By Joe Iorio, Media Relations Staff
On a recent afternoon at PATH’s World Trade Center Station, a Newark-bound train rolled by the platform around 3 p.m. and slowed to a complete stop when a loud and familiar voice sounded over the train’s PA system.
“Let ALL the people off the train! Let all the people off the train first! Let ‘em off,” The voice commanded. “For those of you boarding the train, if you have a book bag, take your book bag off before getting on the train. NO ONE wants to get hit by your book bag on a crowded train!”
Waiting passengers who recognized the distinctive voice immediately grinned.
After everyone on the train disembarked, a medium-sized conductor sporting clear safety glasses and a conductor’s hat adorned with pins approached. He had a long, reddish looking beard, was wearing black gloves and introduced himself as Mike Allen.
For regular PATH travelers, Allen, a Brooklyn native, has been “performing” on the Newark-World Trade Center line for 11 years now. Since the beginning, he has brightened the day of countless passengers who travel on his trains. Recently, he took Portfolio along for a ride, part of his normal 2:30 – 10:30 p.m. shift on the Newark-WTC line.
“Since I was a kid, I always knew that I wanted to work at a railroad in some capacity,” he said. “So, in 2007, I placed my name on both the MTA and PATH conductor wait lists, but was offered employment by the Port Authority first. When I got the call from PATH, I was so happy to leave my previous job at a hardware store – it was great.”
Allen frequently tells people that, for him, every day at work is completely different. “I love PATH,” he said. “Working the railroad is great to see what life in the city is all about. Different people from all over ride these trains and it’s a fun experience to interact with them.”
Here’s a video of Mike’s signature announcement, taking place as the train reaches its final Newark Penn Station destination:
There’s something unique about Allen’s lively voice, word-selection and calculated pauses that give the feeling of a theatrical performance rather than repetitious train announcements.
Over the years, these unusual announcements have brought him a level of local stardom. People from everywhere recognize and engage him in conversation, which is rather uncommon for most PATH conductors. One time, while walking down 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge with his wife, he said a group of guys spotted him and thought he looked like “the guy behind those crazy PATH announcements.”
Guilty as charged.
Recently, a passenger asked him to record her personal voicemail tape on her behalf. He also said it’s common for passengers to ask for a picture, or to record his routine. Some have even posted their videos on YouTube. All in a day’s work, he says.
So why does he do it? To “spice up” the daily commute, of course.
“Commuting stinks,” he said. “No one enjoys doing it every day, but you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s even worse when you hear boring train announcements, so I try to give people something different. I think it’s fun.”
Here’s a video of his arrival at the World Trade Center, the final leg of the journey: