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    Starts & Stops

    New voice welcomes passengers at South, North stations

    Commuters at South Station (above) and North Station are hearing a new computerized voice announcing train departures and arrivals.
    Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File
    Commuters at South Station (above) and North Station are hearing a new computerized voice announcing train departures and arrivals.

    Notice anything different booming from the North and South station speakers these days?

    Those listening closely may realize the MBTA’s commuter rail operator has switched from using a computerized male voice to a computerized female voice to announce when trains are ready for departure.

    Ronan Coatanea, director of customer service at Keolis Commuter Services, said employees engineered the change after constantly hearing complaints about the announcer at North Station. Customers often said they could hardly hear the announcements, he said, so Keolis decided to experiment with lowering the speakers and using a woman’s voice.


    Though the science may be up for debate, Coatanea said employees believe the pitch of a woman’s voice would be easier to hear amid all the ambient noise of North Station.

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    So far, the comments have been positive, except those from riders who didn’t like messing with tradition.

    Coatanea recalled one man who argued that the old, male announcer had been the voice of the service for years — and it didn’t feel like his commuter rail anymore.

    “This individual came to me saying, ‘Why change the voice of our commuter rail?’ ” he said.

    Coatanea also heard some complaints about the new voice’s tendency to mispronounce those locales that will always trip up an out-of-towner: Worcester and Haverhill, anyone?


    Keolis officials say you shouldn’t worry: The new voice is now pronouncing Worcester, Haverhill, and Andover like she grew up here, even if her voice is still a bit closer to C-3PO than Adele.

    Mac Daniel, a spokesman for Keolis, said it was essential that the company change it up so that customers could hear the announcements.

    “To start off with a clear, understandable message is important,” he said.

    MBTA administrative costs balloon

    The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has added about about 200 administrative employees to its ranks between the 2008 and 2014 fiscal years, according to a new Pioneer Institute report criticizing its administrative staffing budget.

    At the same time, the payroll for “general administrative personnel” increased by about 120.5 percent to about $60 million, the report found.


    The numbers are stark, particularly as the transit authority seeks ways to close a $242 million budget deficit for the 2017 fiscal year.

    The report compared the MBTA with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, considered a peer agency. Instead of increasing its administrative budget, officials at SEPTA lowered it by about 1.2 percent during the same period, to about $83.4 million.

    It is worth noting, however, that SEPTA has about 200 more administrative employees than the MBTA, even though it has lower ridership than the T.

    Gregory Sullivan, the Pioneer Institute’s research director who co-authored the report, said the administrative ranks are one of the areas ripe for picking in overhauling the MBTA.

    “I’m not saying that there should be wholesale layoffs and cutbacks, but they should look at this,” Sullivan said.

    Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, said the T is already doing so. The agency is launching efforts to “operate more efficiently, reduce administrative costs and lower the number of positions not directly related to the T’s core mission of delivering safe and reliable transit services.”

    Pesaturo mentioned a plan released last week to outsource positions in several departments , including fare collection machine technicians, cash fare counters, and Charlie Card store employees.

    The plan has already drawn fire from the unions that would be affected, with several employees decrying the privatization in front of the state transportation board.

    MassPort bus rides and parking discounts

    It’s officially February vacation, so you may find yourself at Logan International Airport soon.

    MassPort knows this and is offering a 50 percent discount on suburban Logan Express bus routes until Feb. 23. That brings the price down to $11 for a round-trip ticket, with children under age 17 riding for free.

    Here are the locations:

     Braintree: 262 Forbes Road

     Framingham: 11 Burr St. Extension

     Peabody: 164 Newbury St.

     Woburn: 100 Atlantic Ave.

    Also until Tuesday, you can park at Logan Express from four to 14 days for $22.

    Nicole Dungca can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.