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.