Gender-Neutral On The New York Subway, MTA Uses ‘Clearer’ Communication To Make Delays And Detours Nicer

The New York City subway system is infamous for its delays, mechanical problems, detours, and derailments, but for many subway passengers, the cryptic and confusing announcements about problems are the worst part. Subway riders trying to figure out “sparse,” brief announcements about an obstinately stationary subway train are often left even more bewildered by the rapid words they hear from loudspeakers throughout the system.

The Washington Post wrote that New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority has decided to step up and fix at least one problem facing the subway. Delays and detours, breakdowns and derailments could continue to happen, but the MTA will ensure that subway riders hear the depressing news in clear terms.

New scripts were released early in November to help transit staff learn how to communicate in a straightforward way rather than using vague terms that “obscure the real reason a train isn’t moving.” Judith Mosh is a frequent passenger on New York’s much-maligned subway system, and she’s fed up. Mosh pointed out that conductors often helpfully announce that a train will be “moving shortly or momentarily,” but the terms have no actual meaning. “Sometimes momentarily means two minutes, sometimes it means 20 minutes.”

Amid safety concerns and endless delays, the New York City subway system is creating better announcements that use gender neutral language.
New York City subway riders have the longest work commutes in the United States. [Image by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]

New York Twitter users have been voicing their irritation steadily. One person said that the two most important things to her are world peace and finally understanding how to ride the New York subway system.

Another wrote that his trip was like an episode of Blue’s Clues.

One change that is especially important to the New York transit authority is the desire to sound up-to-date and inclusive of everyone when the announcements are made. The old-school “Ladies and Gentlemen” that has been the norm for 30 years will become a thing of the past as the recorded pieces are phased out. From now on, all language in the transit announcements will be gender-neutral.

Words like passengers, everyone, and riders will replace what many consider to be the classist and sexist traditional greeting. Although “Ladies and Gentlemen” is a time-honored phrase that’s a familiar opening for audiences as well as for New York City subway passengers, it carries a lot of baggage. One tweeter suggested simply addressing humans in the audience instead of making gender and class distinctions but pointed out that some may prefer to identify as non-humans.

Gender-neutral language is becoming increasingly important for corporations and government as they strive to respond to a changing world. The New York City transit authority is desperately trying to smooth a very bumpy way by making a more “human” experience for passengers, even if it can’t fix the problems.

Along with gender-neutral language, the new guidelines will allow conductors to share information about tourist attractions like New York’s Bronx Zoo and the Metropolitan Museum. According to the bulletin that was distributed to transit staff, the MTA made the discovery that giving passengers information, particularly about sites of interest along the route, “makes their commute brighter.”

CTV News wrote that for some New York subway riders, the communication fixes are nice, but not nearly enough.

“It does count,” said Brooklyn resident Pat Goring, “but just fix the trains.”

Until the changes are fully implemented, New Yorkers can still hope to enjoy the full show experience that many have come to expect from riding the subway. Twitter user Bob Fekete described a ride that included a “whole play featuring a man ranting to nobody about the AC, a showtime guy who was actually amazing, old ladies, everything,” and said it was a refreshing break that worked perfectly.

[Featured Image by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]