May
03

New placards promote MTA improvements

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When the MTA introduced its new “Improving, Non-Stop” house ad campaign earlier this year, they did so, as I wrote at the time, with an eye toward Albany. The authority knew it had a an unfunded capital program with a $10-$13 billion gap, and officials knew they had to convince those who control the purse strings that the MTA is both moving forward and badly in need of that money. The PR campaign is going haltingly.

On the one hand, straphangers have taken to vandalizing the posters. They aren’t going unnoticed, but the message has been met with skepticism. After all, no matter how many improvements the MTA makes, people always want more. They want more frequent trains, better technology, cleaner stations, the works. On the other hand, the MTA still needs its money.

And so, the authority is upping the message. New placards have gone up in trains throughout the system with the tagline “What’s New?” They promote the real-time bus-tracking pilot along the B63 in Brooklyn, the cashless tolling system on the Henry Hudson Bridge, the Select Bus Service routes and consolidated agency phone numbers, to name but a few. Of course, riders are taking just as kindly to the new campaign as they did the old.

As Michael Grynbaum wrote last week, a few intrepid editors have determined that the answer to “What’s new?” is higher fares. He writes of the disconnect between the message, the medium and those reading it:

The graffiti points to the vast public relations difficulties of an agency whose very nature — operating a system that virtually every New Yorker depends on — makes it a lightning rod for all manner of criticism, deserved and not.

The agency, increasingly wary of politicians’ criticism and less than flattering news coverage, has been trying a direct-marketing approach in making riders aware of the work it is doing to improve the transportation experience.

The new slate of promotional posters, to be displayed in subways, buses and commuter rails and on some station walls, is a complement to the agency’s “Improving, Nonstop” campaign, started earlier this year. The idea was to remove outdated slogans — “Going Your Way” is now gone — and create a more streamlined, simpler aesthetic for the agency to inform its clientele.

“There was a feeling that the M.T.A. hadn’t been as effective as we could be in communicating things that are going on to our customers,” said Jeremy Soffin, a spokesman for the transportation authority. “This is a way of trying to improve that.”

Some of this conflict stems from years of underinvestment. Because the MTA had a huge infrastructure deficit in the 1980s, it couldn’t keep up with the technological advances of the day. Thus, when the money started to flow, the capital investments were made primarily to save a decrepit system. Now that the system is halfway between decrepit and Good Repair, riders want more.

Meanwhile, Albany isn’t too willing to give more. The city and state have reduced their fiscal commitments to the MTA over the past 15 years, and with money tight across the state, that trend isn’t stopping any time soon. But without a capital plan and funding, the transit system will slide. Hopefully, the answer to “What’s New?” will soon be “a fully funded five-year capital plan.” We can’t afford to go forward without one.



10 Responses to “New placards promote MTA improvements”

  1. R. Graham says:

    My worry is this. If things are this bad with this capital plan, then how bad can it get when the next capital plan comes in at or around 25 to 30 billion dollars? I don’t even know how any of this capital plan got the funding it has received thus far to only have a hole of $10-13 billion when the CP was proposed and opened up at $27 billion.

    As much as I hate to say it, it’s going to take having a street cave in on top of a subway line to get Albany to react. Notice I said react and not act.

  2. ferryboi says:

    Take a close look at that M15 Select bus as it travels through…Downtown Brooklyn! They must have taken the pic before First/Second Aves were ready for SBS. That picture was not taken anywhere in Manhattan. If you look close, you can see Macy’s in Brooklyn to the right of the bus. Nice try, MTA!

    As for the Henry Hudson Bridge, big deal. The NJT and Outerbridge Crossing have been “assisting” motorists by picking their pockets much faster than regular EZ Pass/cash tolls. Thank you for swiping $8 out of my pocket so quickly, Port Authority!

    • R. Graham says:

      It is a big deal because by this time next year the whole thing will be all EZ Pass and not booths unlike the PA bridges and tunnels.

      • ferryboi says:

        And as a driver who has EZ Pass, that’ll save me about 2.5 seconds of slowing down. Wow, what’ll they come up with next? Higher tolls, I’m sure!

        • R. Graham says:

          Depending on how often you go thru tolls I’ll let you calculate how much gas that will save you from the slowing down to pay or the additional slowing down if there is traffic leading up to the booths.

          Cashless high speed tolling will actually go a long way if the MTA doesn’t raise the toll to make up for the gas you’d save.

        • Andrew says:

          You, and everybody in front of you, who you also have to wait for.

  3. Paul says:

    My favorite vandalism on an “Improving Non-Stop” ad is on the one with the tagline “Just look up”. On a 1 train someone added, “at the ceiling at 181st Street.”

  4. Alon Levy says:

    I’ve always thought that airlines should buy ad space for vacations to Tokyo right next to the “A city is only as good as its transit system” posters.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] things are waiting with us in our train stations. Meanwhile, as the MTA works to convince us that things are getting better underground, the visual and physical environment underground isn’t. How do you balance the tension [...]

  2. intuition says:

    certainly can’t rule out the fact that…

    women carry infants in the womb for roughly nine months. it’s this innate connection to this tiny life force that enables women to “feel” or “sense” their babies – and for some women, even at the point of conception. women’s intuition…

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