Thursday, October 11, 2007

And we need this...why?

A radio network aimed specifically at Boston's mass transit riders is about to be launched. Major train hubs in the city (well, in what we Massachusetts types call the city -- in New York, I realize that "the city" has a whole other connotation) will air news, music, weather reports, and more on T-Radio. And, if riders are enthusiastic about the pilot program, the concept will spread to other subway stations throughout Massachusetts, and all riders throughout the system will get to listen to a prescribed radio station for the duration of their commute.

And we need this ... why?

I was a Red Line rider for years, and one thing I always managed to do during my commute was to entertain myself. How did I do this? I read books! Don't gasp. It's true. I did read books. And, if I was looking for additional diversions, there was always a street musician available to entertain me (Tracy Chapman, it should be pointed out, honed her singing skills by performing for the masses at subway stops in the Boston area).

I'm not sure what T-Radio will do to the popularity of the free newspaper that subway riders can pick up and peruse during their rides around Boston. I'm also unsure about whether T-Radio will cut into book sales in the near future. (Who knows? Maybe T-Radio will even turn out to be a book promotion venue if author interviews are included as in their "entertainment features.")

Still ... given a choice between having to listen to a radio station during my commute to the city, and being able to read a book (or newspaper) of my choosing, I'd have to go with the written word. Yes, I'm biased, because I make a living in an industry that relies on book sales, and I'd probably be flipping burgers at a fast-food restaurant if book sales were seriously diminished.

However ... T-Radio in place of street musicians? T-Radio instead of books? T-Radio as a substitute for meeting someone who's sitting next to you and makes a friendly comment or witty observation?

No, thanks. I'll stick with entertaining myself on the T. I think other subway riders will figure out how to entertain themselves, too, even if -- in the "worst-case scenario" -- T-Radio doesn't quite work out as planned and commuters must fall back on their own resources once again.

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