Canadian transit sounds project #voxtranspo

If you’ve taken public transit in most Canadian cities, the voices should be familiar to you: automated voices announcing your stop.

They are the sonic signposts of your daily commute. An aural window when you’re crammed between commuters in the centre aisle of the bus/metro/train.

People have been wondering about these little parts of their daily lives. Who gets to decide what we call places?

Whether it’s bilingual stop announcements in Ottawa or Spa-DIE-na vs. Spa-DEE-na in Toronto, these announcements can go from annoyances to controversies.

If you’re interested in contributing to this little project, a cross-country commute by sound send me an email (matthew dot kupfer at gmail dot com) or find me on Twitter @matthewkupfer or through the hashtag #voxtranspo.

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4 thoughts on “Canadian transit sounds project #voxtranspo

  1. I’ve spent half of my life on GO transit buses and trains commuting back and forth between Downtown Toronto and it’s western suburbs. In my first and second year of university, train rides were pretty straightforward– punch ticket, get on train, wait for stop, get off train and go home. Weekday commutes during the winter are the worst. I’ve been stuck on trains for hours for what should be a forty minute commute, sat around after having been soaked due to a rabid snowstorm.. Oh, the joys of a Canadian winter!

    Commuting in the summertime is a different story altogether. People smile more, converse more freely and are generally more cheerful. The summer is also when you find families commuting back and forth– for the CNE, TFC and Jays games, concerts or general picnics in the park. I love this time of year, as the general cacophony of conversations on the GO train is wide ranging and very entertaining. I once distinctly remember overhearing a family of three going to a baseball game: I believe it was the Yankees versus the Jays, and the two kids were supporting opposing sides. The most notable thing about their conversation wasn’t their bickering(there were occasional retorts here and there) but that their accents. The mother was definitely American but the kids sounded so Scottish that their conversation was often unintelligible.

    My favourite part about this time of year though, is the announcements from the conductors. GO Transit trains don’t have automated announcements but have a conductor on every train in the accessible coach who informs riders of station stops, construction etc. In the summer, depending on the train, the announcements turn into bite sized news reports. I’ve often ridden trains over weekends where announcers talk about baseball stats, the weather and miscellaneous events in the city.

    As an immigrant, I often feel that the most Canadian thing to say is “have a nice/great day” but it annoys me to no end when people say it due to force of habit. I’ve never ever felt this annoyance on the GO Train– in my opinion, you can hear the smile and the sincerity over the speaker phone. If Canadians are well known for being “nice and friendly” then the GO transit announcers are the most Canadian people ever. Forget the danishes and Second Cup coffees from Union station, the real treat of public transit in Ontario is the sunny nature of these announcers.

  2. I, like Naafia, adore whenever any transit system chooses human stop announcements over machine-operated ones.

    I have been a more-or-less daily user of various transit systems in the GTA for almost ten years. My favourite experiences have always been ones where an eccentric bus driver has blasted “Mc-a-mc-a-McCowan” over the intercom, or the subway operator repeats himself twice, the second time “for all of you with your earphones on.”

    I am very excited to see the outcome of this project, both as an art piece and, hopefully, as a tool for transit planners in cities across Canada.

    Relating to the project, I like the interplay between the TTC bus system’s firm, domineering female stop announcement voice and its friendly, “Oh-hey-how-you-doin’-don’t-forget-to-pay-an-extra-fare-friend” male voice. I hope that they go out for drinks after work sometimes, and female voice loosens up a little.

  3. Pingback: #VoxTranspo and Spacing Radio « Matthew Kupfer

  4. I love love love la femme de metro Montreal.
    “Prochaine station …. Berri UQAM”

    I live in Winnipeg and hope to move to Montreal in the next year or so – every time I think of that voice …
    Oh, Montreal, je t’aime!

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