The Confederation Line opened in September 2019. Photo: Rame Abdulkader/The Fulcrum
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Other transit chimes used as inspiration when developing Confederation Line melody

Every city’s metro system has an iconic chime and voice for announcements on the train. Other Canadian cities have opted for local celebrities to voice their transit system, such as Seth Rogan for Vancouver’s transit system in 2018. 

Pat Scrimgeour, the director of transit customer systems and planning at OC Transpo, explains how Ottawa’s LRT Confederation Line got its voice.

“We wanted a sound that was melodic with more textures and tones than a monotone beep,” said Scrimgeour in an emailed statement. “The goal was to create something a little more musical, so it would serve the purpose required (i.e. providing audible cues to a change in the environment) and maintaining a pleasant soundscape.”

Safety, logistical, and financial concerns have plagued the transit system since it opened in September 2019. Local software developer and transit user Justin Kelly took the data into his own hands to warn users about delays, crowded platforms, and technical issues — sometimes reporting faster than OC Transpo Twitter account.

The chime was selected from a public domain website and then further modified with Adobe Audition by the city’s team after user testing until it reached its current format.  Unfortunately, Scrimgeour and the city didn’t have the information on what notes and instruments are used to create the chime.

“In creating the door opening chime for Line 1 (Confederation Line), a number of factors were taken into account,” he said. “We reviewed examples and experience from other transit agencies across Canada and around the world.”

The voice you hear to announce the stops, arrival, closing doors, and other pre-recorded announcements belongs to Julian Doucet, a local actor and voice talent. His voice might sound familiar, as it’s also used on the Trillium Line and on Ottawa’s bus system. His voice was chosen through a feedback process in 2010, according to Scrimgeour.

“We have many different types of pre-recorded announcements — for Line 1 (Confederation Line), there are station/platform announcements, as well as announcements onboard the train that provide customers (with) information on train and station events, safety and security, wayfinding, and riding etiquette,” said Scrimgeour. “In all, there are more than 70-plus bilingual messages and the list continues to grow.”

Doucet recorded the full phrases and sentences in order to achieve the flow of the announcements, versus individual words and sounds stitched together in voice assistant technology like Apple’s Siri.