Video: The more things change…


Check out this video released by the Transit Museum a few weeks ago. It’s a compilation of TV commercials the MTA ran in 1989 promoting its progress. At the time, the MTA was just six years into its capital program with a focus on “State of Good Repair,” and the authority wanted to tout its progress.

What’s fascinating to me is how similar the complaints are. The system has come a very long way over the last 23 years. We have new rolling stock and better technology, but when the lady in the first 30 seconds says things could be cleaner and communication could be better, especially when something isn’t working, I found myself nodding along in agreement. Anyway, it’s a neat little trip back in time, if only for the fashion, hair styles and clips of late 1980s subway cars.

13 Responses to “Video: The more things change…”

  1. BBnet3000 says:

    The dirtiness of the system has been getting to me recently. I dont even mind the rats though, theyre cute and fun to watch. At Roosevelt Ave (E/F/M/R) theres often several chasing each other.

    • AG says:

      nothing cute about rats… they are bad for our health. thats probably the one thing that hasn’t improved… aside from that – the system is much better now.

  2. Peter says:

    What struck me was not the similarities, but rather the huge gulf in experience that these ads represent. These ads are practically begging people to use the subways: it’s safer, it’s cleaner, your train probably won’t derail. It’s okay to ride the subway again! These ads are the product of a far darker time for the MTA, when people literally feared using the system.

    Contrast that to the present. Fear of the subway is practically nonexistent. Crime is way down. Trains and stations are much cleaner and in far better repair. Sure, some of the same old complaints remain, but the MTA no longer has to convince people to use the system. New Yorkers are doing so in record numbers.

    I disagree with Ben. These ads are a sign of how far we’ve come.

  3. Phantom says:

    I’ve taken the trains for 40 years. I believe that service is generally more reliable, and the cars are cleaner, than at any other time in this era.

    And safety is off the charts better. It was never as bad as some thought, but its really good now.

  4. Epson45 says:

    “Check out this video released by the Transit Museum a few weeks ago”…

    more like few years ago.

  5. Someone says:

    Now instead of graffitied non-air-conditioned cars, we have high-tech, non-graffitied, air-conditioned, clean cars.

    What a far way we’ve gone since the 70s and 80s.

  6. Frank B says:

    “We’re Coming Back So You Come Back”

    Isn’t it amazing, that such a thing is now happening? Everywhere you look, the city is getting new investment, development. The people who years ago were fleeing the city to the suburbs? Their children and their grandchildren are now fleeing the suburbs to the city.

    Not only did the Subway System come back from the brink of death; New York came back from the brink of death.

    It really is quite extraordinary. A miracle really. If you lived through the 70’s, race riots, white flight, crime, bars going up on windows, neighborhoods dying overnight; you’d never believe the city would “Come back;” so we, the people, “would come back.”

  7. John says:

    I know this is entirely off-topic, but I figure it will be seen in the most recent comment thread – What is that buzzing noise that has been going on for the past few days in the L train tunnels? It starts after 1 Av and continues past my stop at Montrose Av. In between the tracks at my stop, at the front of the Manhattan-bound part of the station, I noticed a gray metal box and the noise was emanating from that. Just curious as to what work they’re doing/what’s producing the noise.

    • Frank B says:

      I’ve been using the BMT Canarsie Line to go crosstown all week, and I haven’t noticed anything.

      But I don’t normally take it, so I probably couldn’t tell the difference.

    • Russell says:

      Yes, I’ve been noticing them too on the L train. I use the Graham stop, and it seems like there’s one of these at each end of the station, and you can hear them from the street above. It seems like there’s 1-2 between each stop, and I hear the buzzing at least three times in the East River tunnel.

  8. Bolwerk says:

    Haha, I’m getting Rand Paul “right to work” propaganda in the ads along with this.

  9. Hamilcarny says:

    With the exception of the red birds, most of the trains in those ads are probably still on the rails today, for better or worse.

  10. AG says:

    i remember riding the D and the 2 in the Bronx… those were the days of ppl jumping the turnstyles and “stick up kids” coming on the straight with masks on at night… let alone the “stand and the door and snatch a chain or purse” types. in that regards – there is no question the system is MUCH better now.

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