Noises Off: T-Radio in Boston
I am an irregular public-transpo commuter these days, but I am nonetheless decidedly unenchanted by the MBTA's (Mass Bay Transportation Authority) decision to introduce something called T-Radio.
The station, which will provide music, entertainment and sports news, and (maybe? news-news) is being rolled out in three unlucky T stations. The trial runs until Thanksgiving, and - if enough riders go as negative on it as I imagine they will - we may have something extra to be thankful. If not, T-Radio will be rolled out throughout the system. (Fortunately, there's no mention of providing it in the trains themselves.)
There are so places these days where you can hear yourself think. Remember how we used to complain about Muzak in elevators? I'm getting nostalgic for those good old days, now that so many elevators (special offender: hotels) broadcast television in them.
Didn't airport waiting areas used to be, like, quiet? Now they all have CNN or sometimes, unforgivably, FOX blaring in them. God forbid that we're away from the latest on Britney Spears and OJ for a few minutes. God forbid we just sit there for a few minutes reading a book or, like, thinking.
Of course, it's not that easy to read or think when you're surrounded by everyone yakking loud-o vocce on their cell phones. God forbid someone goes a whole hour or two without "checking in." (I wouldn't mind if all these conversations we're forced to eavesdrop on were interesting, but they're not. I never get to hear one side of someone plotting mayhem, breaking up, dishing dirt, telling off, or telling a story that's even vaguely compelling. No, it's all "I'm at Logan" and "Anything happening, Deb?")
And now the T...
When I just want to be sitting there staring off into space, making a bet with myself whether the Riverside, Cleveland Circle, or Heath Street train will come next, I'll have to listen to Umbrella, ella, ella or a review of the latest from the Blue Man group.
Who wants this?
It seems to me that people who want or need to be bombarded with their own Wall of Sound can be left pretty much to their own devices. Does the T think that those of us who aren't traveling avec iPod are poor folks who'd really rather be listening, but we just can't - poor us - afford our own tunes. Or maybe they want to bombard us with ads, which I'm guessing T-Radio will be providing for us, too.
And what, pray tell, will this development mean for all the buskers currently performing in T-stations?
MBTA Manager Dan Grabauskas is quoted in an October 11th article by Greg St. Martin in The Metro on this worry:
"I hope not," Grabauskas said of T-Radio potentially forcing out live musicians. "I think the performers in our stations add life, color and richness to the MBTA system."
Precisely, Dan, so why would you want to drown them out with anything else - even something as critical and important as the score of the Red Sox game?
I've been a T rider for a long time. Long enough to remember "Dime Time," straw seats on the Blue Line, stations that looked like stops on a tour of the Paris sewers, and cars that broke down so frequently that living on the Green Line gave you an automatic excuse for being late for work. In all that time, I have never once longed for any noise other than the screeching sound of "my" train rounding the bend and heading in the station.
I can't be the only one.
I will admit that many things have improved over the course of my T-taking lifetime. T-Radio, I fear, will not be one of them.
If the T wants to improve things in the stations, maybe they should put a few dollars into the PA systems. In most of the stations, the announcements are so garbled that you have no clue whatsoever what's being said. ("Did they really just announce that the train is running non-stop to Alewife, where all passengers will be detained?")
The T is going to have a section on their web site where you can comment on T-Radio. I'm planning on cheating a little here. Even though I may not have been exposed to T-Radio yet, I'm going to go on and tell them that I'd prefer noises off the T-station platforms.