In Toronto, even the turnstiles have advertising. (Photo by flickr user batbob)
Every few months, the issue of subway advertising rears its head. Some people call it a practical way to raise money; others decry it as yet another example of a public space reduced to a billboard. That debate will be sure to rage today as the MTA is set to unveil a fully wrapped Shuttle train sponsored by the History Channel.
At 10 a.m. this morning in Grand Central Terminal, the MTA bigwigs will gather for a great unveiling of this ad-covered subway car. Unfortunately, I have class at 10 a.m. and won’t be there to cover it in the flesh, but I’ll try to land some pictures later tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Pete Donohue has the story on other advertising opportunities the cash-strapped MTA plans to pursue:
The MTA pulled in a record $106 million last year by selling advertising space in its vast network, which includes the Long Island Rail Road and nine bridges and tunnels. In July, transit officials said they expected to generate more than $110 million through advertising this year.
Officials said they were also planning to test the projection of commercials on subway walls opposite station platforms – directly in the line of vision of riders waiting for trains.
Another plan will target straphangers on trains, with images on tunnel walls between stations calibrated to the speed of trains. The ad would unfold like a silent movie or flip book.
Donohue includes the requisite quotations from one person who doesn’t mind the advertising and the other who does. In reality, the debate shouldn’t even exist. Advertising has been and always will be a part of the subways. The owners of the private companies that operated the subways in the early 1900s sold advertising space as soon as they had the system up and running.
Meanwhile, the MTA is facing crippling financial problems, and if they can milk a few more million dollars out of something isn’t their customers’ pockets, why should we stop them? It may not be the most pleasant thing to see out the window during a train ride; it may mar some people’s sense of public space; but it’s far, far better than the alternative. Until someone does something lasting about the MTA’s finances, advertising it shall be.