Hero: TTC Automated Announcements

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Hero: TTC Automated Announcements

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains of 2007––the people, places, and things that we’ve either fallen head over heels in love with or developed uncontrollable rage towards over the past twelve months. Get your dose, starting Boxing Day and running into the new year, three times a day––sunrise, noon, and sunset.
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Riders of the TTC may have noticed a new kind of stop announcement on buses and streetcars over the last few months, and it’s a welcome change. LED panels mounted to the ceiling behind the driver now display the upcoming stop, accompanied by an automatic, emotionless female voice (although not the calming lilt of TTC employee Susan Bigioni used in the subway system). We see a missed opportunity here—the TTC could have a tourist draw and instant geek-cred had they solicited Majel Barrett, voice of the U.S.S. Enterprise and wife of Gene Roddenberry, to record the voice.
Granted, the TTC had to be forced into using the automated stop system. In July, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Commission discriminated against visually-impaired transit users by only announcing some stops or not using the public address system at all. Though a plan to install an automated announcement system had been in the works for more than a decade, the TTC mounted an undue hardship defence at the tribunal, claiming that driver-initiated announcements for all stops were too dangerous, but then boasted of drivers who already announce all stops.
The ruling fast-tracked the existing plan to automate announcements and display stops. On surface transit, the automation is done by GPS, whereas the subway operates by transponder. It works well, despite having to annoyingly flash back and forth when the text is too long for the screen. For example, when approaching Yonge Street on the King streetcar, the display reads KING SUBWAY on the first screen, and then flashes to a strangely truncated and unnecessary STN. Still, they’re fantastic not only for the visually impaired and casual riders, but essential for tourists too.
Photo by Miles Storey.

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