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The voice behind the MBTA system

Posted on March 23, 2009

Greg St. Martin, Metro Newspaper

For nearly 20 years, Frank Oglesby Jr. has been talking to MBTA riders every day, telling them what station they’re pulling into, where their train is headed and what connections they can make. And please, no smoking.

Yes, that soothing baritone voice riders hear on subway cars and buses saying, “Next stop ....” is a real person, though Oglesby smiles when discussing those riders he overhears on the T who believe otherwise.

“They’ll say, ‘It’s automated. This isn’t a real voice,’” Oglesby said. “What are you going to do, argue with them?”

Oglesby, 47, commutes into town on the Red Line every day. He used to tell people that hearing his own voice was just background noise on his daily trip — but he admits now that’s not true. “I hear it. I hear every syllable. It’s right there,” he said.

Oglesby has been doing MBTA voice-overs for the last 20 years, starting with employee training and safety videos in 1989 and then with his first subway announcements in the early ’90s. He first knew his voice had promise at 16, when people started complementing him on it. Later, he did four years of radio at UMass-Amherst, hosting a talk show and as a DJ for R&B, jazz and reggae music.

He joined the MBTA in 1984 as an editorial assistant for then General Manager James F. O’Leary and has since worked in several departments — including marketing, revenue, human resources and diversity and civil liberties. Now he’s the deputy director of customer service for operations.

The recordings are simply a fun side gig. Oglesby said he’s asked not to speak with much inflection, partly because the service requires clear, succinct messages. But he enjoys that the messages, which are required by the American Disabilities Act, help riders with disabilities find their way around the system.

“I have them in mind,” he said. “I feel good about being able to do a good job for them and for people who aren’t used to taking the system.”



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