Turning to ubiquitous advertising opportunities

By · Published in 2008

Will floor-to-ceiling ads dominate the subway system? (Photo by flickr user Alison B.)

As New York City’s newspapers heap the congestion pricing blame squarely on the shoulders of Sheldon Silver (NYT, Daily News), everyone agrees with one thing: The MTA is facing a fiscal emergency.

The MTA has to fund a $29 billion capital plan, and they need to come up with the money to operate the subways at their current service levels. “They now have a $17.5 billion hole in a $29.5 billion plan,” Straphangers Campaign head Gene Russianoff said. “It’s more hole than it is program.”

Somehow, some way, the MTA will need an infusion of cash, and a recent article in the Washington Post about the WMATA’s efforts at drumming up some more money may illuminate just how our MTA will go about finding funds. Down in DC, the WMATA has long resisted turning its stations over to advertisers. The Metro is part of the overall museum feel to Washington, DC, and any intrusive in-station advertising would sully the City Beautiful aspect of the Metro station vaults.

But, reports Lena H. Sun, the WMATA is now considering an all-out advertising blitz in its subway system. The article discusses how Metro is considering installing some of the motion-sensor ads that we’ve seen here in New York in Grand Central Terminal and the Union Square subway stop. In effect, installing these ads is an easy revenue stream for any subway system.

So now the MTA has to confront the advertising question. Our stations have billboards; our cars have placard ads. How much more advertising should the MTA accept? They could go the London route and cover nearly every available space in the popular stations with ads; they could expand the car-branding advertising, seen above on the Shuttle, to more popular subway cars.

Some transit riders may balk at these suggestions. Some Arts for Transit advocates may not like turning over subway space to ads. But if the MTA needs money, more advertising sources is one easy way to go about it. The agency doesn’t need Albany’s approval for this plan, and it sure is better than yet another fare hike.

Categories : MTA Economics

8 Responses to “Turning to ubiquitous advertising opportunities”

  1. Marc Shepherd says:

    I don’t think the MTA will eradicate any actual artworks that are already in place. But anywhere else they can place ads, they should go ahead. If it’s a choice between accepting ads and reducing service, I’ll take the ads.

  2. Kevin says:

    Second to last paragraph should read “our cars have placard ads,” not cards.

  3. Ben, I admire your desire to find money for transit anywhere, but sometimes it just isn’t enough to be worth it. The Washington Post article you linked to claims that WMATA makes $35 million a year from ads. Considering that the MTA is already leasing ad space, how much more do you reasonably think we could bring in?

    When I was a kid, a friend and I spent a day walking all over our small Upstate town picking up cans and bottles everywhere we could find. At the end of the day we had a big bag full, and as we hauled it down to the Grand Union we were sure we’d get a fortune. I think it wound up being three dollars and change. Sometimes it just isn’t worth it.

    Years later, in 1991, I visited Prague. They were just moving away from Communism, and there was something strangely peaceful about the city. After a while I ealized what it was: no billboards! I think they had a few illuminated signs. Once you’ve got ads everywhere it’s very hard to go back. Still, in São Paulo they’ve banned billboards, and it seems to be very popular:


    There are plenty of other places to find money. Like the $850 million that’s going to go to maintain sprawl-feeding bridges:


  4. Charles says:

    I’m fine with the advertisements…but please DO NOT let it be those ridiculous ads that try to get your to laugh or those ads that are just dumb.

    I’m sorry, but those Manhattan Mini-Storage ads just disgust me.

  5. Charles, that woman in the ads who watches television naked is hot!

  6. The Secret Conductor says:

    I think you have to have SMART advertising. Don’t go crazy (like that picture up there) because if it can be anywhere, the power of them lessens and you will not be able to get anywhere near as much money as you could if there was limited quality spaces.

    The MTA can get more money with more ad spaces but they HAVE to be quality spaces and quality campaigns. 59th street Columbus Circle is a GREAT spot for quality advertising (the center island that is not used… but should be as a coffee/internet shop and jazz space… just my opinion lol). Atlantic Ave is another good spot, so is West 4th and a few other places.

    Quality spots, quality campaigns, allowing underground shops (like Zabarros at 34th street on the IRT) to build beautiful places to “hang” would be great.

    NEVERTHELESS loosing that congestion plan means fair raises, many projects being stopped, and service cuts. I do not know if people will remember that we could have built for the future now when their fares go up next year (or the year after). I guess we will see.

    I feel sorry for the G train riders. I hope that they at least get Church ave service even though they will loose Ctl Ave.

  7. Kevin says:

    I’m probably in a minority here, but I’d much rather have another fare increase than be subjected to such loud, obnoxious advertising – like the full car-branding ads photographed above.
    We’re already hit by thousands of advertising messages a day in NYC – is there no space that can be free from it?
    Your site has already shown that the recent fare increase on monthly passes still makes the NY subway a significantly better deal than most subway systems. I wouldn’t mind another increase if it were put to good use. And I am far from wealthy – I just want some visual silence as opposed to the barrage of ad messages.


  1. […] the agency’s efforts to attract more advertising dollars. In April, I warned riders that more ads were soon to be a reality, and in May, word leaked of MTA plans to brand the outside of rail […]

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