- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 2, 2006

Randi Miller of Woodbridge, Va., will soon have the most listened to voice in town.

After a monthlong talent search, Metro officials yesterday announced that Ms. Miller, 44, will be the new lady who warns riders when the trains’ doors will be closing.

Officials said after a brief trial period, her voice will be played in all Metrorail cars and heard more than 33,000 times a day by riders.

Ms. Miller works as a lease manager at a car dealership in Alexandria. She said yesterday that she was very happy about winning Metro’s “Doors Closing Voice 2006” contest.

“This is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me,” Ms. Miller said, after her name was pulled from the red envelope. “I owe it all to my parents for giving me such great genes.”

The runner-up was Linda Carducci, of Vienna, Va.

The new voice is an attempt by Metro to get riders to take notice of announcements. The new recording will be heard on some trains by the end of this month.

People are so used to the old warnings that they no longer pay attention to them, said Candace Smith, a spokeswoman for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

Riders think of the old chime and pleasant voice that says “doors closing” as a “yellow light” that encourages them to hurry up and get in, Mrs. Smith said.

“However, the car doors are not like elevator doors that spring back,” she said. “You could get stuck in the door.”

The contest was part of a larger effort by WMATA officials to increase flow and movement of commuters and reduce delayed trains.

In addition to the new voice, the message will be modified. It will now say, “For your safety, please step back. The doors are closing in 3, 2, 1.”

Other ideas include stationing extra employees on busy platforms and removing seats from cars to add more handrails. Officials also will put directional signs on platform floors to show passengers where to stand while waiting for a train.

“This is part of the bigger picture,” Mrs. Smith said. “It is just one piece of the larger puzzle.”

After the contest began Jan. 3, more than 1,200 contestants from across the country sent in audition tapes and CDs. More than half the entries arrived Jan. 20, the last day of the contest.

The contest was open to amateurs and professionals 21 and older. The only condition for winning is Ms. Miller must be available for recordings for one year.

No prize money was awarded to Ms. Miller — just bragging rights. But Metro gave all finalists a D.C. board game as a thank-you gift.

The absence of monetary award has become a tradition for Metro. The voice riders have heard for a decade belongs to D.C. resident Sandy Carroll, who made the initial recording as a favor to a friend.

Ms. Miller will make the official “doors closing” announcement. Officials also invited the other finalists to record messages that will be played in Metro stations to help direct passenger traffic flow.

Ms. Miller was chosen out of 10 finalists, all of whom live in Washington. Six of the finalists make a living with their voices.

Ms. Miller said she is not a professional, but would consider a career change.

Three judges voted on the finalists’ audio recordings based on vocal quality and enunciation.

“I will have to hear it each day about 10 times when I ride to work,” said Doris McMillon, president of McMillon Communications who was one of the judges.

The other judges were Leann Landry, Metro manager of advertising, and Adam Chism, a senior copywriter for Laughlin, Marinaccio & Owens, an advertising agency in Arlington.

Metro riders are curious about the new change.

“A new voice will be exciting and wake you up in the morning,” said Susie Kay, a Metro rider. “But it may get old again soon.”

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