As the MBTA shifts to text-to-speech announcements, it’s the end of an era for Frank Oglesby’s voice


Kate Armanini

Northeastern students rush through Ruggles Station on a Sunday afternoon. Those who venture downstairs to the Orange Line will hear Frank Oglesby announcing each stop.

Kate Armanini, city editor

Across Boston, there’s one voice echoing throughout public transportation. As it announces each stop, it’s deep, resonant — even comforting, to some  —  and it belongs to Frank Oglesby.

Oglesby, long hailed as “the voice of the T,” has done voice-over work for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, or the MBTA, since 1997. 

“I’m just glad that I’ve done a public service people feel good about,” Oglesby said. “People have said to me, ‘I grew up with you, I feel like I know you, I’ve heard that voice since I was little.’”

But Oglesby’s tenure is almost up. With the increasing need to convey “real-time information through many more channels,” the MBTA is switching to automated voice announcements, said Lisa Battiston, the deputy press secretary.

“Unfortunately, working with Frank every time a new audio file was needed was not a sustainable process — it added time and cost to an already laborious process,” Battiston said in a statement to The News. “So, for the Green Line, the decision was made to use a text-to-speech service. Over time, the MBTA intends to bring all fleets into alignment with this.”

Still, Oglesby remains a celebrated figure. He’s often recognized: he’ll sign Charlie Cards, record birthday messages and has even officiated someone’s wedding. In August, he went viral on TikTok after a run-in with an excited fan.

“[People] are always like, ‘I know I know you from somewhere,’ and I say, ‘Are you from Boston?’” Oglesby said.

Frank Oglesby, above, worked for the MBTA for decades before he retired in 2016. But he was no ordinary employee: in addition to the various positions he held over the years, he also lent his voice to the T. Photo courtesy of Frank Oglesby.

Oglesby, 61, was born and raised in Newton and now resides in East Longmeadow. As a child, he was often told he had a great voice.

“Everyone was like, ‘You got a great set of pipes.’ I was encouraged early on to do something with it,” he said.

He attended University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he studied communications and media studies. Oglesby was an active contributor to the student radio station, which made him comfortable in a recording studio, he said. After graduation, his father, a bus driver, helped him secure a position as an editorial assistant for the MBTA in 1984.

As his career progressed, Oglesby became well-versed in all things public transit as a passenger relations correspondent, or as he put it, “a more glorified way of saying the complaints department.” Occasionally, he would dabble in voice acting or be an extra on a film set, even lending his voice to training videos for the MBTA.

“[A member of the marketing department] came up to me one day and said, ‘Hey Frank, I’m hearing from everybody you’ve got this great voice, I do training videos and I’d like to know if you’d be interested,’” Oglesby said.  “He liked the way I sounded, and we started doing all kinds of safety videos.”

1994 brought changes to the MBTA. Up until that point, operators were responsible for announcements on the T. That wasn’t consistent or reliable, and as a result, the MBTA was being fined for noncompliance by the Federal Transit Administration. As the Red Line was renovated and expanded, the organization needed a new way to relay information to passengers.

The solution? Oglesby’s rich, baritone voice. The MBTA was already familiar with his work from the safety videos.

“I was shown a prototype Red Line train … and they said, ‘This train has an audio component. We want you to voice it,’” he said.

Oglesby said yes. 

“It was weird at first,” he said. “But bottom line, it’s about communicating information, it’s not about how I feel about how I sound.”

In just a few years, he could be heard in every MBTA station and train. Oglesby said he was always surprised that he had gained so much recognition, but he’s glad he has made such an impact. 

“What I hear most is that [my voice] is soothing, or that after a hectic day at work they hear me and it’s a positive thing,” he said. 

When he retired in 2016, his goodbye party was attended by dozens of employees and covered by several news outlets. Though his 32-year MBTA career had ended, Oglesby said he wanted to continue pursuing voice acting. Unfortunately, many of his personal goals were put on hold when his wife was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease shortly after. She passed away in August 2020. 

Oglesby said he continued coming to the MBTA about three times per year to record voice announcements. Last year was the first time he was not asked to come in. 

In its statement, the MBTA added it is “grateful” for Oglesby’s service and “proud” of their partnership, though his voice will eventually be phased out for the text-to-speech generator. 

“I didn’t even realize there’s a real person doing it,” said Kristina Yuan, a third-year design major at Northeastern, as Oglesby’s voice echoed throughout Ruggles Station. “I honestly prefer his voice because I’ve heard it so much over the years. It’s comfortable.”

Though he continues voice acting, Oglesby misses the MBTA. But even just six years later, things have changed, he said — and not just the voice doing announcements.

“I miss all of the very capable, intelligent people who work everyday to get things done,” Oglesby said. “The place changes, the mission changes with every higher political office that comes in. The T that I left is not the same.”