Washington Metro Wants Freebie

Each day during the morning and evening rush hours, thousands of passengers who take the Washington Metro -- second only to New York in ridership -- make a mad dash to board their trains before they hear the sound of chimes and a voice warning: "Doors closing, please stand clear of the doors."

The voice belongs to a friend of a Metro employee, and transit officials say passengers have stopped paying attention to it.

So a few weeks ago, they launched a campaign to find a new voice, inviting everyday riders to submit a CD or audiotape with recordings of two messages performed in three tones of voice: polite, serious and authoritative.

But Metro officials, who found a way to pay $238,000 in severance and $116,000 in pension benefits each year to a chief executive it just fired, won't pay anything to the winner of its "Doors Closing Voice 2006" contest, saying this is for fun, not for profit.

That has irritated some members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists who think the contest winner should get at least $237, the fee they would get for a three-minute recording that does not air on TV or radio.

Cathy Asato, a Metro spokeswoman, said 246 CD and audiotape submissions had been received so far.

On Jan. 26, the 10 finalists will gather at a local recording studio and perform for a panel of experts, including a voice coach, a marketing consultant, and a representative of Metro's ad agency.

A winner and runner-up will be announced Feb. 2. By mid-month, D.C. Metro riders will hear a new voice that officials hope will "wake people up" and make them pay attention to "Doors closing …"