Friday, July 18, 2014

The Voices of Houston's METRO Bus and Rail

Last week I noted my curiosity about the voices that greet passengers on Houston's METRO public transit system. That curiosity led me to find out who played the voices of other transit systems throughout the country. My search was featured on Motherboard, as well as in the Los Angeles Metro transportation blog, The Source.
But, it wasn't until this week that I was able to learn who provides the voices for METRO's announcements here in Houston.

They are two local women, who we may have unknowingly heard in many other places. They do not seem to carry the same national notoriety as other transit system announcers, but they are just as informative, friendly, and it's nice to know they're homegrown voices from Houston.
Allison Bond

Allison Bond provides the voice for METRO's English announcements, while Crystal Martinez provides the Spanish voice for METRO's announcements. Both women are local professional voice-over talents, managed by local speaking firm Pastorini-Bosby.

Bond has lent her voice to many companies, including Waste Management, BP, Pennzoil-Quaker State, Exxon, Kroger, Mrs. Baird's, Continental Airlines, Houston Chronicle, Starwood Hotels, J.C. Penney, Radio Shack, and Neiman Marcus. Bond is currently the Marketing Director for SureTec, an insurance company and bond issuer headquartered here in Houston. Bond's voice seems to be lent to her own employer's informational videos as well.

Crystal Martinez
Martinez, who also resides in Houston, has provided her voice to Delta Downs, Little Mexico Resturant, Macgregor Medical, Six Flags, the Texas Lottery, and most recently with FEMA and HP. Last summer Martinez landed a recurring role on Under the Dome, a CBS science fiction show.

METRO started using automated announcements for its buses back in 2005. In this 2005 post from the Houston Architecture forum, comments were favorable regarding the original announcement testing. It's only been 9 years, but the advancement in transit communication is impressive, going from operator announcements, to GIS-automated announcements, to having a smartphone application that provides bus arrival times. The system was developed to "announce the location of the next bus stop to passengers on the bus, which is expected to improve customer service, particularly for those with visual impairments." These improvements were part of METRO's Integrated Vehicle Operations Management System.

The system is still working today, but should be expected to see some modifications as a result of METRO's Transit System Reimagining.

It would be interesting to see if any famous Houstonians would ever consider lending their vocal talents to particular station announcements, especially stops of note, including the University of Houston and Texas Southern University. Imagine a Bun B station announcement. How about a Beyonce station announcement in the Third Ward? A University of Houston station announcement by alumnus Dennis Quaid? The list could go on. I would guess that these station announcements have already been completed for Houston's rail expansion. However, it does bring a question as to whether celebrity transit announcements might be something for transit authorities to consider for particular stations at particular times, especially near attractions such as theaters, sports arenas, or cultural landmarks.

Well, now we know the METRO voices. They still never miss a day and greet us every morning with the same friendly reminder: "Please tap your Q Card as you enter the bus." They read us our route numbers and crossroads, and point us to key destinations along our way. They even thank us for riding METRO. They are both from Houston. But we still don't know if they use public transit and listen to their voices each day. At least we now know the women who greet thousands of transit riders per day in Houston.