WASHINGTON (WUSA9) – A WUSA9 analysis found 79% of 115 Metrorail announcements tested were either unclear or very unclear.
The numbers are in stark contrast to The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's first response to our inquiry.
"That is diametrically opposite our experience with PA (speakers)," said WMATA Spokesman Dan Stessel. "Three or four cars per month fail PA (speaker) tests."
Metro and WUSA9 test differently.
WUSA9 rode through DC, into Virginia, and Maryland recording announcements from every line in the system.
Four WUSA9 investigative staffers listened to recordings of 115 announcements, giving each one a grade of clear, unclear, or very unclear.
"We do testing empirically here." WMATA's Stessel said. "A mystery rider program, which is done through a vendor."
WMATA's denials, tweets, and refusals to do an interview sparked a social media call for a Metro Intervention which WUSA9 held at Farragut North Metro Monday.
Metro acknowledges speaker trouble
Metro remained unresponsive to inquiries on the subject except for one statement that acknowledge speaker troubles significantly larger than the three or four per month Stessel initially claimed.
"In the most recent quarter, mystery riders found that announcements were understandable 85 percent of the time," said Metro Spokeswoman Caroline Laurin. "Metro uses a third-party "mystery rider" contractor to monitor the quality of train announcements, as well as other aspects of service."
Laurin nor Stessel would provide a copy of the report or explain the methods used to determine which announcements were understandable.
Metro GM says speakers replaced by end of decade
After the WUSA9 Metro Intervention, Metro's general manager, Richard Sarles, addressed the speaker issue in an online chat with the Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock.
Sarles said, pending funding, the issue will be addressed by the new 7000 series cars with automated announcements.
He estimated half the fleet would be in place by the end of the decade.
How WUSA9 graded Metro's announcements
In the WUSA9 analysis, each staff member graded the announcements independently.
WUSA9 tested 115 announcements.
In order to qualify as "clear," three of the four WUSA9 testers would have had to graded the announcement as clear.
21% of Metro announcements were graded as clear in our test.
Only when all four WUSA9 testers rated an announcement as "very unclear" was the audio listed as "very unclear."
Of the 79% rated unclear or worst, our analysis found 36% very unclear and 43% somewhat unclear.
See the results yourself
In the link below, you'll see under the analysis tab (far left) the final rating for each announcement.
You'll note, in the four categories to the right, that often testers disagreed, which is why the analysis might say clear, while one of the testers found it unclear, or it could be labeled unclear when two testers found it clear, but two testers found it unclear.
Only when all testers found it very unclear was it rated as very unclear.