Light rail riders fired up when announcer voice changes from female to male

SEATTLE — Light rail construction to connect rails to the Eastside is impacting tunnel stations in Seattle. Trains are running less frequently and the change requires many passengers to switch trains at Pioneer Square Station.

“The trains are packed,” said Lamar Dorsey, who commutes via light rail.

But another change is the announcer’s voice – from an automated female voice to a man’s voice.

“I did notice that, it’s a guy voice now from a woman, so I mean, I don’t think it’s sexist, but I don’t know,” Dorsey said.

“I think it’s silly that they changed it in the first place,” said Arielle Farina-Williams, who also rides light rail.

People online are a bit more outspoken.

One Tweet called it, “That new monstrous voice” and begs, “PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MAKE IT STOP.”

Another from @SeattleSubway said, “Announcements are getting universally panned by riders” and asked Sound Transit, “Is it possible to turn them off?”

Yet another said, “@soundtransit - sexist much?”

And there was this request - “Can you turn that s--- down or go back to the nice lady.”

Several of the Tweets also referenced this KUOW story.

“The decision was made to change the voice of the announcements basically just to get people’s attention,” said Rachelle Cunningham, a Sound Transit spokeswoman.

But it seems people were misinterpreting the voice change.

“I read that the voice had changed because people weren’t paying enough attention to the female voice,” said Farina-Williams said.

Sound Transit said that’s not the case.

It wasn’t worried people would ignore the old voice because it was woman’s. Instead, the changed happened because a team evaluated the situation, and thought a brand new voice - that just happens to be a man’s - would get people to notice and pay attention to the new announcements.

“That was certainly not the intent, to you know, send any sort of statement by it,” Cunningham said. “Having something new really emphasizes the fact that people should be listening to what we’re saying - we want people to know where to go and know what to do to be safe,” she said.

And Sound Transit is listening to feedback.

“It was like blaring, definitely,” Dorsey said.

Sound Transit turned down the volume in response to some of the complaints about how loud the new male voice was.

“People are always going to tell us what isn’t going right, and we appreciate that. And when we can we’re going to address those complaints. But I think right now the announcements will stay,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said the new recorded voice on the announcer is a Sound Transit employee who has voiceover experience.

If you miss the automated “nice lady” as some have called her, she’s still on board the trains and at some stations.

The voice change is temporary – she will come back to stations after construction is over on March 15th.