin is not final.)