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automated announcement errors

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Some buses have automated announcements outdoors that verbalize the destination sign. Twice, I've heard usability errors that would often confuse people thinking of boarding. I've reported both to MTA.info. I wouldn't know if the errors were corrected. Perhaps other people hear similar errors and might report them. Here are the two I heard:

--- A bus was headed to W 37 St. The system said "double-you". It should have said "west". On another day, after I reported the first bus to the MTA, another bus made the same error.

--- A bus was on the B36 route. It was announced as the "Bounty 36" or "Bouncy 36" (probably "Bounty 36"). It should have said "Bee 36".

By the way, the latter bus was not bouncy. I stood in it for a short ride and it was just fine.

An algorithm to govern pronunciations would be complicated, because, for example, "E" would be pronounced differently in different contexts. If the destination happened to be "Alfred E Smith Park", we should not say "Alfred Emanuel Smith Park" or ever "Alfred East Smith Park". The likelihood is that the best programming method is to write an algorithm, search the vocabulary for what is not accommodated by the algorithm, tweak the algorithm, search again, tweak more, and so on. This costs money.

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Sounds like the MTA is trying to do too much with the exterior voice announcements. Ours says the route/route name and destination, like "Route 710, Nine Mile to Telegraph" or "Route 460, Woodward, to Somerset, via Royal Oak" -- in the male voice that reads the stops inside. Then the female voice says, "Please have your fare ready before boarding." (Might be kind of novel for the MTA to have that last part included, even if just for giggles.)

The announcements should be keyed into the system just like how the stops are, so it sounds like a whole lot of human error at that starting point -- and not actually "proofing" (listening) to the final product.

Hardly surprising.

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The Q46 goes to "Leeej" hospital instead of "LIJ" (which isn't even the correct name anymore, but that's a separate point). Why can't they just have someone record the correct pronunciation?!

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B82 at Kings Highway and McDonald Av goes into Mac Doneld Av on the XD-40s

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6 hours ago, QM1to6Ave said:

The Q46 goes to "Leeej" hospital instead of "LIJ" (which isn't even the correct name anymore, but that's a separate point). Why can't they just have someone record the correct pronunciation?!

Good example of not keying things correctly. I think there is a way for "local pronunciation" streets to be done via microphone-to-computer. As an example, one of our major streets is GRATIOT. It's pronounced "GRAH-shut" (with short 'a' like 'apple'), but is frequently mispronounced by non-Detroiters as "GRAH-tee-ut". The 'Clever dude' recites it properly.

Here's another example of not keying things right. SMART only serves Detroit and Downtown along main corridors (closed-door, drop-off southbound/pick-up northbound) during weekday Peak times, except for the FAST-Limited Stop routes on Gratiot Av, Woodward Av and Michigan Av, operating to/from Downtown 7 days. On the 461/462 Woodward routes, southbound at three major transfer points, DDOT route transfers are not announced; HOWEVER, on northbound routes they are (Mack Av: 31 and 47 [even though the 47 only during weekday Peak times], Warren Av/Wayne State University: 8, and Trowbridge St: 38 [southbound stop at Collingwood St not announced]).

Another thing that's interesting is, SMART has become enamored with Facebook-ing about how their FAST routes can get suburbanites to events/festivals in Downtown Detroit (which is noble, granted). Yet somehow along the Woodward Av corridor -- a hotbed of activity since it's been overhauled, and the centerpiece of the comeback of Detroit -- the 'Clever dude' isn't used to inform customers of the points of interest at the stops being served. Even though DDOT has an antique AVL system, the Local Route 4 announcements point out the following (and have been for almost 10 years) at the same FAST stops [shuttling those suburbanites]:

  • Baltimore St--DDOT: "Exit next stop for Amtrak Station"; FAST: silence (could be the same or "New Center area" could be added
  • Warren Av--DDOT: "Transfer connection to Route 8, Warren. Exit next stop for Wayne State University"; FAST: silence, same could be announced, as well as adding "Detroit Cultural Center", since the stops to the north are announced as Cultural Center as well as "Detroit Main Library" on Route 4
  • Mack Av--DDOT two blocks north: "Exit next stop for Detroit Medical Center"; FAST: crickets again

In all of these cases, the system is not the problem. The people programming it are responsible for the errors and not exploiting its full capabilities.

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