Ads, ads, everywhere ads

By · Published in 2008

The MTA hasn’t started advertising on its (non-existent) straps as they do in Seoul. (Photo by flickr user Queenbean79)

As the talk of the MTA’s budget problems has grown, we’ve heard stories, on and off, about 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 cars.

Today, we find out that the MTA wants to add even more advertising streams, including the ever-popular in-tunnel, flip-book style advertising found in both the Boston T and the Washington Metro. Pete Donohue has more:

Ad-generated income totaled $106 million last year, up from $90 million the previous year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said.

That figure is expected to top $110 million this year as the MTA continues to test new strategies to capture the attention of riders – including projecting commercials onto subway station walls in the line of vision of passengers standing on platforms.

After years of consideration, the MTA this year also will test the placement of ads on tunnel walls between stations that would unfold like a flip book or silent movie as a train rolls by, officials said. “It’s high priority of ours,” MTA CEO Elliot Sander said. “We’ve made strong progress in generating new revenues, which is critical, given the MTA’s challenging financial circumstances. We’ve done a very good job with this.”

While suggesting expanding subway advertising always seems to spark a debate, it’s hard to fault the MTA for this one. The agency needs money, and they certainly have a lot of space that could be turned over to advertising. It’s easy to ignore ads, and it’s a lot better to be subjected to more ads than another fare hike.

I do wonder if the MTA couldn’t coax more than four million additional dollars out of an expanded advertising program. The opportunities are out there; someone just has to sell it.

Categories : MTA Economics

11 Responses to “Ads, ads, everywhere ads”

  1. Ryan OHoro says:

    Raise the base fare to the $6 it supposedly costs the MTA for a ride the subway and give subsidies to lower income riders.

    Subway advertising makes me ill.

    The focus on keeping fares to far less than a tenth of what it costs to own a car in this city is ridiculous.

  2. KaiB says:

    Ads in the tunnel would be better than old graffiti.

  3. EMK says:

    Wouldn’t in-tunnel flip-book ads necessitate that trains actually move at a certain speed? I’m not familiar with how this is done in other cities, but when MTA trains move at a crawl pace through tunnels due to train delays and construction, I would assume that those ads aren’t as effective. Plus, would they have to improve lighting in the tunnels as well?

    • Tristan says:

      You’re sort of right but as each frame is a still image, at VERY slow speed the motion effect is not there but you still see the still frames, to an extent .. until you come to a dead stop. The ones located here in Washington’s Metro are between two stations that are VERY close together; trains probably don’t break 15-25 between points, and the ads still work (they put them there because of the high ridership in this particular area).

  4. Todd says:

    This sounds like a fantastic idea. I’m 100% for it.

  5. herenthere says:

    How about placing televisions behind the tracks facing platforms? Every commuter has to stare at it some point, and speakers help project the ad even better!

    • ScottE says:

      If television monitors are placed across the tracks (there may not be room, even for a flat-panel), trust me, they’d break. With the rumbling vibrations and water leaks and all, that would be a maintenance nightmare. Plus, any sort of maintenance would require a complete shutdown of trains along that track.

      We’d hate to see this service advisory: “Service is suspended on the A and C trains between Fulton St. and 34th St. due to contractual obligations with CBS advertising.” That wouldn’t go over too well.

  6. Ryan OHoro says:

    I’m really surprised no one else has spoken up against more advertising in this instance.

    • Chris says:

      Ryan OHoro: Why would we? Like Ben said: they’re easy to ignore. If you don’t like them, don’t look at them. It’s a fantastic source of revenue that’s desperately needed.

      If you’d rather pay $6 a ride than look at subway ads, then I’ll gladly let you front me the extra $4 every time I get on an ad-free subway.


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