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Vancouver gets Seth Rogan, we get a robot that can’t pronounce ‘Tukwila’

Light rail needs a local celebrity to announce upcoming stops. Let's beat Vancouver! (Elaine Thompson, Associated Press.)

Before I was mostly jealous of Canada for their single-payer healthcare. Now I’ve discovered a new feature to trigger my envy.

Originally, Morgan Freeman was the voice of public transit in Vancouver, B.C., but when eight women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct, they silenced him. Freeman was quickly replaced by filmmaker and famous Canadian Seth Rogen after he expressed interest on Twitter in filling the role.

Here in Seattle, we’re not nearly so lucky. There are voice commands on Sound Transit’s light rail rides, but they’re not performed by a local celebrity. They’re performed by an Alexa-esque robot voice. This wouldn’t be so bad, except for this robot also happens to be incompetent.

Anyone who’s ridden the light rail to its southern most point knows what I’m talking about. Every time a light rail car passes through the Tukwila International Boulevard Station, the robot voice says this.

“Now entering Tukwell International Boulevard Station, doors to my right.”

I first noticed this mishap when I was in college, and back then I thought it was funny. It’s been years, though, and the laughter eventually gave way to anger. I get that a lot of Washington cities have difficult to pronounce names (I can’t imagine how our robot friend might mangle Sequim or Puyallup), but Tukwila is not one of the most difficult.

It’s just kind of embarrassing, especially when it’s so evident that it’s not difficult to get a celebrity on board. Rogen literally just sent a tweet saying he wanted to do it, they didn’t even have to ask him.

He’s having fun with it, too. He complained on The Tonight Show that one of the narrations he recorded involved telling people not to clip their toenails on the subway.

So let’s do this, Sound Transit. Like I said, I think it’ll be easy. John Curley already said he’d do it. If we want to aim a little higher, though… What about Chris Pratt? He’s from Lake Stevens and he’s unilaterally beloved. Or, if we wanted someone a little more passive-aggressive and sardonic so as to better represent the personality of the region, we could try reaching out to comic actor and former University of Washington football player Joel McHale. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind Kenny G. as the new voice of the Puget Sound’s public transit, as long as he can pronounce Tukwila.

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