Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by byte
 
metraRI wrote:Human or not, there will always be flaws, but I'd take the pre-recorded announcements over a mumbling conductor any day.
With you on this one. I've noticed the PA systems on the older cars (the Budds) are pretty sub-par in comparison to the newer ADA cars and manual crew announcements (delays, "first three cars only," etc), when made from those cars, are extra crackl-y (seems that the microphones are the cause). Better to just automate the whole thing and keep the voice hard wired and at a constant volume. Also, some of the lines' short station spacings (< 3 minutes between stops) make manual announcements impractical and an inconvenience better left in the past. RI Beverly Branch, much of the MED, and some BNSF rush hour locals come to mind.

Also, I don't think the satellite system operates the in-station announcements, and suspect they may instead be tied in with the track circuits used to actuate the crossing gates and signal blocks (or maybe it's tied in with both?). Correct me if you know I'm wrong, though.
  by F40CFan
 
byte wrote:Better to just automate the whole thing and keep the voice hard wired and at a constant volume.
I don't think they remotely control the volume. I've been in cars where the volume was so loud that you had to cover your ears, others where it was so quiet you could barely hear it and still others that crackled so much you couldn't make out a word.
  by byte
 
By "constant volume" I mean the announcements are recorded with clarity in a studio environment, not from in the vestibule by the conductor, who can get distracted and turn their head away from the microphone or get drowned out by the air conditioner or by clattering if the train's going over a diamond.

Crackling and bad volume in individual cars is another issue, not unique to manual or automated announcements, and the cause is usually that car's amplifier going bad. However, poorly done manual announcements tend to magnify this problem, especially since Mr. Satellite only operates out of cabs (all of which are newer) and thus the old, static-y microphones on the older cars aren't used.
  by F40CFan
 
Valid points. However, I don't think Mr. Satellite uses the microphone. Its just patched into the PA system.
  by F40CFan
 
Apparently the bug is spreading. 2217 announces Cragin and Hermosa as does 2220. They need to fix their toys.
  by byte
 
Check the numbers on the cabs on those trains, and see if you find one that's new to the Milwaukee.

More than likely one or more were pulled off another line (probably the Rock or HC), re-assigned to the Milwaukee districts and haven't yet gotten their Mr. Satellite firmware re-flashed to reflect the change in stations on the line. This seems like an oversight at Western Avenue as I don't recall any issues like this when the SWS was extended to Manhattan (all BNSF cabs would need updating) or when the UP-W was extended to Elburn (need to update all UP cabs).
  by F40CFan
 
I will, but I'm sure the one on 2227 we've had for quite a while. The same for 2220.
  by doepack
 
byte wrote:Check the numbers on the cabs on those trains, and see if you find one that's new to the Milwaukee.

More than likely one or more were pulled off another line (probably the Rock or HC), re-assigned to the Milwaukee districts and haven't yet gotten their Mr. Satellite firmware re-flashed to reflect the change in stations on the line. This seems like an oversight at Western Avenue as I don't recall any issues like this when the SWS was extended to Manhattan (all BNSF cabs would need updating) or when the UP-W was extended to Elburn (need to update all UP cabs).
There were a few glitches after the Elburn extension opened, I recall that it took a few weeks for the GeoFocus to be re-programmed correctly so that the Elburn stop was added to train 47 (the conductor would usually come on and make the correction, not that anyone was listening). More amusing were the initial changes to the audio announcements at OTC, which are attuned to the video displays of a certain trains' number, destination, departure time, and track number. When the Elburn extension came online, the announcements for the other routes were seamless, but for the west line, it sounded something like this:

"train number 47 to... (Elburn) is departing from track number 4 at 5:04pm"

It was a re-recording of the original announcement with "Elburn" done in a different voice. Sounded quite tacky, but that has long since been fixed, thank goodness. Overall, the shop forces at California Ave. did a pretty good job converting everything over, there hasn't been any lingering problems, unlike what's been happening on the Milwaukee side...
  by F40CFan
 
byte wrote:Check the numbers on the cabs on those trains, and see if you find one that's new to the Milwaukee.
Last night we had cab car 8541 on 2227.
  by byte
 
Well, that explains it. 8541 was a Rock cab up until it "disappeared" from there maybe a month ago.
  by F40CFan
 
Had cab car 8521 on 2234 this morning. It also called out Cragin and Hermosa.
  by lstone19
 
Tonight (10/13/11) on 2239, we had Hermosa announced as a stop. After that, nothing announced until Itasca (scheduled after Western Ave., it's all stops Bensenville to Roselle, then Elgin and Big Timber).
  by F40CFan
 
2227 may or may not call out stops from Western to Bensenville. Many times the first announcement is for approaching Wood Dale. It does call the proper train number and stops at CUS, so the conductor is entering it properly. Its just a pile of crap. The conductor always makes a live announcement once we depart and its much more useful.
  by F40CFan
 
Well, here's a new one. I was waiting on the platform for 2220 this morning and the automated station announcement came on and said that the train was running 5 minutes late due to "waiting on other trains en route" and "accommodating passenger boarding". Huh? Aren't passenger trains supposed to board passengers? The train was not crowded by any means. I asked the conductor about it and he said it was a new one to him and had no idea what it meant. Seriously, they need to either make useful announcements or scrap this ridiculous system. They still haven't got the announcements right on 2227 either. As usual, the only useful announcements were made by the train crew.