MBTA Tests New Radio Service in Select T Stops

‘T-Radio’ will feature music, news—and 8 minutes of commercials per hour

For commuters waiting for the next train, iPods and street performers are no longer the only musical distraction.

This weekend, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority launched a new pilot program under the name “T-Radio” at its North Station, South Station, and Airport subway platforms.

According to the MBTA, the new radio station will offer a variety of music along with news, sports, weather, and entertainment updates.

The station will include rock, R&B;, pop hits, and Latin chart toppers. In addition, the station is considering recruiting some of the local artists who already play at T stations to broadcast their songs as well.

The test program is being run under the helm of Pyramid Radio Inc., a Boston-based media corporation that owns 16 radio stations.

The non-music updates will come in 30- and 60-second segments between songs. T-Radio has already enlisted contributors such as Lyndon Byers, a former Boston Bruin, Lenny Clarke, a Boston television actor and comedian, and Joyce Kulhawik of WBZ-TV4.

The MBTA is working with Emerson College students to gather listener feedback. Riders can also post comments at MBTA.com. If the trial run proves successful, riders can look forward to the program expanding to all subway stations. With expanded service, however, comes a price: eight to ten minutes of commercials per hour.

On Saturday evening at South Station, the radio station didn’t seem to be much cause for attention. A lone guitarist was playing for the crowds, and his music effectively drowned out the T-Radio.

Songs played include “The Reason” by Hoobastank, “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, and “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood (the only song to which some actually could be seen singing along).

Student opinion was mixed on the subject of bringing T-Radio to Harvard Square.

“Most of the people who want to hear music already bring their iPods anyway, and it will probably just annoy them,” said Marianne Eagan ’10.

Others were more optimistic. Nicholas G. Purcell ’11 noted that music could improve the subway experience if the music is “soothing and non-invasive.”

A Harvard Square T station guitarist identifying himself only as “Barry” hadn’t yet heard of the MBTA’s plans while playing to a Sunday evening crowd. When asked of how he thought T-Radio would affect his business he simply responded, “It won’t. I’ll just play louder.”