Home Subway Advertising NYC Transit unveils an anti-graffiti/advertising pilot program

NYC Transit unveils an anti-graffiti/advertising pilot program

by Benjamin Kabak

Last week, Gothamist unveiled a short post about a new brand of advertising popping up on subway cars. New York City Transit, it seemed, had started papering over the train windows with ads, and straphangers — including Railfan Window — weren’t so keen on the ads. They blocked out the view; they blocked out the light; and they may post a security risk.

I thought nothing of it. It was just another way for the MTA to make money, and the overall concerns seemed rather overblown. They certainly are ugly, but who’s really going to miss the view of a dark tunnel walls? The safety is certainly an issue, but there are bigger safety fish to fry in the subway.

Yesterday, the MTA shed some proverbial light on these ads. In fact, they are more than ads. As Jennifer 8. Lee reported on City Room, these billboards are part of the MTA’s anti-scratchiti campaign. The Times’ reporter wrote:

Despite the M.T.A. budget shortfall, transit officials say that advertising revenue is not the main motivation for the program. Instead, the sprawling ads have a practical purpose. The first is to reduce what officials call “scratchiti,” or scratched graffiti on the windows…

Paul J. Fleuranges, a spokesman for New York City Transit, said the agency hoped that the film, called Scotchcal, would cut down on the frequency of scratchitti. The vinyl graphic film, made by 3M, is widely used to wrap buses, because a it allows a full image to be printed on the outside, while the little perforated holes allows people (in theory) to look outside.

The other benefit transit officials are hoping for is that the film will save on energy costs, as the covered windows reduce the amount of hot sun that enters subway cars. “The car equipment people have for a long time sought to use tinted windows in an attempt to cut down on that ’sun soak’ effect; just like tinted windows reduce the warmth of the sun on a passenger vehicle and help keep the car cooler and assist in the A.C. cooling the car more efficiently,” Mr. Fleuranges wrote in an e-mail message.

Fleuranges also said that the police were consulted about concerns over safety inside the cars. Reportedly, people on the outside can see in, and people on the inside can see out. I haven’t had the pleasure of riding one of the pilot cars yet. So I can’t confirm or deny that assertion.

On the one hand, these are no different from the anti-scratchiti flim the MTA already employs. The only difference is that this film has an ad. But if they truly do block the view from the platform, the MTA should reconsider. It’s aesthetically unpleasing and potentially dangerous, but until the transit authority has more money, they’re going to sell every available inch of space.

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Brian December 17, 2008 - 5:27 am

I rode this R-44 (A) train, and photographed it again, last night. I can tell you that you certainly CAN NOT see into the train from the outside.

Benjamin Kabak December 17, 2008 - 11:25 am

Is it on every window in the car then? Because if so, then it should go if no one can see in.

rhywun December 17, 2008 - 8:35 am

Cool! I don’t feel claustrophobic enough during my daily commute.

Scott E December 17, 2008 - 8:42 am

I agree that covering windows is a bad idea. Remember when the R-142s were first introduced? They boasted windows at the ends of cars, allowing visibility into adjacent cars, providing a sense of more security and less claustrophobia. This pretty much contradicts that argument (I can’t seem to find a citation, but I know those windows were prominently mentioned!)

The ads on the outside of the 1 and 3 trains are fine, and I support that initiative (the body of those cars have conveniently placed ridges for placement of these ads). But blacking out the windows, whether under the guise of anti-scratchitti, pro-revenue, or temperature control, is a dangerous idea.

Chemster December 17, 2008 - 11:36 am

I agree this is a bad idea for the subway in so many ways. I want to be able to see *into* a car before I get on, and I am sure the ads make it harder to see *out* of the subway once someone’s on the train.

Matt December 17, 2008 - 12:35 pm

I can see a pole and at least three seats from that grainy photo alone…

Kid Twist December 17, 2008 - 2:03 pm

Who needs to see out the windows anyway? You can just rely on the crystal-clear PA announcements to tell you where you are.

Scott E December 17, 2008 - 10:02 pm

Scratchiti was “invented” because of the crackdown on graffiti (i.e. surfaces that are easily cleanable and that ink/paint doesn’t stick to). These ads may reduce scratchiti, but won’t it just invite “traditional” graffiti?

I’m not sure which side of the windows the decals are applied to, or whether ads are displayed on both sides, but I can already see someone with a black marker scribbling acne on Dr. Zizmor, or making Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs look even dirtier. Remember the old Coca-Cola slogan from two decades ago: Coke is It!? Lots of gratuitous “SH”‘s made their way on those billboards.

cmdrtebok December 19, 2008 - 8:06 am

I just hope they dont put the bill boards back into grand central. that was the worst.

Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog » Blog Archive » » Selling the air waves on the subways December 24, 2008 - 1:22 am

[…] revenue from every available source, the agency has started to sell open space. They have sold the windows, the turnstiles and the outside walls of entire subway cars. Now, PETA, of all groups, is calling […]

Eli December 24, 2008 - 2:48 pm

I’ve seen one of these trains from the outside and could not see in at all.

NYC Transit: Subway graffiti down 46 percent « WHATYOUWRITE.COM July 19, 2009 - 10:59 am

[…] glass windows — with less success. As Donohue reminds us, Transit unveiled a pilot program of scratch-resistant ads late last year. That program, according to Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges, is too expensive to […]

Mark September 2, 2009 - 11:45 am

You people love graffiti and you know it. Capitalist ads for soda that causes diabetes, and endorses the mistreatment of migrant workers in third world countries? Or colorful names that for some reason make close minded working people feel like they are getting mugged in one of the lowest crime rates of the modern era in New York. You didn’t want graffiti so you got scratchitti instead. Take responsibility to tax paying slaves. And yes I pay taxes as well.

With more budget cuts, a system begins to slide :: Second Ave. Sagas May 7, 2010 - 11:49 am

[…] the underground quality of life are being sacrificed in the name of economics. For instance, anti-scratchiti programs that appeared to be successful are being eliminated due to the expense. Now, the agency will, in […]


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