Mike the Mad Biologist

The MBTA in its infinite wisdom has started a pilot program to commercialize the public announcement system at subway stops:

The roar of subway cars and chords of amateur musicians at the T station will now face competition from Neil Diamond songs, 1970s trivia, and live playoff updates from Fenway Park.

It comes from T-Radio, an experiment that began yesterday at three stations and may someday broadcast on every subway platform in Eastern Massachusetts. Disc jockeys and media personalities will mix in light news, weather, entertainment tips, and the like. If it proves popular enough to go full time, commuters will be subjected to eight to 10 minutes of commercials per hour.

MBTA officials say they want to break up the humdrum experience – some call it peace and quiet – of waiting for a train.

“People are pretty sick of hearing my voice drone on,” said Daniel A. Grabauskas, general manager of the MBTA, whose recorded safety warnings have long been the closest thing to official entertainment on the platform.

During yesterday’s launch at North Station, he made a halfhearted comparison to the dawning of the MTV era. Then he gave a signal, and T Radio played its first song: “Charlie on the MTA,” the 1959 Kingston Trio hit that is the pride of transportation zealots in Greater Boston.

Yes, making hundreds of Bostonians trapped in a dark, climatically challenged hole listen to Neil Fucking Diamond is a great idea…if you want a riot. How empty an inner life must you have if you can’t stand still and think for five minutes? How vapid and mindless are you? Maybe you believe that demons will fly into your head if the music doesn’t drive them away? But this was the part of the story that really pissed me off:

Grabauskas said he does not know how much profit, if any, the MBTA would reap in the deal. Pyramid radio, started two years ago, has been piping music into Logan International Airport and big box retail stores in recent months.

The last time I flew out of Logan (a few months ago), this station was playing. It was truly annoying: I couldn’t nap, read, or do work. It’s certainly not “discreet”:

The volume went up and down erratically in the first few minutes, drowning out conversation. But Grabauskas promised a discreet radio station that would allow people to talk and think if they so choose. He said microphones that will be installed throughout the system can pick up ambient noise levels and adjust the broadcast volume accordingly.

The MBTA, which is hemorrhaging money is going to spend money on a system to adjust the broadcast volume (read: be loud enough that there’s no way to avoid it)? This is so stupid–and the city might not make any money from this (which means the city definitely won’t).

What’s disturbing is that this the commercialization of what is supposed to be an emergency and information network. The subway is a public place and not every goddamn place has to be commercialized and sold to the highest bidder. I always thought government was supposed to protect us from noise pollution, not encourage it.

Comments

  1. #1 Graculus
    October 14, 2007

    And as a bonus any real announcements will be tuned out with the rest of the aural garbage.

    Anyway, I’m pretty sure this is in violation of several international treaties.

  2. #2 Joshua
    October 14, 2007

    These speakers will not last five minutes.