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Quiet Car Thoughts

SEPTA has been campaigning for quieter rail cars for quite some time, asking that riders “be considerate of others and set phones on vibrate or mute, limit cell phone usage, keep conversations brief and speak using your ‘inside voice’.” In January, they cranked up the volume with a pilot program called QuietRide where one car is designated silent—no cell phones, no conversation, no exceptions.

That’s all well and good, and I wish my fellow riders in the quiet car all the best. I, on the other hand, enjoy the hubbub of conversation, and the occasional cell phone ring doesn’t upset me. In fact, I usually sit in the last car, which is typically the noisiest. That’s not to say that noises don’t bother me—some definitely do. If the car is otherwise quiet (as it usually is in the morning) and there’s just one person yapping on a cell phone, that’s annoying. And I hope there’s a special place in Hell for those people who use push-to-talk phones, where you get to hear both sides of their conversation, not to mention that stupid chirp.

But the real problem with this quiet car program is that SEPTA doesn’t even address the sounds I find most objectionable. I’ve spent the last few years doing extensive field work collecting examples that should help make my point. Enjoy. [8MB mp3 6:39]


Your audio collection cracked me up. You really captured the full range of regional rail auditory torment. I unknowingly parked myself under the extremely loud speaker once. I'm pretty sure I lost a few frequencies of hearing that day.

Nice job, Tony. It brought back memories of Regional Rail all too well.

Cell phones calls annoy me, though, even when I'm walking on the street. I am happy to ride the subway, where no one can make cell phone calls. >:)

(Do you do podcasts? You have a great speaking voice.)

Yoko, Although I’ve posted audio clips before, this was my first time speaking/podcasting. I don’t have plans for an actual podcast, but I do have a couple ideas that would work best as audio posts.
Dave, Sorry you got clobbered by the speaker. I would think their system would feedback with the volume that high, because it does at much lower volumes. Just another mystery.

That is fantastic. And you should be doing more audio, Tony. I could just hear this piece on on NPR.

And I'm completely with you on the push-to-talk. I've been a Sprint customer for 6-plus years, and every time I've purchased a phone, I've been particular about not choosing one with this capability -- just because of the annoyance I experience when others are using it.

Tony, as Howard said, this is NPR quality. This was just fantastic. And being an R5 rider, I got a special feel for those announcements. You did a great job of capturing them.

Very nice work, man. Let's hear more Merecat Radio.

Howard & Frank, You are too kind. I do listen to a LOT of NPR. :-)

Tony, this was awesome. The perseverance required to collect that set of sounds must have been something else. Well done.

I'd listen to more stuff like this in the future :)

That was a fun segment, Tony. You wonder how the announcement systems could get so borked...

You really do have a good voice for voiceovers. Very clear and distinct.

Alex, Thanks, it wasn't hard. I just hit record on my laptop to preserve the occasional oddity. I started recording in early 2006, so I ended up with a lot of clips to choose from. :-)
Thad, Yes, I was fascinated by how the announcements could be perfect on one train and so horrendous on the next.

Hey, that's my uncle on the fuzzy SEPTA intercom. Did you get a release?

As someone who's taken the R5 Lansdale/Doylestown for the past 3 years, this clip makes me glad that I recently ponied up the cash and moved into Center City.


This is brilliant.

It makes me wonder, however; Is your recorder going all the time?


Robin, No, I would only start recording if the PA was acting up or the train was actually stopped. And once I had a variety of clips, I stopped (in late 2007; I only recorded once in 2008).

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